It’s been over a year since we last reviewed the Mazda5, and that’s a shame. This is such a pleasant little vehicle that we’d be happy to drive it everyday. The 2013 Mazda5 often falls between the cracks when customers start shopping for a vehicle. Are they looking for a bigger van, or a sedan with a trunk? The sad truth is people tend to look no deeper than the latest commercial. And that may be where the Mazda5 gets lost, since we can’t recall the last time we saw any advertising for this in-betweener ride. Looking at the numbers, the Mazda5 sold only 14,640 units last year; its best year ever was 2011, with 19,155 units sold, and to date in 2013, sales are hovering around 7,500. Since it was born in 2005 (in the U.S.), the Mazda5 has sold around 132,000 units. To put in in perspective, that’s about the same amount of sales as F-Series did in the past two months alone.
We are thrilled this mini-minivan is still around, though. We remember two other vehicles from days gone by — the Nissan Axxess and Mitsubishi Expo — that were about the same size as the Mazda5, also with sliding side doors. Those two were actually ahead of their time, and didn’t set the world on fire with sales, either. But Mazda is really good at putting a lot of good things in small packages.
Why this vehicle works: we hear complaints all the time that minivans are getting too big, and aside from the mommy stigma, some feel it’s just as easy to purchase a crossover or SUV. The Mazda5 is the Goldilocks for those who need more than what a sedan can offer, but don’t want to jump into an all-out sport utility. We love that Mazda made this statement in its press release about the Mazda5: the “Mazda5 multi-activity vehicle entered a segment crowded with the sound of crickets.” How’s that for understanding the vehicle’s segment!
The exterior of the Mazda5 is pure Mazda, meaning it looks sporty and fun. Short front and rear overhangs help the fast look, and the side wave character line brightens up what could be a flat slab if left alone. The front sports the happy face fascia that was made famous by the Mazda3. We know Mazda hates this reference, but it does make people smile, and we’ve seen a lot worse visages on other products.
Because the six-passenger Mazda5 was all new last year, there are only minor changes for 2013, such as new exterior colors, turn signal lamps integrated into the sideview mirrors, a USB port, rear backup sensors, new seatback pocket, and redesigned shift knob and cloth and leather seat trims. Although minor changes, items like backup sensors and a USB port often can make the difference for a purchase decision.
While we like the sliding second-row doors, we also like the no-nonsense interior. It’s one color, not a dozen different colors, textures and materials. The layout is simple and easy to use, with good ergonomics. It may not be loaded with the latest high-tech features like an available navigation system, but it does have a long list of standard features that will do use every day: automatic climate control, power windows with one-touch up/down feature, USB port, 50/50 split-fold third-row seats, second-row captain’s chairs with under-seat storage, cruise control, keyless remote, and more. That’s just a short list of what’s standard on the entry Sport model, which bases at a beyond reasonable $20,735. The two other, higher trims, Touring and Grand Touring, offer additional items like rain-sensing wipers, voice-activated Bluetooth for phone and audio, leather seats, SiriusXM satellite radio, and more. Our test Mazda5 was a Grand Touring model, and had a base of a reasonable $24,470. The options and accessories list when you start with the Grand Touring is small. Our test car added the auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and universal garage door opener for $295, then destination for $795, so out the door the sticker finished at $25,620. We could live with that.