2014 Mazda 5
Not quite minivan, not quite wagon, Mazda5 is a small, front-wheel-drive van with sliding rear doors and space for six. Compact exterior dimensions belie the Mazda5's interior space, which, like regular minivans, has three rows of seats.
Mazda5 was completely redesigned for 2012, so changes since then have been minor. The 2013 Mazda5 got some new exterior color choices, and a USB/iPod connection became standard on all models. Nothing significant is new on the 2014 Mazda5, except for one new body color.
The design of the Mazda5 is based on the Nagare design language, which translates to flow in nature. Its hallmark is an upside-down pentagon grille up front, leading into a flowing design up over the front fenders and down the sides.
With these styling cues, the Mazda5 has a bolder and sportier look than the slab-sided approach usually reserved for minivan bodies. The body has been shaped with sculpted sheet metal and a severely laid-back windshield, with a rear roof spoiler on the Grand Touring version.
The grille, hood, fenders, lamps, bumper and front air intakes complement body-colored door handles and mirrors and taillamps. The design is not only attractive, but helps to achieve a 0.30 coefficient of drag. That's remarkably aerodynamic for a minivan, helping to reduce wind noise and maximize fuel efficiency.
The interior layout of the Mazda5 is unusual in that it provides three rows of two seats each, with bucket seats in front, captain's chairs in the second row, and a split folding bench seat in the third row. The latter is best suited for smaller children. It's a versatile cabin, where each of the rear seats can be folded down. A mechanically-operated liftgate makes the rear hatch easy to open, too.
A 2.5-liter, double-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing powers all Mazda5 models, giving it good low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower. Rated at a modest 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, it's the same engine found, prior to the 2014 model year, in certain Mazda3 trim levels. Transmission choices for the Mazda5 include a 6-speed manual (Sport only) or a 5-speed automatic.
Fuel economy ratings for the 2014 Mazda5 are 21/28 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission, and 22/28 mpg with the automatic.
We found the Mazda5 enjoyable to drive, with responsive acceleration performance, sharp handling, and smooth braking. Mazda's sporty suspension means there's very little body roll. Brakes are four-wheel disc for good stopping power. Driving a Mazda5 differs sharply from the typical minivan experience, courtesy of the compact van's excellent maneuverability and ease of parking.
This is an economy minivan with a starting price just over $20,000, so don't expect a blind-spot warning system, adaptive cruise control, or any of the other higher-priced, high-technology safety gear found on more expensive cars. Nor is a built-in navigation system available; Mazda probably expects most buyers will opt for a portable Garmin, Magellan or other stick-on system.
There aren't any apples-to-apples competitors for the 2014 Mazda5. Minivans such as the Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are larger and more expensive. Compact wagons and hatchbacks come closer in size, but lack the rear sliding doors and tend to be more expensive. Shoppers looking for utility with a smaller footprint, who are willing to shell out a little more, might also consider the Ford C-MAX wagon, as well as compact crossover SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.