10.03.2008

Mazda 5 Review


The other day in traffic, I pulled up next to a remarkably well preserved first-generation Chrysler minivan (from 1985 or so). What struck me, apart from its condition, was how small it was.

Over the past 23 years, minivans have lost a lot of their mini. They're mostly huge, heavily-equipped, thirsty beasts with sticker prices well into the $30,000 range. Get carried away with the options and $40,000 is within reach.

The lone exception is the Mazda 5...a minivan so small it resembles a stretched Honda Fit. The 5, based on the compact Mazda 3 platform, is a delight to drive in city traffic. Handling's a breeze, parking's a snap...snicking into turn lanes partially blocked by trucks and SUVs slopping over from the adjacent lane is no sweat.

And, with a 2.3 liter four-cylinder engine and a 5 speed automatic, the EPA says the Mazda 5 is good for 21 miles per gallon in the city, 27 on the highway.

5s come as cheap as $17,000 and change. Our tester was the top of the line Grand Touring...which still commands a base price of only $22,675, and is so well equipped (17 inch alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, third-row seating, leather, a second-row fold-out table, automatic climate control with rear vents, an AM/FM/6-CD audio system with six speakers, cruise control, a moonroof and a Bluetooth hands-free phone system) that ours had no options apart from a rear bumper step plate ($50). That and delivery brought the bottom line to $23,395.

Room for six people (though third-row passengers would be too close to the tailgate for my comfort), great maneuverability, decent performance and very good fuel economy make the Mazda 5 a sensible minivan alternative.

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