A compact, practical and flexible MPV worth popping on the shopping list

What is it?

This is the new Mazda 5, the Japanese manufacturer’s latest take on its functional mid-size family MPV.

We stole a sneak preview drive of it earlier in the year, but that was in still-to-be-finalised, pre-prod form. That example was powered by Mazda’a new, all singing and dancing 2.0 DISI i-stop petrol engine.

Here, we drive it with a revised, more economical version of the firm’s existing 113bhp, 122lb ft 1.8-litre petrol engine, mated to the six-speed manual gearbox that will come as standard no matter which engine you chose.

The new 5 also benefits from a healthy dose of Mazda’s ‘wind on water’ Nagare design language, which translates into some not unappealing swoopy curves and swathes along the flanks, mated to the firm’s new family face up front.

What’s it like?

To drive? Really not bad at all. Mazda was keen to make the point that a driver-friendly ‘unified linear feel’ has been engineered into the new 5, refining the transition from braking, through turn-in to corner exit into one seamless process.

Sounds like it should be taken with a pinch of salt, but the reality is that the 5 is a particularly smooth steer and not a little rewarding to drive.

It turns in and grips impressively well for an MPV, and the transition to throttle-on acceleration out of corners is genuinely involving, at least to a point.

That point being when you might hope for a bit more poke from the engine. The 1.8 petrol motor is smooth enough in its delivery, but gets noisier and wheezier the more you ask from it. This is a family car first and foremost, however, so expectations shouldn’t really be that high.

We drove two versions, one on 16-inch wheels, one on 17-inchers. On 16s the ride was impressively smooth, quiet and refined, at least on Germany’s impressively smooth roads. On 17s there was a noticeable increase in road noise, and bumps and imprefections were more pronounced in the cabin, although not overwhelmingly intrusive.

Inside the 5 is practical if a little dour, with access made all the easier by dual sliding doors.

However, to call it a true seven-seater is asking a lot of the narrow middle row. The two outer seats are fine, but the otherwise clever and flexible folding central section doesn’t offer much room to sit when in ‘seat’ mode.

Should I buy one?

It’s certainly worth putting on your shopping list if you’re after a compact, practical and flexible small-to-medium sized MPV.

The 5 is at times genuinely entertaining to drive, given the obvious limitations of a vehicle of this size. However, there’s a lot of competition in the sector, not least of which are the brand new C-Max and Grand C-Max. Ford’s offerings could well steal attention, not to mention sales, away from Mazda’s otherwise likeable new 5.

Mazda 5 1.8 TS

Price: £17,695; Top speed: 113mph; 0-62mph: 12.8sec; Economy: 39mpg; CO2: 168g/km; Kerb weight: 1395kg; Engine: 4cyls, 1798cc, petrol; Power: 113bhp at 5300rpm; Torque: 122lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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highland tourer 11 October 2010

Re: Mazda 5 1.8 TS

Again, Mazda appear to have produced a rather enthusiastic mpv. The styling is going bad to worse, though, especially at the back where above the tail-lights it looks a little like a Ssangyong Rodius which, let's be honest, was not the prettiest of models. Essentially looks a little top heavy from the back and I, like many others, don't really get the "laughing fool" look of the front grille (current mx5 is not much better - I've always thought that the current model looks more like an amphibious car with its front headlight cluster appearing far too high up the bonnet). Weirdest bit is the closest mpv to it dynamically is from Mazda's share-holder Ford and their C-Max. Sliding doors are a good touch to any mpv and can't see why the mazda is currently in the minority of manufacturers who have embraced them.

Lee23404 9 October 2010

Re: Mazda 5 1.8 TS

Ahh, what have they done to it! It's gone from being one of the best looking MPV's to a complete and utter minger.

It's Mazda meets Ssangyong.

theonlydt 9 October 2010

Re: Mazda 5 1.8 TS

I've had my own new old-shape Mazda 5 for a couple of months now (3?) and I love it. Problems are a slightly cramped front (seats should go back further, but I'm 6' 1" and can get comfy as the steering wheel adjusts), road noise and a little breathless on the motorway.

Being in North America they are only six seaters - the middle seat didn't fit US seatbelt rules or something. Perfect for my wife and I - the two chairs in the middle have lots of legroom, shoulder-room and have arm-rests on both sides. Normally the rear seats are down - leaves room for a large dog crate and that only uses half the boot! Given that the rear seats are individual it's pretty flexible and compared to the awful Zafira we rented last time we were in the UK the seats are hilariously easy.

Of course if you have all seats up the boot is tiny - but if that as a problem we'd have brought a bigger car...