2006 Mazda 5 and Mazda5 *

This terrific little car strikes buyers in the U.S. as a bold new innovation, but the space wagon concept -- a small van or tall station wagon -- has been available for years in Europe. The Mazda 5 is a particularly attractive example of the concept.

Built on the same platform as the sporty Mazda 3, the Mazda5 has the length and width of a compact car, the sliding doors of a van, and the third-row seating of a full-size SUV. The second and third row seats fold flat with no hassle (no removal of headrests, for instance) leaving a large flat cargo area.

Some of the features of the car are pictured below. Other places to read about and discuss the Mazda 5: MazdaUSA, Edmunds, Inside Line, Google.



Been there? Done that? Get the T-shirt!

The image at left is available on a T-shirt and other items. Show off your appreciation of this great new car. Put aside discussions of other names for the concept (van, vanlet, minivan, mini-minivan, station wagon) and call it what it is: your six-passenger sports car. See http://www.cafepress.com/mazda5 .


The Return of the 5-speed Van

Prior to the Mazda 5, shoppers looking for a stick-shift van, or even a stick-shift station wagon, had few options. The last of the stick-shift minivans may have been the 1989 Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan, which were available with 5-speed and a decent 4-cylinder turbo engine. VW Vanagons are no longer available new, and SUV's, like the Nissan Xterra I traded in for the Mazda 5, are too thirsty for the current price of gas. Kudos to Mazda and Nissan for making manual transmission available on so much of their lines, and especially to Mazda for doing so on such a "family" vehicle.

A Fashion Statement

Stylish "altezza" taillights, set high on the rear corners, highlight the back end of the Mazda 5. Here's hoping that the more normal-looking all-red units, which are standard on the car in Europe and which are shown on some Mazda photos of the car, will be available at reasonable prices at the Mazda parts counter or elsewhere.

Great Features for the Price

Even the bottom-of-the-line no-add-ons car, shown in these photos and with an MSRP of $18,000, comes with a healthy selection of features, including power windows, power door locks, and power mirrors. Also standard are ABS brakes, CD-player, lots of air bags, air conditioning, alloy wheels, and the very flexible 2+2+2 interior.

What has it Got in its Pocketses?

The Mazda 5 is a rolling Festival of Storage. Most seats have two cupholders (although cupholders in doors are a slosh waiting to happen) and other storage nooks abound, including a spacious compartment under each second-row seat and another under the deck just inside the back hatch. Get some rubbery tool-tray liner (shown) from the hardware store so nothing slides around. What seems like a small glove box is actually just the front vestibule of a cavernous storage shelf. (Note that navigation-system owners don't get the whole cavern.)


Although the Mazda 5 seems to have room in the engine compartment for a V-6, the only engine available for the 2006 U.S. release is a 4, with just over 150 horsepower. It could be worse: The European Mazda 5 is available with a selection of even less ambitious gas and diesel options. Getting the most out of the 2.3 liter 4 is one reason to focus on the 5-speed. See above. The handling takes care of itself with assistance from big 17-inch wheels, 50-series tires, low center of gravity, and 4-wheel disk brakes.

Tinted Windows

... are not available standard nor as an option, but they give the car an even more striking appearance and keep the interior cooler. Precut window tinting sets for the the Mazda 5 are available ( http://www.doityourselftint.com/ ) or you can tint the windows yourself.

Compare the Size of a Mazda5 to a Grand Caravan

Side by side comparison shows where the silhouette of the Mazda 5 is lower, racier, wedgier, and shorter than that of the Chrysler Corporation minivans.

Mudguards are on the Accessories List

It takes only a few minutes to add good-looking custom-fit mudguards -- an accessory that actually helps to keep the lower edge of the doors clean and undinged by schmutz and gravel thrown up by the front wheels.

Replace 17-inch wheels with 16-inch?

Mazda and Nissan fanatics will both squirm to see this Nissan Maxima SE wheel installed on a Mazda 5, but if you stand far enough away so you can't see the logo, it looks great. See the photos for a closeup of the brake caliper clearance, especially if you are considering going with 15-inch wheels rather than 16- or 17-.


* I feel obliged to refer to the car as both Mazda 5 and Mazda5, since it is seen frequently spelled both ways.

All text and images are copyright 2005, William R. Kennedy,