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2006 Mazda5 Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Mazda


MODEL: Mazda5
ENGINE: 2.3-liter DOHC I-4
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 15 hp @ 6500 rpm/148 lb. ft. @ 3500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 108.3 in.
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 181.5 x 69.1 x 64.2 in.
TIRES: 205/50R17 all-season
CARGO VOLUME: 11.3 cu. ft.
FUEL ECONOMY: 21 mpg city/26 mpg highway
STICKER: $20,410 (includes $560 delivery, processing and handing fee)

Officially, the Mazda5 is a compact car, but it’s really much more than that. For example, how many compact cars do you know with sliding side doors? And how many have many of the attributes of a minivan without the handicap of size?

I would classify the Mazda5 as a microvan. It has been many years since a manufacturer has offered a van smaller than the minis, which, by the way, seem to be growing into full-size character. A microvan possesses the attributes of a van without the size and wit better fuel economy.

Well, what do I mean by saying it possesses the attributes? The sliding side doors are one example. The Mazda5 has sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle. They offer complete access to the rear seats, just like in a minivan. The second-row seat folds forward to provide easier access to the rear seats.

Officially, the Mazda5 is a six-seater, but the rear seat is only practical for small children. Adults can sit back there, but they’d better have short legs or be diminutive in stature for maximum comfort. But in reality, how often do you take six people in a vehicle? So the Mazda5 is great for the four people you might actually transport. If you’re asked to transport more, the rear passengers can endure some slight discomfort for a short while.

Behind the rear seat is a small cargo area. It’s rated at 11.3 cubic feet. But in the test we gave the Mazda5, we drove it to our daughter’s house in Virginia and, as constant readers will remember, we can’t make that trip without transporting half our house down and half her house back up. The two rear rows of seats fold flat for an excellent cargo area, one that’s flat from the liftgate to the back of the front seats. This cargo area is about six to eight feet long, so there are lots of things you can carry back there.

But the Mazda5 is also powered by a double overhead cam inline four cylinder engine that develops 157 hp. Since the Mazda5 weighs just 3,333 pounds unladen, the four is a great engine for the car/van. We had more than enough power for our trips, whether we were on the Interstates or tooling down some back country dirt lane.

The standard transmission is a 5-speed manual, but our tester was equipped with a 4-speed automatic ($900) that made travel much easier. Since most of our travel was on Interstates, the choice of transmission wasn’t a critical one. The automatic just made traveling easier without the effort of shifting.

One neat thing about Mazda transmissions is that they tell you what gear you’re in whether you’re in an automatic or manual. I like that extra piece of information.

Because of some family health problems, we ended up driving the Mazda5 for nine hours one day. We were about one hour from home when our daughter called and said she was taking her youngest to the hospital with a high fever and could we come back. So we did. What’s important about this information is that when we arrived back at her house later the same day we left, we didn’t have backaches or overtiredness. I considered this a tribute to the comfort of the seats, which were cloth-covered buckets. Not many cars can pass a test like that one.

Since we were in the car for a long time, our cell phones were drained of power. We had a single power outlet up front. We would have liked one more so that we could charge both cell phones, but we were able to shuffle between the two phones without too much trouble.

There is some leather on the car, in the tilt/telescoping steering wheel. This wheel also includes cruise control switches and audio controls.

I had seen some ads on television for the Mazda5 before it appeared on my schedule and in my driveway. Frankly, I was surprised by its practicality and performance. I have always said that I would have gotten a minivan instead of a full-size van when my daughters were in high school and college. I think I might also have considered something like the mazda5 if something like it was available at the time. Its practicality and sensible size are impressive.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate