2013 Mazda5

MSRP:
$25,265
MPG:
22 city / 28 hwy
Engine:
2.5L, 4-cyl, 157 hp

The Mazda5 is the smallest and least-expensive minivan on the market. It’s family-friendly, budget-friendly, and best of all, it doesn’t drive like a van.



By Aaron Gold

THE BIG PICTURE

As VroomGirls.com’s resident male writer, I’ve found that “You should consider a minivan” goes over about as well with my female readers as “Yes, as a matter of fact, that dress does make you look fat.” So as a compromise, I often recommend the Mazda5. The Mazda5 is sort of a mini-minivan — it has all the flexibility and utility of a van, but it still drives like a car, and a thumpin’ good one at that.

Still, despite some wavy lines on the sheetmetal, it still looks terribly van-ish, and that’s not going to go over well with women who object to the “mommymobile” image that a minivan projects. (If it’s any consolation, ladies, remember that we’re living in the era of the MILF. Cougars are hot!) But the Mazda5 is very roomy and surprisingly inexpensive. If you can get over the image, it makes a great family car.

INTERIOR

The 2013 Mazda5 is like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag: Small on the outside, big on the inside. The Mazda5 is about the same size as a Honda Civic, yet it has roomy seating for six. (Well, roomy seating for four; adults will find the rear-most seats a bit of a squeeze.) The second-row seats have hard-plastic storage bins under the seat cushions, an excellent place for kids to stash their iPods and Nintendos where passing thieves won’t be tempted.

Drivers face a no-nonsense dash made of somber black plastic; it’s not much to look at, but the control layout is nice and simple. I really like the tall driving position and big windshield, which provide excellent sightlines and make the 2013 Mazda5 easier to maneuver than other vans.

FAMILY-FRIENDLINESS

The Mazda5’s sliding rear doors may well be the best thing to happen to parenting since the invention of the sedative. They can be opened wide in the narrowest of parking spots, and the second-row seats sit sat the perfect height for hoisting kids into car seats — no need to crane ’em in as you do with a big SUV.

That said, the 2013 Mazda5 does have some disadvantages compared to other minivans. It seats six, not seven or eight like bigger vans, and while the cargo area is big enough for OctoMom’s weekly grocery run, if you need to pack suitcases, you’ll have to fold down at least one of the third-row seats. Many of the high-end family-friendly features available on other minivans — power-operated doors, all-wheel-drive, an automated voice that says “If you don’t stop hitting your brother, I’ll take away your video games for a month!”* — aren’t available on the Mazda5, and only the top-of-the-line models get leather upholstery. Most have cloth, which is harder to keep clean.

* I made that last one up, but if Mazda offered it, I would totally buy it.

SAFETY

Statistically, minivans are the safest vehicles on the roads, which seems to have more to do with how people drive them than their actual safety hardware. The Mazda5 is purely average: Six airbags (including side curtain airbags that protect all three rows of seats), antilock brakes, and electronic stability control, but no new ground-breaking safety technology. The 2013 Mazda5 is an all-new model and hasn’t yet been crash-tested, but other recent Mazda models have had excellent crash-test scores

GIZMOS AND TECH

This is one area where the Mazda5 falls down. Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Chrysler have been battling for years to see who can come up with the most family-friendly gizmos, but Mazda seems to have opted out of the fight. All Mazda5s get a rear air conditioning system, but it’s noisy and only cools the second row seats. Options include satellite radio and a rear-seat DVD player, but nice-to-haves like a navigation system or an iPod-compatible USB port are nowhere to be found.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

This is where the 2013 Mazda5 comes into its own: It drives like a car, not a bus. I tested the Mazda5 in Puerto Rico, of all places, where the average road is no wider than your bra strap, so the Five’s small size and excellent all-around visibility really came in handy. In the booming metropolis of San Juan, I could easily squeeze the Mazda5 into parking spots that mid-size SUVs had to pass up. And on curvy mountain roads, I was reminded that “Zoom-Zoom” is more than just an advertising tagline — the Mazda5 is a lot of fun to drive.

The Mazda5’s small size means it can make do with a modestly-sized four-cylinder engine. Even loaded up with my wife, two teen-age kids, and three big suitcases, the Mazda5 had all the power I needed. EPA fuel economy estimates are a car-like 21 MPG city/28 MPG highway, and despite rather challenging conditions — driving in Puerto Rico is a cross between a NASCAR race and a demolition derby — we averaged a budget-friendly 24.2 MPG, far better than most minivans and SUVs I’ve tested.

Pricing and Trim Levels

Along with its small size comes a small price — the Mazda5 Sport starts at just $19,990 ($1,000 more with an automatic transmission), and that price includes power windows, air conditioning, and a decent stereo. The mid-level Mazda5 Touring lists for $21,990, and a top-of-the-range Mazda5 Grand Touring, with leather seats, automatic rain-sensing wipers, and a sunroof, lists for $24,670 — $1,200 cheaper than the least-expensive Toyota Sienna and a whopping four grand less than the base-model Honda Odyssey.

Final Thoughts

If you can't fathom the thought of driving a minivan, the 2013 Mazda5 might help you make the transition — it has the utility of a minivan but it drives like a car. And by the way, you look great in that dress.

Van convenience with small-car driving dynamics

Dirt-cheap prices and good fuel economy

Short options list; lacks the family-friendly functionality of bigger minivans.

Driving
Family
Gadgetry

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9 Responses to “Mazda5”

  1. Ann says:

    Own a Mazda 5 2008, it has 106,000k of course past warranty. The car was wonderful until 2 months ago and the expenses are going through the roof. Transmission flush, shocks. For the last weeks the Crash Sensor was replace, engine light still on another sensor replaced, now they want the Co2 sensor needs replaced. It has been a nightmare with no end in sight. The Dealer is working with us so I hope I can report some success. It has taken our faith away from our love of Mazdas. Never had a problem like this and the cost just keeps escalating.

    • cameron says:

      Our Mazda 5 has also been an absolute nightmare. We could have bought another car with the amt. we have put into this car for repairs. And it is still having problems. It runs okay for a couple of weeks and then something else is wrong. I HATE this car. And we have 3 more years of car payments on it on top of it all, so we can’t get out from under it and can’t afford to get a new car because of how much we have put into this one. DO NOT GET A MAZDA 5.

    • James says:

      All of the things you are describing are pretty typical for a vehicle with 100k miles, particularly since it seems that you’ve driven it pretty hard to have made that many miles in so few years. Your coolant getting flushed, thermostat, spark plugs, etc, are all generally due at 100k or there about almost regardless of the make/model.

  2. Lee says:

    Fantastic family car, as the review attests. Sporty feel. Great mileage. No repair issues yet either.

  3. Mary says:

    Have a Mazda5 2007 with 215000 Kms on it! Yup. Mazda dealer tells me that all repairs I’m doing on it is normal wear and tear. Love it but I’m ready for something more. More gadgets and because I do a lot of highway driving, need something more powerful than a 4 speed transmission. It’s guzzling gas. Still it’s been a great car and I have no regrets.

  4. William says:

    Have a 2009 Mazda5 GT for 2 yrs now. Love the looks, great handling like a Mazda3. Perfect for my wife and 2 small children 2 and 3 yrs old. And the dog also. Sliding door is the only problem with the GT model in the Canadian winters. In winters, it will not close. I have to tie the sliding door to the pillars to keep them semi closed and then drive to a heated car wash to blow out and dry the tracks/rails. Not safe at all. The power mechanism now keeps trying to pull the door close and lock it in even when I am driving. Make you feel like one day the door will fly open by itself while I am driving. Mazda will inspect and “clean/lube” the door but it makes no difference a week later when the weather turns cold again. The mechanical door is useless, doesn’t even close it, just pulls it in and lock. Whey can’t they make a normal door like everyone else? Should have bought a base or lower model but will not have leather or sunroof. I am thinking of selling it every time the door acts up, which is often. Hopefully they will have a new 5.5

  5. Leanne says:

    This car has caused me so many frustrations. I’m not sure how you can be satisfied with this car. The sliding doors never close in the winter and I had so many repairs that it’s not funny anymore. I cried after 14 days that I purchased this car. I will never never never buy a Mazda ever again. Not only did the Mazda dealership provide a real bad experience, the car just sucks.

  6. Paul says:

    Have a 2008 Touring. Great car! I live in PR so no freezing door problems here. They don’t offer the power sliding doors here anyway.
    Heard Mazda’s withdrawing the 5 from the US market for 2016. It’s a shame, IMO it just needed a 200 bhp Skyactive engine and chassis, a new 6 speed auto trans. and new Kodo styling. Oem Navi option and standard bluetooth audio and usb should be added as well.

  7. Alan Ryan says:

    We have a 2008 with 117K that we bought new. We have loved this little car in San Diego. I have 9, 14 and 16 year old boys. My wife and I work full time, and she loves to be able to take the boys and friends to football, soccer, surfing, baseball, rugby and lacrosse. It is perfect for Southern California, because it gets good gas mileage, is small, holds everything and fits anywhere. It accelerates and drives like a little sports car. Racks and inside dimensions hold all of our short and longboards. Perfect vehicle for the family that likes to have fun in a cool, little sporty package.

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