2006 Mazda 5 Review | Autobytel.com | Catalog-cars

2006 Mazda 5 Review | Autobytel.com

24 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2006 Mazda 5 Review | Autobytel.com
Mazda 5

This car is too smart for form-over-function Americans

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This is not a new idea for the United States. Mini-minivans proliferated in the late 1980s and early 1990s, bobbing helplessly in the wake of the resoundingly successful Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Popular in Europe and Asia for their ability to provide maximum interior room combined with minimum exterior size, these vehicles never sold well in America.

For example, one of the best of the mini-minivan breed, the 1990 Nissan Axxess, lasted just one year. Mitsubishi stuck it out a little longer, marketing the Expo LRV until 1994, when Honda took the baton with the 1995 Odyssey – though it, and its Isuzu Oasis clone, had conventional hinged side doors rather than sliders. None of these models, intelligent as they were, captured the imagination of American consumers, and none came close to becoming an icon in the way that the first minivan, the Volkswagen Microbus, did back in the 1950s and 1960s.

Fast forward a decade or two, and Mazda is taking the leap with the 2006 Mazda 5. Logic would dictate this as a doomed move, given the utter lack of interest shown by the public in the Mazda 5’s lackluster predecessors. But when you’re trying to distinguish your brand through innovative products, fuel prices are shooting skyward, and one of the hot industry trends is the six-passenger “sports tourer,” it can’t hurt to test the waters and see if the time is finally right for the mini-minivan to achieve success.

Based on a week-long test drive in a 2006 Mazda 5 Touring, we’d say it’s got potential. There are issues associated with comfort, with engine performance, and with design. Mazda didn’t even try to hide the sliding door tracks on the outside, and most Americans will likely cross the Mazda 5 off their lists once they find out that it’s really a minivan and not some new-fangled “sport tourer” available at a bargain price.

It’s too bad about our culture’s tendency to prioritize form over function – many people who might love the Mazda 5 won’t give it a second glance.

Mazda sells the 5 in two trims: Sport and Touring. Standard equipment on the $17,995 Mazda 5 Sport includes those spiffy 17-inch alloy wheels, power door locks with keyless entry, power windows (including those in the sliding side doors), power mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player and auxiliary controls on the steering wheel.

The Mazda 5 Touring starts at $19,510 and adds two more speakers along with a six-disc CD changer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power moonroof, fog lights, automatic climate control, and unique trim such as body-color mirrors, side sill extensions, and a rear liftgate spoiler. Every 2006 Mazda 5 is equipped with occupant-sensing front airbags, side-impact airbags for the front seats, and side curtain airbags.

You’d think that a 157-horsepower, 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder would have trouble motivating a 3,400-pound vehicle, and you’d be right – but only when the Mazda 5 is toting more than two passengers, or is filled with a substantial load. Otherwise, it’s a rather sprightly machine, and reasonably frugal with fuel to boot, though we think it should have done better than the 20.5 mpg average we managed.

A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, and a four-speed automatic with manual shifting mode is optional. The 2006 Mazda 5 rides on a four-wheel-independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars, employs ventilated front and solid rear antilock disc brakes with EBD and brake assist, and comes equipped with an electro-hydraulic power rack-and-pinion steering system. Big 17-inch wheels come standard to ensure that the Mazda 5 adheres both to the road and the automaker’s zoom-zoom philosophy – in the handling department if not outright performance.

Our test model came fully equipped in the top Touring trim with an automatic transmission and a navigation system, ringing in at $22,410 including the $560 destination charge. If that sounds like a bargain, imagine slicing $2,000 off the sticker by ditching the navigation system for a detailed atlas. Now take a look in your local Sunday newspaper, and you’ll see that dealers are discounting, which means you can roll out the door in a well-equipped, fun-to-drive, efficient, and useful 2006 Mazda 5 for less than $20,000.

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Driving Impressions

Thom Blackett’s 2006 Mazda 5 Driving Impressions:

Apparently, just because something looks like a minivan doesn’t mean it drives like one. Case in point: the 2006 Mazda 5 mini-minivan. Under the aerodynamic, albeit a bit boxy, shape is a nimble little hauler that offers decent handling, even when piloting down winding country roads. Understeer rears its ugly head in hard-core corners, but this is a six-passenger wagon, so extreme lateral stick isn’t exactly a required quality.

Thus, the squealing tires, doing their best to maintain grip, can’t be complained about too much. Keep the speeds reasonable, and back road slaloming can be quite entertaining in the Mazda 5.

From the driver’s seat, there’s the sporty steering wheel to enjoy, a leather-wrapped unit that provides plenty of feedback and sufficient heft when the speedometer needle climbs. Razor-sharp handling is left for the RX-8, but the Mazda 5 is dialed in nicely for a people-hauler. Braking is a non-issue thanks to the antilock disc setup, though the pedal can be a tad touchy as it’s first depressed.

The same can be said of the throttle, which is tied to an eager, yet ultimately underpowered, little four-banger that revs for all it’s worth. Mash the pedal on the highway for a quick pass, and the Mazda 5 will indeed pass, though screams of protest come from under the hood.

But don’t blame the engine entirely – the four-speed automatic transmission is slow to decide on the proper gear, continuously hunting for the right answer, and often settling for a deep dig into second or third gear for a wild spin on the ol’ tachometer. Call it the “Spinning Tachometer Game” – it’ll keep the kids amused for hours, or until they get a mild case of whiplash from the sudden and repeated downshifts.

Except for that confused tranny, the 2006 Mazda 5 packs a good bit of fun for an affordable, six-passenger wagon, er, van, kinda thing. But that’s with one 165-lb. driver on board. Add in five more bodies of average weight, and one can only imagine how outmatched the powertrain would be.

Brian Chee’s 2006 Mazda 5 Driving Impressions:

It kept yelling at me, this car that wouldn’t shut up. Over and over again, it hollered with the most irritating beep, and I failed to figure out what it was I was doing wrong, or what was amiss with this weird little vehicle. Doors were shut tight, seatbelts were on, and the parking brake was off.

Yet still, it beeped.

Then I lifted my briefcase off the passenger seat, and the clamor stopped. Turns out that the weight sensor on the passenger seat is set low enough to activate the fasten seatbelt warning for items no heavier than a healthy sack of groceries, or, in this case, a briefcase. The solution is simple enough, true – either put your belongings somewhere else, or fasten a belt around your bag.

I must confess, though, that I forgot this simple rule several times during two days with the vehicle.

Other than the bark of a seatbelt buzzer, the 2006 Mazda 5 is a pretty smooth and quiet car, with just small amounts of wind and road noise. The engine purrs along, emitting neither a happy note nor an agonizing squeal, and the tires keep their composure during sedate driving maneuvers. It’s essentially a mini-minivan, remember, with a strange Euro-centric design.

Driving such a thing elicits a number of stares at stoplights, so you’ll have a great urge to motor away as quickly as possible. The engine is peppy, but barely so – if that briefcase is heavy, or you have a few occupants aboard, you may have some trouble during the getaway especially if the getaway is uphill.

You get the last laugh, however. When it comes to parking and changing lanes, making U-turns and doing the types of things that give the typically bloated SUVs on our roads fits, the Mazda 5 is nimble and responsive, a pleasure to pilot along city streets and in and out of traffic. You get a really tight turning radius, a nice high view and great visibility, though the Mazda 5 rocks like a toy boat in a bathtub during harder-than-usual cornering, and braking is only adequate.

All in all, the 2006 Mazda 5 feels designed for a different road and a different driver than what we have here in America, and, indeed, it is quite a popular car in Europe. With a more powerful engine and perhaps a wider stance, this would also be a big hit in America.

Ron Perry’s 2006 Mazda 5 Driving Impressions:

My driving experience in the 2006 Mazda 5 wasn’t what I was expecting…it was better. Crossover, minivan, whatever you want to call them, vehicles like these are not my favorite to drive, so when I saw the Mazda 5 on the schedule I was less than enthusiastic about spending much seat time in it. However, the Mazda 5 won me over.

The engine, though sluggish off the line, delivers surprisingly well once under way. Loaded with adults, the engine might need a few more seconds to get up to speed but freeway lane changes and passing were not an issue and I had confidence that the Mazda 5 would accomplish these tasks without issue. The steering is a little light for me, but considering the type vehicle it is I would give it a passing grade.

My biggest surprise was how smooth and quiet the Mazda 5 was. It tracks well and handles the bumps and washboard textures of the freeway with grace and poise. Great brakes and a quiet interior void of much wind or tire noise rounded out my experience.

Christian Wardlaw’s 2006 Mazda 5 Driving Impressions:

Given the Mazda badges front and rear, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the 2006 Mazda 5 immensely fun to drive. Like a Mazda 3, this mini-minivan isn’t speedy but makes up for its lack of punch with entertaining handling, quick reflexes, and refined responses to driver inputs.

Except for throttle tip-in, which is abrupt enough to cause the front tires to lay a patch until you get your right foot calibrated to its sensitivity. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine delivers smooth power and likes to rev. Its 157 ponies are enough when one person is aboard; load the Mazda 5 up with people or gear and it’s easy to conclude that the four-banger would be taxed.

Mid-range response is adequate for passing, but no more, and the Mazda 5 can maintain a steady cruising speed of 80 mph on the flat lands. Add extra weight, altitude, hill climbs, and performance is likely to degrade quickly. Great for city driving, the Mazda 5 is equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission that shifts well under normal circumstances, but lags a bit for passing.

Manual shifts are crisp, and set up like a BMW or Formula One racing car – counter-intuitively. You tap up for a downshift and tap down for an upshift. I greatly dislike that.

The Mazda 5’s steering is linear and a tad overassisted, but with excellent road feel. The brake pedal is sensitive and responsive without being grabby, making it easy to complete quick and smooth stops. The suspension communicates most nuances of the road surface, and since this is not a quiet vehicle inside, you get to hear every little change in the topography, from the rifle shots of expansion joints to the harmonic thrum of grooved pavement.

The Mazda 5 is an impressive handling machine for what it is – a mini-minivan. There’s not as much roll and pitch as I expected, though it exists. The 17-inch tires grip well and are quiet when abused.

Ride quality is surprisingly good for a vehicle that communicates so much of what the tires and suspension are up to. Like most European vehicles, the Mazda 5 rides a bit on the stiff side, yet filters out the worst road anomalies. Body motion is kept nicely in check. The Mazda 5 also has a very tight turning circle and is quite easy to park.

Visibility is terrific all around.

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Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Comfort:

Despite its small size, the 2006 Mazda 5 provides a comfortable cabin for four people. What? It’s a six-passenger ride? Oh, yeah, those two in the “third row” need to be extremely tiny, or maybe your inbred cousins who relish the opportunity to lick their knees.

Whoever gets stuffed back there will benefit from a cupholder, but there’s very little leg, foot, and head room, though the second-row seats can be moved forward for more space. Of course, that means those in the second row will be squished, too. On a more positive note, the Mazda 5 allows for easy access to the rear, and the sliding doors make for easy ingress/egress in tight parking spaces.

Forward of that sufficiently useless third row are four bucket seats, each with its own fold-down center armrest, adjustable headrest, and comfortable cushions. The driver’s seat includes a height adjuster, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes, though not much.

Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Comfort:

Stick to the front seats, bunky, and you’re fine. That’s where the comfort is inside the 2006 Mazda 5, with fairly supportive seats, a nice dashboard layout and plenty of legroom. The driver’s seat offers a manual height adjustment, which also pitches you forward a bit in the process, which might be really exciting if this was a ride at Disneyland.

Sitting in the back is sort of like sitting on the lawn at your local concert venue. Okay, maybe it’s better than that, but you’ll still feel like a second-class citizen and, during long drives, there’s a good chance for numb bum. The seats are far enough away to where it’s hard to reach back and deal with children, or other passenger needs.

I didn’t even try to get into the third row. My HMO plan doesn’t cover that. On a positive note, materials throughout the cabin felt nice and durable, and the seat fabric was comfortable.

Plastics had a good tactile feel, though there was too much hard plastic throughout the interior. The best thing about the Mazda 5 was getting out… and in. The sliding rear doors facilitated all passengers, large or small, and would make loading groceries and kids a breeze, which is also true for the rear lift-over height, which is low enough to make placing heavy objects into the back easy.

Overall, the Mazda 5 is livable, but there are many models available that offer more in terms of comfort.

Ron Perry’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Comfort:

The one thing that surprised me most about the 2006 Mazda 5 was that the cabin feels roomier than you expect it to for the small size of the vehicle. The seats fit me well and nice touches such as fold-down armrests and soft-touch door panel surfaces impressed me. Even the second-row seats get the fold-down armrests and a center console that can be tucked under one of the second-row seats to make more room.

Those forced to ride in the third row will suffer if they are over four feet tall as head and knee room is minimal. Another nagging issue for me is that unless you bother to raise them, the headrests jab you right at shoulder blade level due to a short seat back. Raising them to their highest level is a must for comfort.

Mazda didn’t forget comfort when it came to the tailgate, however. The tailgate rises to a predetermined height on its hydraulic shocks for those of average height and raises an additional 4-6 inches with a gentle push for those on the taller side. No more smashing your head on the gate when loading and unloading the storage area.

It’s the little things like this that impress.

Overall, the 2006 Mazda 5 delivers both a smooth ride and a comfortable interior with the exception of the third-row seating. The cabin feels spacious and all controls are easy to understand and use. The seats are comfortable and easily adjustable, and getting in and out of the cabin is no problem.

Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Comfort:

Putting people and stuff inside the 2006 Mazda 5 is a breeze thanks to the sliding side doors and the low rear liftover height, and the tailgate offers two-stage gas struts for loading in low-clearance garages without worry that you’ll damage the paint on low-hanging pipes. Both rows of seats collapse quickly and easily, without requiring the removal of the headrests. Also, the steering wheel is a joy to hold.

Otherwise, comfort eluded me. The front seats themselves are comfortable, but I could never find the right mix of seat height and cushion tilt to get comfortable behind the wheel. When the seat is raised, the bottom cushion tilts forward, so your choice is to sit low and close to the floor with adequate thigh support, or high and dumped forward toward the dashboard.

Drivers not as fussy as I will appreciate the padded upper door panel and center armrest. Drivers not as tall as I will keep from banging their knees on the bottom on the steering column like I did.

Second-row seat comfort is adequate. Toe room is tight and while my legs cleared the front seatbacks, room is not generous. Also, keep in mind that the Mazda 5 is a narrow vehicle, so you sit close to the sliding doors feeling vulnerable to side impacts, and close to the person sharing the second-row seat with you.

And yes, I did squeeze all 240 pounds of me into the third-row seat, a torture akin to watching Food Network’s Rachel Ray schlep around a city on $40 a day. This seat is essentially useless, unless you’re toting four kids and slide the second-row chairs forward a bit.

Finally, I found this to be a loud vehicle all of the time. At low speeds, engine whine and road roar are constant companions. At high speeds, the wind noise drowns these elements out.

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Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Quality:

Mazda has done a pretty good job of constructing its little wagon with quality materials, including nice plastics on the dash, doors, and pillars, as well as durable cloth fabric on the seats. Most everything was firmly attached, though the driver’s A-pillar cover didn’t fit quite right against the fuzzy headliner, and the second-row interior rocker panel trim was popping off. Also noted was a nagging rattle from the folding tray between the second-row bucket seats, though that noise was muted by the lackluster sound system.

Exterior build quality was marred by a few minor faults, including a tailgate featuring inconsistent gaps, headlights that didn’t sit equally flush on each side, and orange peel paint that was quite noticeable in direct sunlight. The lower egg-crate grille, while looking flimsy and cheap, was actually solid and tight.

Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Quality:

Aside from the irritating beep-beep-beep from a twitchy seatbelt warning system, aside from back seats designed for little people, aside from too much hard plastic throughout the cabin and a design that will get you barred from Orange County, I found no significant quality problems with the Mazda 5. In fact, materials used inside the cabin have a strong, utilitarian feel, and the front seats were adequate. Gaps and fit-and-finish seemed a bit irregular, however, but controls had a nice heft. All in all, the cabin felt like it would stay together over a long period of time and use.

Ron Perry’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Quality:

Interior and exterior quality on the 2006 Mazda 5 was good. My drive was squeak- and rattle-free and the interior pieces all looked and felt to be of good quality for a vehicle in this category. The seats are covered with a nylon cloth material that has a quality feel to it and that I expect will hold up well to the abuse of normal wear-and-tear and possible drink spills. The interior doesn’t feel or look cheap and all components fit well together with no noticeable gap or alignment issues.

Areas I feel need attention are the center console and side panels in the third row as well as the faux aluminum trim. The plastic panels felt loose and flimsy and the fake aluminum trim just distracted from the quality feel of the interior.

Outside, the Mazda 5 holds up well when it comes to scrutinizing panel gaps and fitment issues. A somewhat loose grille that is part of a one-piece plastic bumper and lightweight front doors that flutter when closing instead of shutting with a solid thud are the only issues I found with the Mazda 5.

Mazda 5

Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Quality:

If the 2006 Mazda 5 is not particularly comfortable, at least it looks more expensive than it is on the inside. Indeed, there is plenty of hard plastic in this vehicle, but it is finished in the tones and textures of more upscale brands than Mazda. The seat fabric looks great, feels good, and imparts a sense of durability.

The silver trim on the dashboard, in combination with mesh/pebbled textures, helps keep the all-black cabin from becoming too dour. If there’s a miscue inside the Mazda 5, it’s with the headliner, which is a cheap fuzzy gray material rather than the preferred woven mesh.

Assembly quality could use greater attention to detail, though still ranks pretty good overall. Inside, I found sloppy fit for the driver’s side A-pillar trim, a crooked center console bin, and inconsistent gaps around the passenger airbag cover. Outside, the headlights did fit uniformly, the forward edges of the plastic A-pillar trim were loose on both sides, the front fascia exhibited inconsistent fit, and the tailgate was tweaked to the right.

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Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Design:

From a styling perspective, designers have done their best with what they had – a small minivan. To that end, a rakish front end with an egg-crate lower grille and swept headlights has been added, the tall taillights get the clear-lens treatment and sit below a roofline spoiler, wheel arches are a bit flared, and sporty 17-inch alloy wheels meet the road. This may be as good as a little wagon can look, and is a marked improvement over others like the Toyota Matrix.

Silver trim panels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a shifter mounted high on the center panel give the 2006 Mazda 5’s interior a sporty feel, something strongly desired by typical Mazda buyers. Ample glass, including the small pieces forward of the exterior mirrors, accent the car’s looks and allow for good visibility. But the rear seats are the highlight of the Mazda 5’s interior.

The third-row split bench folds with a simple tug of a strap on each side, and the second-row buckets fold nearly flat after raising the seat bottoms and tucking in the center tray. It’s an efficient setup that makes the most of the car’s available cargo space.

Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Design:

Aw, shucks. The 2006 Mazda 5 speaks for itself. The thing is, um, different, and the differences are hard to get used to.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but those huge rear lights, that squat little body…man, that car has got a great personality.

Inside, the Mazda 5 has some shining-star moments, especially the dash area, which lays everything out for the driver to see, with nice contrasts and a simple approach. Excellent controls also make driving the Mazda 5 a pleasure, especially the large knobs for environmental settings. There are also flip-up trays in the back under the seats, and plenty of storage and cupholders. Call me the vocal minority, but I also liked the placement of the navigation screen, and the navigation controls.

Yes, it took a minute to see ‘em parked next to the shifter, but once located, the navi controls were easy to use. The main problem was that its location made it hard for, say, a passenger to assist with programming. Not a bad a thing, if your partner is constantly questioning your driving decisions…

Ron Perry’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Design:

The 2006 Mazda 5 is a well executed design that results in a quality product. It’s full of little things that impress, like fold-down armrests, assist handles for front and rear occupants, that hideaway center console for the rear seats, lots of storage space, and multiple cupholders and water bottle holders. Designers used two textured plastics on the interior that complement one another and add a feeling of quality to the interior.

Even the type of material covering the seats feels good and the contrasting inserts really give them a sporty look. Add to that a tailgate with two height options and dual side doors for easy entry and exit, and it’s apparent designers spent time making the small Mazda 5 feel bigger than it really is.

The big miss with me has to be the exterior design. I just can’t warm up to the look, which to my eye is heavily influenced by the Japanese. The Mazda 5 looks odd from every angle, too small to be a minivan and too large to be a compact five-door hatch, which just confuses my sense of what a car should be.

Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2006 Mazda 5’s Design:

Simple. Basic. Smart. These are the notes I made to sum up the 2006 Mazda 5’s design.

Personally, I think this is a good looking vehicle with the exception of the high-mounted, clear-lens taillights. The five-spoke wheels are handsome, and this is a well balanced design. Inside, the Mazda 5 looks and feels more upscale than the price tag might lead you to believe, and outward visibility from the driver’s seat is terrific.

As for control layout, I have no complaints. The stereo and climate control systems are stylish, featuring large controls with clear markings and a quality feel when used. All secondary controls are located exactly where you expect to find them, making the Mazda 5 intuitive to use from the start.

Even the navigation system, which pops up from the dashboard and is thankfully separate from the stereo and climate systems, is a breeze to program, zoom, get maps, and go back to the previous screen.

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Thom Blackett’s Advice about the 2006 Mazda 5:

This is a vehicle that demands a good chunk of time for driving and fiddling with the rear seat configurations, after which the potential buyer will appreciate what the 2006 Mazda 5 has to offer. It’s a versatile car with a ride that borders on entertaining.

However, this is a four-passenger vehicle that happens to have a third-row seat that’s essentially useless, putting it in the company of the more spacious Honda Element. which is available with all-wheel drive, and a whole host of other small suvs. For its sporty nature, the Mazda 5 is ahead of these competitors, but in terms of utility and overall practicality, this mini-minivan is a no-go.

Brian Chee’s Advice about the 2006 Mazda 5:

The 2006 Mazda 5 is a great idea. It’s just not a great car.

Ron Perry’s Advice about the 2006 Mazda 5:

If you want the utility of a larger vehicle with the smaller, more economical size of a compact, definitely drive the 2006 Mazda 5. Small in size but big on utility and space, the Mazda 5 is perfect for the family that is just starting out and doesn’t need a bigger SUV or regular size minivan.

Christian Wardlaw’s Advice about the 2006 Mazda 5:

Before driving the 2006 Mazda 5, I thought this was the most intelligent buy on the market today. I still think it’s a smart choice, but it wouldn’t work for me because I cannot get comfortable behind the wheel, and that’s a shame because this is a likeable, well-rounded vehicle. It’s fun to drive, a great value, easy to use, and imparts a sense of quality.

All it really needs is a driver’s seat with separate height and cushion tilt adjustment and redesigned taillights to achieve something close to perfection.

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