Auto Review: Great things, small package

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Mar. 14, 2013
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

There are times when you see a really great idea and you wonder: a) Why didn’t somebody think of that sooner? and b) Wait! Why didn’t I think of that? I reacted in this exasperated manner the first time I saw the Mazda5, as it showed creative thinking that appears like an obvious idea when you see it in person –  a mini-minivan.

This clever machine first appeared on the U.S. market around 2005, after being sold in a number of countries under Mazda and other nameplates and configurations. It has been undergoing a steady series of tweaks and refinements over the years, and while the starting template is great to begin with, by the time you arrive at the latest version, you get a very polished vehicle indeed. The company talks about the changes as they pertain to the company’s overall design philosophy in very lofty terms: “The 2013 Mazda5 continues to incorporate treatments from Mazda’s Nagare ‘flow’ design language,” states a press release,  “which, inspired by the beauty of nature, presents an elegant look not found in any existing vehicle today.” The Mazda5 also occupies a unique niche that many buyers are finding versatile and appealing, all while delivering excellent fuel economy.

The Mazda5 is a front-drive design that rides on a 108.3-inch wheelbase, and will fit into most garages easily, as it has an overall length of 180.5 inches and is 68.9 inches wide. I mention these stats because it’s smaller than conventional minivans, yet offers a similar type of usable space. The lone engine is Mazda’s MZR 2.5-liter Inline Four that develops 157 horsepower. If you opt for the Sport model, you can get a 6-speed manual transmission, otherwise you get a 5-speed Automatic with Active Adaptive Shift (AAS) technology designed to deliver more spirited performance without compromising fuel efficiency. Indeed, this drivetrain is no rubber-burning “Menace to Society,” but acceleration is adequate and the transmission does an excellent job of smoothly downshifting to select the optimum ratios for the situation. The Mazda5’s ride quality is skewed toward comfort, but control and response is solid, and the compact dimensions make it fun to navigate through traffic and hustle around on rural roads.

The minivan design means the big sliding rear doors grant easy access to the second and third rows. Our Grand Touring featured very comfortable captains chairs in the first two rows, with a bench third-row seat that folds flat in 50/50 increments. Adults can tolerate the third row for short distances, but kids will be much more comfortable in this aft passenger section. With the third row folded, you still have 44.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row; with both the second and third rows folded, this swells to 97 cubic feet. It’s lot of room in a compact package, whether you’re hauling people and/or pets and possessions.

The 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring is EPA rated 22 MPG city/28 highway and has a base price of $24,476. With options, our sticker came to $25,628. www.mazdausa.com


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