Moderately fun to drive - but upcoming engines may suit it better than the 2.0 petrol

What is it?

It's the revised Mazda 5, launched at the Geneva show back in March and driven here on a 'sneak preview' - which means full mechanical spec but a few grey areas when it comes to trim levels.

Visually the 5 marks a fresh attempt by Mazda to integrate its 'Nagare' design language into an MPV. That adds up to unusual creases along the flanks, but they do a decent job of breaking up what would be a slab of metal. It's less effective at the rear three-quarter which, thanks in part to the sliding rear door rails, looks uncomfortably heavy.

Elsewhere the 5 gets a revised interior, with improved cabin materials, new wheel designs and better NVH protection. And it keeps its third row of seats that folds into the floor.

The engine options are restricted to just two petrol motors; the existing 1.8-litre MZR unit gets an update to 113bhp and 122lb ft, as well as a six-speed transmission for the first time. It's slightly cleaner and more economical than before, too.

The other powerplant is new to the 5; it's a 2.0-litre MZR motor with Mazda's i-stop, a stop-start system that the firm claims is faster to restart than those of rival manufacturers. The new engine has 148bhp and 141lb ft, but is 13 per cent more economical than the outgoing 2.0, and emits 15 per cent less CO2, at 159g/km. It's also Euro5-compliant.

A diesel will follow early next year, incidentally; it's expected to be a 1.6-litre PSA-sourced unit.

What's it like?

An intriguing blend of part-driver's car, part-everyday MPV - but not entirely convincing at either role. Mazda has focused hard on what it calls "perfectly consistent linearity", which translates into linear steering, throttle and brake pedal feel.

It works, too. Few other cars in this class have such a sweet feel on turn-in, helped by excellent body control for a car of this size.

If only the engine were more willing to take advantage of this experience. We tried the 2.0-litre direct-injection unit and while it was smooth and, you've guessed it, linear in its power delivery, it feels like some of its potential has been sacrificed in the name of lower CO2 emissions.

Certainly the revised, taller gearing doesn't do it any favours, but it feels more like a slightly overwhelmed 1.6 than a 2.0; you can see why small turbos, such as VW's 1.4 TSi unit, are taking over.

Thing is, the chassis tuning - centred on improving the car's progression from braking to cornering to acceleration - has resulted in a ride which, while fine on smooth Austrian routes, could be caught out by Britain's latest generation of super-potholes. It's not horrendous, but the damping is definitely on the firmer side of the class average.

The cabin retains plenty of practicality, with a modular second row of seats. But while the fit and finish feels solid enough, too many of the visible surfaces are still hard to the touch for the interior to feel 'premium'.

Should I buy one?

See the Mazda 5 pictures here

You should consider it; if you're prepared to work that 2.0-litre motor hard then there is a modicum of fun to be had here, and that's hardly the norm in the MPV segment.

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But it could be worth a wait; engine progress elsewhere - in small petrol turbos and turbodiesels - means Mazda will need to expand the range sooner rather than later.

See all the latest Mazda 5 reviews, news and video

John McIlroy

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Add a comment…
theonlydt 25 June 2010

Re: Mazda 5

jerry99 wrote:
Exactly but perhaps they have to protect Ford S Max sales!
Ford now only own 13.4% of Mazda - down from the 33.9% it had until 2008. Until 2008 it had the controlling stake in Mazda, now it does not. Therefore there not so much of a "protecting product lines from competing", though they both seem to do well using the same platforms but producing cars with very different characters (Mazda2/Fiesta, Focus/Mazda3, Mondeo/Mazda6 (on old mondeo platform).

jerry99 25 June 2010

Re: Mazda 5

adrian888 wrote:
1.6 diesel hauling a fully loaded car?! Come on Mazda, install the excellent 2.2 diesel and you will have a winner!

Exactly but perhaps they have to protect Ford S Max sales!

adrian888 24 June 2010

Re: Mazda 5

1.6 diesel hauling a fully loaded car?! Come on Mazda, install the excellent 2.2 diesel and you will have a winner!