Nice to drive and well priced, but still a niche choice. Worth waiting for the diesel variant

What is it?

This is the first time we’ve driven the Mazda 5 in the UK, and the first time we’ve sampled the finished example of the new 2.0-litre petrol motor, driven through a six-speed manual gearbox and with the start-stop tech from the 3. Mazda wanted to make the 5 entertaining to drive, and within the parameters that the laws of physics set for big, tall cars, it is.

See pics of the Mazda 5 TS2 in action

What’s it like?

There’s plenty of grip, progressive and accurate steering and a balanced chassis that responds well to spirited driving.

The risk with focusing on making an MPV entertaining is the compromise it can bring in terms of comfort, but Mazda has struck a good balance between body control and ride quality. On UK roads there is some slight fidgeting over broken surfaces, but the big-bump absorption is pliant and effective, particularly at low speeds, and in general it does a fair job of isolating occupants from the road surface.

Cabin refinement is a strong point with this 5, which is a necessary bonus, given that a 2.0-litre petrol engine such as this has few merits these days beyond its relative lack of noise. As well as being very hushed, the Mazda benefits from a quick-reacting stop-start system, a slick gearshift and a light clutch that make it a compelling urban tool.

Should I buy one?

For all its attributes, the 5 is still a niche choice. It falls short on the passenger space, cabin flexibility and residual strength offered by its rivals, such as the Peugeot 5008. The diesel unit due next year could solve some of these problems, but until then the Mazda 5 is a car that is likeable, if a little hard to justify.

Mazda 5 2.0 TS2

Price: £18,895; Top speed: 120mph; 0-60mph: 11sec; Economy: 40.9mpg (combined); CO2: 159g/km; Kerb weight: 1485kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1998cc, petrol; Power: 48bhp at 6200rpm; Torque: 144lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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theonlydt 25 November 2010

Re: Mazda 5 2.0 TS2

What's wrong with the cabin flexibility? The rearmost seats fold completely flat with one small tug on a handle - 50/50 split. The middle row slide forward and tilt to get in to the back, there are sliding doors which beats most "mini-mpvs" in a car park, the middle row slide backwards and forwards and recline, or fold completely flat with one hand and two small movements. Compare that to the fixed bench in a Zafira you have to slide forwards to pull out the rearmost seats which have a much heavier action - if you remember the Topgear episode and how they struggled - I had exactly the same the first time I rented a Zafira. No sliding doors as well.

In terms of looks I think they've ruined the back end, front end and the side... Step backwards!

At least cabin refinement is better - I find my current 5 has too much road noise, though it handles and rides well and the engine's decent.