The sporty Mazda5 van brings its unique blend of hauling space, double sliding doors and low-dollar fuel bills into this year intact. The Mazda5 does without the latest touchscreen technology in its versatile cabin, but has a stellar driving position and balanced handling to make up for any missing trendy items.
There are real tradeoffs for the Mazda’s eager handling and great mileage ratings. A slippery drag coefficient isn’t enough to silence the roars inside this boomy machine at 80 mph, but for some the car’s $20,000 entry price will mean accepting these shortcomings.
Where the Mazda is happiest is in the smart and practical small family car market, where not even larger crossovers can touch its skillful blend of attributes like easy city driving, amble rear-seat access for loading and unloading, and the hauling flexibility of the compact van’s capacious rear cabin (especially with the second row of seats removed).
The unique small minivan market position occupied by the Mazda5 is more crowded than before, with competition from seven-passenger haulers like the Mitsubishi Outlander and Dodge Journey a real threat despite the crossover models’ less-practical, SUV-style rear doors.
The crossover squad is also nowhere near as fuel efficient in daily driving as the Mazda5. While lacking the newest direct injection from the SkyActiv engines, the Mazda5’s 2.5-liter engine is rarely underpowered in the car’s family mission.
Click past the jump for the full review of the Mazda5, with highlights on all the latest updates and changes.
Transmission:6-speed Manual, 5-speed Auto
Horsepower @ RPM:157 @ 6000
Torque @ RPM:163 @ 4000
0-60 time:9.0 sec.
Top Speed:122 mph
The Mazda5’s long and low dimensions have always made a striking mark in traffic dominated by econoboxes and SUVs. Not quite a minivan, but often seen loaded to the brim with people and pets.
The Mazda5 has a grounded stance on the road that is enhanced by the 17-inch wheel upgrade for the top Touring and GT trim levels. The flowing five-star alloy wheels emphasize the Mazda as a sporty contender. The latest model loses the cool vertical LED brake lights for a wide and trimmed horizontal graphic similar to the CX-5 and Mazda6. The overall effect of the move is a step backward, as the LED light bar is replaced by simple bulb reflectors in the new brake lights.
Moving toward the front, the Mazda5 was the proudest production Mazda to wear the company’s short-lived Nagare styling theme. Like a Batmobile draped in silk, these Nagare surfaces had much promise but were spoiled (for some) by awkward fenders and grinning grilles. A sporty front bumper panel helps ground the Mazda5 from up front and looks great with the GT spec’s HID low-beam headlights.
The Mazda van carries Nagare-style intersecting creases and triple flow swirls on the door panels, and looks quite special as a result. The Mazda5 is actually a pretty rare vehicle in the Japanese automaker’s lineup whose U.S. sales are dominated by the Mazda3 and CX-5.
The dimensions of the Mazda5 and CX-5 are actually quite close, with a mild wheelbase stretch for the van model’s third-row seat, and a much lower roof in the Mazda5 versus the CX-5.
2013 Mazda5 – Exterior Dimensions:
|Track - Front (in.)||60.2|
|Track - Rear (in.)||59.8|
2013 Mazda5 – Standard Exterior Features:
|Mazda5 Sport||Mazda5 Touring Additions||Mazda5 Grand Touring Additions|
|16-inch alloy wheels||17-inch alloy wheels||Power moonroof|
|R16 all-season tires||R17 all-season tires||Xenon High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights (low beam, manual leveling)|
|Halogen headlights||Sporty side sill extensions|
|Black front grille insert||Rear liftgate spoiler||Automatic on/off headlights|
|Door mirrors with LED turn signal lamps||Clear lens halogen fog lights||Heated door mirrors|
|Dual power remote door mirrors, body color||Painted front grille insert||Rain-sensing windshield wipers|
|Variable-intermittent windshield wipers||Anti-theft alarm system|
|Rear window defogger|
|Rear wiper with washer (fixed intermittent)|
|Roof molding accommodation for roof rack cross-bars|
|Roof-mounted radio antenna|
|Wheel center cap color change from silver to black|
The interior of the Mazda5 seats six people in three rows of bucket seats. The last row is pinched together, with dimensions that are a shadow of the large leg, shoulder and head room in the first two rows. The sliding second row is actually the place to be, as long as there are no complaints from the ‘wayback.’
The Mazda5 comes equipped with black or tan cloth that is reasonably nice and easy to clean. The perforated leather of the top trims is an all-black affair now, but darkens the cabin and doesn’t feel worth the upgrade over cloth (despite the red leather piping in the chairs).
The dash shape is firmly a van with a high-mounted shifter and open floor between the front seats. The driving position is actually pretty easy to configure and allows a much sportier recline than most vans.
Big driver’s will sit with their whole head and shoulders behind the B-pillar, which is a nice bit of privacy in the glassy and open cabin layout.
Kids will love the view out the huge windows, mind you, so the low window line is worth it for the added backseat peace.
The Mazda5 offers optional radio upgrades but nothing in the same league as the best latest touchscreens up front, nor the Honda and Chrysler Blu-ray players in the back. This will not be a tough sacrifice for most frugal parents, as the options for portable multimedia solutions like iPads has dramatically simplified kid-friendly road travel.
The tradeoffs for the Mazda5’s incredibly nimble handling and great mileage become clear inside as speeds pass 40 mph or so. At this point, low and unobtrusive tire rumble is replaced by tremendous engine and wind noise.
The Mazda5 needs a heavy foot to reach passing speeds but once achieved, is a happy cruiser with a calm ride quality – despite the squall of wind rushing past the wing mirrors and A-pillars.
2013 Mazda5 – Interior Dimensions:
|Front Seating Capacity||2|
|Middle Seating Capacity||2|
|Rear Seating Capacity||2|
|Headroom - Front (in.)||40.7|
|Headroom - Middle (in.)||39.4|
|Headroom - Rear (in.)||37.1|
|Legroom - Front (in.)||40.7|
|Legroom - Middle (in.)||39.4|
|Legroom - Rear (in.)||30.5|
|Shoulder Room - Front (in.)||55.5|
|Shoulder Room - Middle (in.)||55.5|
|Shoulder Room - Rear (in.)||49.3|
|Hip Room - Front (in.)||53.1|
|Hip Room - Middle (in.)||57.8|
|Hip Room - Rear (in.)||40.9|
|EPA Cargo Volume - All Seats Up (cubic-feet)||5.6|
|EPA Cargo Volume - 3rd-Row Seat Folded (cubic-feet)||44.4|
|EPA Cargo Volume - 2nd Row Removed; 3rd Row Folded Down (cubic-feet)||85, est|
2013 Mazda5 – Standard Interior Features:
|Mazda5 Sport||Mazda5 Touring - Additions||Mazda5 Grand Touring - Additions|
|Bluetooth hands-free phone||Cloth door panel inserts||Interior and audio system (matching leather color)|
|Air conditioning with pollen filter||Leather-wrapped steering wheel||Driver’s seat lumbar support|
|AM/FM/CD MP3-compatible 6-speaker audio system||Leather-wrapped shift knob adjustment|
|Audio auxiliary input jack and USB audio input||Trip computer||Heated front seats|
|Automatic climate control||Leather-trimmed seat upholstery|
|Cargo compartment storage (Black or Sand)|
|Carpeted floor mats||Sirius satellite radio w/ 4-month subscription|
|Center console storage|
|Center display (A/C, audio, clock)|
|Cloth-trimmed seat upholstery (Black or Sand)|
|Driver’s seat manual height adjustment|
|Driver’s side one-touch auto up/down window feature|
|Dual front cup holders|
|Front dual map lights|
|Front row seats w/inboard armrests and seatback pockets|
|Power door locks and windows|
|Remote keyless illuminated entry system|
|Second row cool air vents with fan-speed controls|
|Second row fold-out tray table w/storage and dual cup holders|
|Second row seats with inboard and outboard armrests|
|50/50 split fold-down third row seats|
|Sirius satellite radio-compatible audio system|
|Steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls|
|Tilt and telescopic steering wheel|
2013 Mazda5 – Optional Interior Features:
- Cargo Net ($50)
- Floor Mats, All-Weather ($100)
- Compass / Auto Dim Mirror w/ Homelink ($295)
- Cargo Cover ($100)
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
The Mazda5 is a front-drive chassis with power coming from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. This engine does not have the SkyActiv benefits and comes in between the CX-5’s base 2.0-liter and up-level 2.5-liter for power.
There is barely any weight difference between the 5 van and the CX-5 crossover, so the van’s standard six-speed and optional five-cog automatic are in the smaller-engined CX-5’s slow league. They deliver a 0-to-60 mph sprint of just under 9 seconds and a top speed so unattainable it’s hilarious. Getting the Mazda5 above 110 mph would be a huge achievement, likely only possible on a long downhill road.
The Mazda5 runs out of puff at highway speeds with a loaded cabin, but the engine is smooth and revs valiantly trying to hustle the little van along.
A conventional five-speed automatic is good for driving manners, but less good at keeping the revs down at 80 mph. This auto transmission is (oddly) able to beat the manual’s EPA stats around town and match it on the highway - but in practice the six-speed is calmer at speed.
2013 Mazda5 – Mechanical Details:
|Engine Size and Type||2.5-liter 16-valve I-4 With DOHC And VVT|
|Peak power (Horsepower)||157 @ 6000|
|Peak torque (Pound-feet)||163 @ 4000|
|Transmission||6-speed Manual, 5-Speed Automatic Opt.|
|0-to-60 mph||9.0 seconds|
|Top Speed (mph)||122 mph|
|EPA Fuel Economy MPG (City/Combined/Highway)||21/NA/28 Manual, 22/NA/28 Auto|
The Mazda5 is packed with safety equipment to protect the families it will carry for years, rain or shine. A six-pack of standard airbags brings a huge side curtain for all three rows, and standard electronics like ESC and EBD ensure safe travel in bad weather.
The Mazda5 does without the CX-5’s active city braking radar or even a backup camera, but does offer proximity sensros out back as a cost option.
2013 Mazda5 – Standard Safety Features:
- "Triple H" body construction
- Side-impact door beams
- "Crushable" brake & accelerator pedal assembly
- Advanced dual front air bags
- Front seat side air bags
- Three-row side air curtains
- Engine immobilizer anti-theft system
- Second row LATCH child safety seat anchors
- Third row child safety seat anchors
- Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
- Rear backup sensors – Opt.
2013 Mazda5 – 2013 Prices:
|Mazda5 Sport - Manual||$19,940|
|Mazda5 Sport - Auto||$20,940|
|Mazda5 Touring - Auto||$22,070|
|Mazda5 Grand Touring - Auto||$24,470|
The Journey also seats six people with base prices just above $22,000 for the cheapest trims. An optional AWD and V-6 aid the Journey’s all-weather credentials, and revised styling in the back helps it look relatively fresh. Cabin quality is still a concern for the Dodge, as is its potential reliability and mileage.
The brand-new Outlander is a serious rival for the Mazda5 with a more butch style and available Plug-in Hybrid power coming to the seven-seat Mitsubishi in 2014. The third row of the Outlander is less accessible than the Mazda5’s, and also less accommodating once back there with SUV-style high windows making it tough for kids to see out.
At just below $20,000, the base Mazda5 Sport with a manual box might just be the ultimate bargain vehicle. Forget the BMW 3 series for do-it-all accolades: most people cannot even think about buying a car that expensive.
For the six seats, quality build construction, great dynamic poise and fuel mileage, the Mazda5 is a special car indeed. The unique dual sliding doors only sweeten the plot for this low-floor shuttle – the Mazda5 actually lets kids step inside versus climbing in over seats.
Potential areas for improvement are many, but might jeopardize the Mazda5’s under-$20,000 entry pricing. As it stands in today’s market, there is no more rational choice for cheap and cheerful child transport. The extra benefit included as standard on that six-speed base model? A love for corners and an always-enthusiastic powertrain.
|Driving||B||Good Steering And Ride/Handling Balance|
|Performance||B-||A Bit More Power Would Be Helpful And Appreciated|
|Look||B-||Smooth Shape But Where Are The Cool LEDs?|
|Value||A||Low, Low Entry Prices And Long-Running Mechanical Reliability|
|Overall||B+||Quite Possibly The Most Practical, Economical and Affordable Family Car In The World|