Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mazda5 Review

As promised in my farewell post to our Honda Accord, here's a review of the Mazda5 we got to replace it.  It's a 2008 Sport model in Galaxy Gray.  Sport is Mazda's way of saying "lowest".  After seven weeks with the car, we've formed some opinions to share.

We're pleased.  We've gotten along with a sedan most of our married life.  We had a few years with a fun old Volvo 240 DL wagon.  Mostly, though, it's been sedans; we've driven two Honda Accords over the last 11 years.

I mention our car history because I believe that the car you replace with a Mazda5 will really affect how you feel about the 5.  The most striking thing about the 5 is that it's hard to place in a category.  It's not a proper minivan.  It is, in fact, a microvan.  It seats 6: driver and passenger, then two individual seats in the second row and then a child-size third row bench.  It is four inches shorter and an inch narrower than our 1997 Honda Accord was.  That's a lot of seating in a very small, city-sized package.  It fits better in our 1915 one-car garage than our sedan did.  Moving from a sedan, it feels very roomy and flexible inside.  It's great that our boys sit a foot apart from each other in their own seats.  The third row folds flat, either split or all together.  The second row does not fold flat but does fold down and slide forward.  Our Christmas tree - our biggest cargo to date - fit just fine.  If one were to replace a full-size minivan with this car, I would predict that that buyer would feel cramped and miss the features that come in a minivan.  But for former sedan owners, it's a big vista.

Twelve years ago on a trip to Hong Kong, we saw lots of cars like this: short wheelbase, tall roof, flexible interior space.  I don't know why the American market doesn't create the same demand for forms like this here.

We'd read reviews knocking the 5's lack of places for your junk.  It's true; there's very little bin or console space.  Up front, A few little dishy trays flank the steering wheel.  Obligatory cupholders sit between the driver's and passenger's seat.  There's a lidless void behind them about 4 inches square and 5 inches deep.  Wells in the doors swallow a bit more stuff, and the glovebox seems to have a mother-in-law apartment up behind the main storage bin on its door.  In the middle row, a tray cleverly folds out of one seat to bridge the gap between the two.  It holds a pair of cupholders and a mesh bag with a removable lid/tray.  In the third row, you'll hold your things in your hand, thank you very much.  We're not the kind of people who keep all of our worldly possessions and garbage in our car, so it shouldn't be that bad (he said before the first long-distance road trip).

The 5 drives nicely.  Again, coming from a 14-year-old car, this one definitely feels peppier.  The controls are intuitive (except for an "auto" setting on the heater that we just ignore).  It's a little too zoom-zoom at times, as we've spun the front tires on wet pavement.  Yup.  Badass microvan.  The driving position is good, and it's as easy to parallel park as our old car.

Just for reference, the other car we seriously considered was the Kia Rondo.  A homely little stationwagon (which must now be called a crossover), it sold here from 2007-2009.  It's now sold to fleets only in America.  We liked the fact that some Rondos offered optional seating for 7.  A conventional 3-seat bench in the second row plus a two-seat bench similar to the Mazda's behind it.  That third row is less convenient because the second row has to fold forward to provide access.  In the Mazda,when the storage tray is stowed, passengers can walk between the second row seats to the third row.  The Rondo seems like a very useful vehicle, and our friends who owned one were about to replace their other car with a second one.  It's homely, though, and we find ourselves wishing for six seats with some frequency but for seven almost never.

The 5 does unfortunately appear to have one big downside: fuel efficiency.  We knew we were spoiled with 30 mpg in the Accord and that we'd trade off efficiency for whatever added space we acquired in a new vehicle.  The 2008 5 is rated around 22 city and 28 highway.  So far, in winter city driving, we've observed more like 18.  Thinking low air pressure in the tires might be the culprit, I checked at our last fillup and found them at about 60% of the 51 psi limit.  Pumping them up to 48, I expected to see an improvement in fuel efficiency.  So far, no dice. :(  My friend says winter gas with its higher ethanol content might be at least part of the culprit.  Maybe if we didn't waste fuel burning rubber on wet days, we'd do better, too.

On the whole, we're quite pleased.  We'd told people for years that this would be our next car, and it's exciting to have one.  I like the fact that few people drive them, which makes it feel more exotic and unique.  The flexible passenger and cargo space helps for sure.  I'd recommend it.


Anne H. said...

I enjoyed reading about the Mazda 5 and how it's working out for the Forsters. The fuel economy is a definite ouch but since neither of you drives to work, let alone long distances, it isn't the factor for you as it would be for some folks. Looking forward to riding in it.

Karen Gorss said...

Child-sized third row, huh? I was thinking of that as grandparent seating. Is that not realistic? Or, kid+friend in each row.

Thanks for all the info! I am astonished that it is any smaller than an Accord. It is still on my short list.

I wonder why it is so fuel-inefficient? Does that third seat make it so much heavier than an Accord? Or is it just that efficiency is not a priority for Mazda like it is for Honda? (Not meaning to demand that you know this, just thinking aloud, but if you do know it please share!)

Karen Gorss said...

I also wondered: Why two sedans and never a station wagon? Is it because there is no fuel-efficient station wagon in the Accord price range?

JFo said...

Karen, you'll only know by sitting back there or putting some grandparents back there. When we drive with grandparents, the kids go in the back. I don't know why the fuel-efficiency is so bad. My friend who had an MPV, which is a full-size minivan, always had terrible mileage.

As to station wagons, there just aren't that many. Most of the ones that were contemporary with our Accord were smaller cars. Accord wagons are nice but really rare. The popularity of the Accord sedan definitely kept the price low in the used market.

Azure said...

We looked at the Mazda5 too.

So far, we are still holding out with our 8 and 10 year old sedans. Station wagons aren't that appealing to us since we need room for more people, not more stuff. I was very disappointed when Prius failed to come out with a hybrid minivan! I love my Prius.

Carry Bacot said...

You made the right decision to purchase a Mazda 5 than other types of cars. Mazda 5 is great for a family car because it has a roomy passenger capacity and cargo space, which is good if you’re using it for a long trip. Plus, it offers convenient driving specs, like cruise control, power locks, remote keyless entry, power mirrors and adjustable steering.