Motoring: Mazda brings zoom, zoom, zoom to 2012
Before we get into the gritty details, let's revisit what the Mazda5 actually is. The Mazda5 is not quite a car and not quite a minivan. I call it a mini-minivan. It is based on the Mazda3 platform, uses the same engine as the top line Mazda3 and is priced similarly.
The Mazda5 seats six people (and the Mazda6 seats five) and has rear-sliding doors like a minivan. It's a crossover of a different kind, but whatever it is, is it any good?
From a styling point of view, yes. I think Mazda got this design right. The new model might not be as attractive as the previous generation model, but its still a very nice design.
It's much the same story inside. The interior is well laid out, and not only looks good, but is functionally good too. There is plenty of room front and back; however, the last row is really only good for young kids. In the front seat, the cushion is not long enough, and it is not as sound proof as I would like. Apart from that, there isn't much to complain about the interior.
I do have a complaint about its new engine and transmission. It has a 2.5 litre, inline-four cylinder engine that produces 157 hp, which is less than what the old 2.3- litre unit produced. In my test car, that power was sent through the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. In order for this vehicle to get better fuel economy, the gearing feels long and seems to bog down the engine's power. The old Mazda5 was great fun to drive with a manual, but not this new model. A five-speed automatic is also available and I'd rather go for that. Given how few manual versions of the Mazda5 get sold, it's a wonder why they still bother to offer the manual.
As for handling, it still handles well, but seems to have been softened a bit. It might be a tad more comfortable, but loses the sharpness in the bends. Maybe that is what their customers wanted, but the once-enjoyable people-mover is now just a plain old peoplemover.
The average fuel economy of just 10.5-litres/100km in a blizzard- cold winter is not bad at all. It's not that expensive to buy, either, since a base model is yours from just $21,795 (plus all the regular fees and taxes).
The new Mazda5 is not as good as the old model, but given the choices one has in the market for an affordable people-carrier, it might just still be the best one around.