EXPERT REVIEW

Mother Proof's view


The Mazda5’s handling was sporty – even refined, with a fabulous turning radius (so we did a few doughnuts in the backyard, shhh!), and the 153-horsepower engine gave it just enough pep to make things exciting. The Mazda5 makes good use of its carlike qualities by hugging the road better than a minivan – no topsy-turvy feel around the corners here. Though I did notice there was a lot of engine noise when the car was idling.

The exterior was fun-looking, and it begged to be granted access into the spunky hatchback category, which proves that a minivan doesn’t have to be a boring blob-orb. The roomy and flexible interior was comfortable and noticeably well-appointed, especially when its price was taken into consideration. The leather upholstery, xenon headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers (all standard only on the Grand Touring model) were just the right appointments to keep me feeling flattered. I found myself thinking, “Oh, how thoughtful,” regularly in this ride. Stumbling upon the Mazda5 might be like finding a half-off sale on a dozen long-stemmed roses – you can’t really pass that up, can you?

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times

FAMILY LIFE STAGE

Diapers: Their child-safety seats will fit in the Mazda5, and as an added bonus, you’ll still have room for your older kids, as well. School: School-age kids will love the Mazda5’s flexibility. They’ll feel independent and mature with the second row’s individual bucket seats that recline and have their own armrests.

Teens: OK, so the older ones will see through the whole it’s-not-a-minivan thing. But maybe they’ll think it looks cool, and at the very least, it’ll fit all of their gear.

This car raised my eyebrows and revved my ADD like crazy (“What’s this? What’s that? Oooo, this is nice…”). Its taillights are something to be admired; they’re tall and sharp-looking, and each one is like its own sparkly crystal palace. The roof-mounted antenna on the rear is cute and adds a fun, toy-like quality to the Mazda5. Moving to the car’s front, the xenon headlights paired with a sporty grill continued to impress me. The color, Copper Red, was absolutely perfect for autumn; it’s not red or orange, but a crisp and delicious-looking color of its own. But I wish the side pillars were body-colored; the black plastic pillars that Mazda uses looked cheap and seemed to scratch easily.

Everyone in my brood loved the look of this car. Hubby thought it was sporty and unique-looking, and he even asked me what one “like this” would cost (that’s how I know he really likes something, when he’s actually considering purchasing it). The kids enjoyed the Mazda5’s look and encouraged their school friends to check it out. I loved that the interior was highly usable, while the exterior didn’t make me feel like a mom. I have to hand it to the Mazda designers on this one; the Mazda5 really does have a “zoom-zoom” affect. With its price starting below $20,000, you just might find yourself zoom-zooming all the way to your nearest dealership.

I really didn’t expect much from the Mazda5, and perhaps the car took that as a challenge. It delivered comfortable, adjustable and heated leather-trimmed seats (Sport and Touring models come with cloth) and movable armrests that Hubby and I both appreciated; it made us feel like we were in a van. The instrument panel was pretty basic, but I was fine with that because I’d rather they put the money into other features anyway. My Grand Touring did have the optional navigation system ($2,000), which is always a plus, and, get this — it was easy to use, too. There’s so much to be said for usable technology.

On the technology front, the Mazda5 included a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, an AM/FM stereo with a six-disc CD changer and an auxiliary input jack for MP3 players.

My kids adored the interior of this car, which made me adore it, too. The second row consists of two bucket seats separated by a pass-thru to the third row. This was great because it kept the kids separated just enough to give them each their own defined space. There was storage under each of their seat cushions, and there was even a surprise foldout table under one of them. Yay! And what was under the foldout table? A toy net! Yes, added storage to make all those kiddie travel accessories even more accessible. Yippee!

There are two seats (with cupholders) in the third row, but they don’t have Latch anchors (for added safety though, the side curtain airbags do extend to the third row). Our family of four rarely needed this third row, but I was happy to find that the 50/50-split third row easily folded flat and created enough cargo space for several shopping trips. Even my dog liked this area and claimed it for his own. Additionally, all our family members were able to enter and exit the Mazda5 easily; I didn’t have to lift anyone or push anyone into the car, and I never had to brush anyone off after they scraped the dirty undersides of the car. By this time, it was really sinking in just how functional this car is.

The Mazda5 scored well in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s front- and side-impact crash-test ratings. It does include many of the safety features we’ve all come to expect, including side curtain airbags across all three rows. The Mazda5 also has antilock brakes, brake assist and child-safety locks.

Even with all these safety features, small cars often leave me wondering, “What if there’s an accident,” so I always look for added safety features to help calm my anxiety-ridden mind. I’d like to see the Mazda5 come with an electronic stability system and traction control. I think these features would provide the added self-assurance needed to enhance the sporty-fun reputation of the Mazda5.

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