Tiny Mazda5 van saves big on fuel

“Wow, three rows of seats!” was the surprised reaction of my wife on entering the Mazda5. While not obvious from the outside, the Mazda5 cannot only seat six people, it’s also an EcoEnergy award winner as the most fuel efficient vehicle in the minivan class.

The mini-est minivan of them all, the compact Mazda5 is also a uniquely versatile little vehicle with two sliding rear doors that allow complete access to its midsection, sliding second row seats and a large rear liftgate opening. When not required, the rear 50/50 split bench seat folds flat to provide an exceptionally big cargo area for a compact vehicle. While smaller than a conventional minivan, the Mazda5 is perfect for consumers looking for a versatile vehicle with good fuel economy and occasional use of its extra seating. First introduced to Canadians in 2006, it is a niche market all to itself and there’s growth potential as the cost of fuel continues to climb.

In Europe, where it has much more competition, the Mazda5 is sold as the Premacy and it’s typically classified as either a ‘SpaceWagon’ or a ‘SportsTourer’. However, the sliding side doors, which are very handy in tight parking situations, say “minivan” to most Canadians and that’s apparently fine by Mazda.

The 2010 Mazda5 is offered in both GS and GT trim grades. While powertrain and most safety features are the same, the GT includes 17-inch wheels, fog lights LED tail lights, climate control air conditioning with a fan control in the rear, a power Moonroof, heated side mirrors, a centre-row fold-out table, an antitheft alarm system and a rear roof spoiler.

A new standard feature on GT is an electronic stability control system and it’s also an option on GS. Optional upgrades only available on GT include a leather package ($1.295) and a navigation package ($2,595).

Power comes from a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine that produces 153-horsepower and 148-lb. ft of torque. A 5-speed manual and a 5-speed automatic ($1,200) with a manual mode are the transmission choices and the difference in fuel consumption is minimal (see specs).

The sliding side doors are extra-light and designed to close with less effort than those on a convention minivan. The GT trim also has an additional “easy close” assist feature that automatically pulls and latches the door securely into place.

The Looks

Although it’s been around a few years the Mazda5 still looks somewhat futuristic with its dramatic aero-style wedge shape front, big windshield and blunted rear with large elevated tail lights. It received a minor facelift for the 2008 modal year when the front and rear bumpers and front grill were redesigned and the GT model got LED tail lights. The core structure of the Mazda5 is based on the Mazda3, a compact car with which it also shares many drivetrain components. It packs a high level of functionality within its

compact exterior, but the Mazda5 is one of those distinctive yet polarizing designs that people generally either like or dislike.

My test Mazda5 was a GT with a luxury package ($1,295), so the full price was $25,590.

The Inside

The cleverly designed interior also has impressive quality of finish and everything fits together very neatly. The first and second row seats are sporty “bucket” type designs, with extra support on the sides of the cushions and seatbacks.

The third row seat is a less comfortable bench. While there is enough room for an adult, a firm cushion and low seatback would make it a less than comfortable location on an extended journey. None of the seats is designed to be removed from the vehicle and they are arranged theatre style with each row a little higher than the one ahead.

When not required for seating, the rear 50/50 split bench seat folds flat and the cargo space can be expanded again by folding the second row seats. The second row seat cushions flip forward before dropping the seatback and reveal additional hidden storage bins. A word of warning — the lower hinge on each sliding door is shaped like a step, but it’s not! It’s an easy place for anyone using the third-row seat to put a foot wrong.

The Drive

The driver seating position is high relative to the dash and a little more rearward travel on the seat would be welcomed. Combined with the sharp drop-off of its nose there’s a commanding view of the road ahead through the big windshield.

You’re not going to win any drag races in a Mazda5, however, its all-aluminum 2.3L 4-cylinder engine is a smooth performer and it runs on regular fuel. It gives the Mazda5 a peppy attitude and pulls well at low engine speeds.

The test car came with a 5-speed automatic transmission with a nifty manual mode. A high console presents the shift lever within easy reach of the steering wheel.

The nicely weighted steering uses an electro-hydraulic assist system that’s also used in the Mazda3. Primarily a fuel saving measure, an electric motor is used to drive the hydraulic steering pump.

Compared to bigger conventional minivan offerings the Mazda5 offers car-like agility, fuel economy and performance. Its size and tight turn radius also makes it a much easier vehicle to park.


Low to the ground and not as tall as other minivans, the Mazda5 is very stable on the road for a minivan and got a four-star rollover rating in U.S. government tests.

Front seat side airbags and side air curtains are standard equipment. And as already mentioned, an electronic stability control system is now standard on GT and optional on GS.

The Score

In a class of its own, the Mazda5 is a fuel-efficient, fun-to-drive compact minivan.


Trim levels: GS and GT

Sticker Price: $20,495 -$24,295

Power: 2.3L DOHC, 153 hp, 16-valve, I4 EFI.

Transmission: 5-speed manual and 5-speed automatic

Fuel consumption (manual): 9.6/7.0 L/100 km (city/highway)

Fuel consumption (automatic): 9.9/7.2 L/100 km (city/highway)

Basic Warranty: 3 years/80,000 km

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years/100,000 km

Rust Warranty: 5 years /unlimited km


Chevrolet HHR: $20,395 -$30,955 Dodge Journey: $19,995 -$29,595


Consumer site: www.mazda.ca

Photograph by: Bob McHugh, Canwest News Service