DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: You don’t realize how much cars have changed in the last few years until you get into one that hasn’t. Our 2015 Mazda 5 Grand Touring tester could easily have been mistaken for our long-term 2012 model of a few years past, but when U.S. sales struggle to break 1,000 units a month, extensive updates aren’t going to be in the cards.
That’s OK -- the Mazda 5 doesn’t owe anyone an apology. It’s hardly cutting-edge, but it offers a good feature set, outstanding utility and typical Mazda driving dynamics in a $25,000 package. It’s impossible to make mini-minivan styling look cool, but the Mazda 5, with its swoopy Kodo-design style lines, pulls it off far more effectively than the Euro-utilitarianFord Transit Connect, the wagon version of which may be the Mazda 5’s sole apples-to-apples competitor.
The Mazda 5 Grand Touring is also vastly more entertaining to drive than either the Ford or most any other similarly priced utility. The car is no featherweight, but the 2.5-liter I4 and automatic transmission work well together to give the 5 some scoot; where the 3,500-pound curb weight shows up is in mediocre fuel economy, where the EPA-rated 24 mpg combined seems about right -- the trip computer was showing 21.8 mpg after about 100 miles of driving, mostly on surface streets. If mileage is your thing, you’d be better off looking at a Volkswagen TDI wagon.
Then again, if you need to carry six (very occasionally), the Mazda 5 offers a usable third row. It’s not a magic box, so don’t fool yourself about the comfort of that third row, but it’s there if you need to shuttle two extra kids to a play date. Fold them down, like most will 99 percent of the time, and you get a very useful 44.4 cubic feet behind the second row; compare that to the new Golf Sportwagen’s 30.4 cubic feet and the Mazda’s utility quickly becomes apparent, made more so thanks to minivan-style sliding side doors.
Intrigued? Head to your Mazda dealer while you still can. As good as the Mazda 5 is, it's a safe bet the car won’t be on sale in the U.S. past its current generation. Blame America’s insatiable appetite for compact crossovers -- including Mazda’s ownCX-5.
ONLINE FEATURES EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Wow, only 1,000 sold per month? And I was going to say this is my favorite cheap minivan. I guess I’m the only one.
Andy is right, though. This 2015 model could have just as easily been our 2012 long termer -- not much has changed, though this one is grayish-blue, and I think our old one was bluish-gray.
But if you have to make the plunge into minivan-hood, why not do it as cheaply as possible, and save some money for your midlife crisis car, which is surely a just a few years away. Is the Chrysler Town & Country better? Sure. Does it warrant a huge bump in sticker price? I don’t think so. I guess I’d be more likely to spring for the opulence if I had a handful of kids, and took road trips or family vacations often. Then I could see the pop-up table, rear seat entertainment, cookie maker, and whatever else Chrysler’s doing these days. For now, not really.
The 2.5-liter makes just enough power to pull this van around. I didn’t have any trouble getting up to speed in a reasonable time. I did, however, have to keep the pedal down far to stay at freeway speeds. There will be some noise coming from the engine bay, especially when you’re getting up to speed, and you’ll hear some from the wind, too. Speaking of, this car is boxy, and doesn’t weigh too much. That means you’ll get blown around on the expressway on a windy day, so get ready for that.
It does feel a little chintzy, inside. Though, as far as options go, the Grand Touring trim does pretty well. Leather, heated seats, moonroof, keyless entry and a halfway decent stereo system are all included. That system, by the way, has a USB port! So much tech!
Overall, it’s not a half-bad driver, either. For minivans on the cheaper side, this is the one to get. I think the T&C still rules if you’re looking to spend a few thousand more.
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