Our time with the 2009 Mazda5 was a bit of a departure from our usual review. Normally, we are carting kids around to hockey or maybe a weekend away with the full family of 5. This time, the herd was down a member so we were off to Niagara Falls for the weekend while he was schussing at Mont Tremblant. Would the 6 seater mini, mini van be the right size for a traveling family of 4?
On the outside, the clean lines of Mazda’s little people mover are somewhat reminiscent of the first generation Honda Odyssey, albeit a shrunken head version. While in its 4th year of production, the compact 5 looks remarkably current. The 5 door layout is super versatile and the small sliding side doors are light weight enough to be quite kid friendly. Our 8 year old was happy to be able to operate them by himself, which he can’t do on a full size mini van.
The 6 passenger seating is accomplished through the use of 3 double rows of seats, 4 buckets and a 3rd row bench. Each of the rear seats folds independently, making it easy to match your cargo needs with passengers. Our signature 3 hockey bag test is a surprisingly tough one for the little 5. 3 bags fit with ease, but if they are the full size 40″ versions a bit of maneuvering is required to stack them just right. For most cargo though, there is tons of space out back with just 4 passengers. For a weekend away, we had more than enough space for all of our junk.
Surrounding the 4 buckets are more than enough well thought out cubbies to keep things close at hand without being in the way. Perhaps the brightest is the little bin in the center console, just above the aux in jack. Perfectly sized for an iPod, with enough room for fingers to pick up without it sliding around. With the good, must come the bad: we couldn’t find any cupholders for the second row of seats. Any parent will agree that this is an oversight that must be dealt with. One would suspect that they’ve been left out to maximize space, but this is not a feature to abandon.
As a van buyer would expect, the Mazda5 is quiet and comfortable on the highway, with just enough stiffness to remind you that you are indeed driving a vehicle. Take that vehicle onto a tight, twisty road and the Zoom Zoom begins to make itself known. With the 5 speed, manual transmission, this thing is an absolute hoot to drive on the winding roads of Niagara’s wine country. The high mounted shifter falls right to the hand and is positioned more like an old school Italian sports car than a minivan. Carving through tight, 2nd & 3rd gear corners is so much fun that one forgets this is actually a minivan. With some spirited driving and cruising on the highway at 120 kmh, we didn’t stand a hope of meeting the government fuel economy ratings. Rated at 9.6 l/100km city & 7.0 highway, we only managed to eek out about a combined average of 11 l/100km. As the saying goes, your results may vary.
Like many other families, we have always steered clear of regular mini vans when selecting our kiddie haulers here in The Garage. They are just too mundane a driving experience for our liking. With 6 seats and tons of flexibility, the Mazda5 offers more than enough utility for our daily needs while still offering enough Zoom Zoom to make the daily slog to work a little more enjoyable.