Mazda 5 is the most fuel efficient ‘mini’ minivan. It’s also the only minivan available with a manual transmission. It seats six and has sliding rear doors. Similar to the Mazda 3 it’s based on, Mazda 5 is nimble and actually fun to drive, however it’s not as roomy as regular-size minivans. Inside, the 5 is simple and practical; the interior fit and finish is pretty good. The driver’s seat has height adjustment and the steering tilts and telescopes, but tall drivers may find that the driver’s seat doesn’t slide back far enough. The second-row access is easy; the second-row bucket seats recline and slide back and forth. With the seats slid all the way back, the second-row legroom is generous. The third-row seat is suitable for small children. The second and third-row seats fold down. With the third-row seats in use, the cargo space is very limited, so if you are planning to use Mazda 5 for long family trips, a roof box is a good option.
2006 Mazda 5
2010 Mazda 5 interior
2006 Mazda 5
Mazda 5 seat arrangement. Photo: Mazda
Fuel Economy: The 2006-2007 Mazda 5 automatic gets 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. With some minor tweaks, the fuel economy was improved for 2008; the 2008-2010 Mazda 5 auto is rated at 21/27 mpg city/highway. With 20% city, 80% highway use, the 5 is estimated to travel 372 miles (599 km) on a full 15.9-gallon (60.2 liter) tank. Opting for a manual transmission will get you even better mileage; the 2010 Mazda 5 with a five-speed manual transmission gets 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
Handling: On the road, Mazda 5 is very agile and maneuverable; it handles more like a sporty wagon than a minivan. The ride is firm, but comfortable. The 2.3L 4-cylinder engine is peppy around town, but might feel underpowered with a full load.
Safety: Antilock brakes are standard. Stability Control system was added for 2010. In the NHTSA frontal crash tests, the 2008-2010 Mazda 5 got five stars for both the driver and the front passenger. In the side-impact tests, Mazda 5 scored five stars for the driver and four stars for the rear passenger.
Mechanical: Mazda 5 has a 157-hp 2.3-liter 4-cylinder DOHC engine, which is pretty reliable and is easy to maintain. This engine has a timing chain; there is no timing belt.
Transmission choices included a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic (5-speed automatic from 2008). Rear brakes are disks only. The 5 has McPherson struts in the front and multi-link independent suspension in the back. The power steering is electro-hydraulic, with a conventional hydraulic steering rack and electrically-driven hydraulic steering pump.
Reliability: Consumer Reports rates the 2006-2009 Mazda 5 ‘below average’ with the suspension and brakes receiving the worst scores; however, the engine and transmission are rated well. According to a Mazda service expert we spoke to, common problems are fairly minor and not very expensive.
Pros: The 5 is maneuverable and nimble. It handles sporty and you can get it with a stick shift. The fuel economy is not too bad and maintenance costs are reasonable. It’s also easy to work on, which is a big plus for a DIY owner.
Cons: The 5 is not as roomy or comfortable as conventional minivans. One of the common complaints we found is that the air conditioner feels a bit weak for the rear passengers in early models; the second-row cool air vents with fan-speed controls were only added for 2008. The seats are pretty firm and the cushions are fairly short, which might be a problem on long trips. Tall drivers could find front legroom tight. The road noise is more noticeable than in other minivans.