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Mazda Mazda5 1.6D TS2

Click to view picture galleryThe last time we checked, you
  could choose from no less than
  eighteen different medium-sized
  MPVs. That’s an ultra-competitive
  market in anyone
s book. And
  Mazda has consistently offered
  one of the best — the Mazda5...”


SO WHY HAS IT always struggled to make an impact in terms of sales in the UK? Partly because the diesel version was never particularly convincing and when diesel sales represent three out of every four mid-sized MPVs, that's a big issue.

However, now that Mazda has launched its much-revised second-generation 5 there's an all-new diesel engine. In fact, it's the same 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel you'll find in the new Ford C-Max.

We've already tested Mazda's petrol-engined Mazda5 and for the record, we much prefer the 2.0-litre with its smooth, keen and sweet-revving 148bhp engine; by comparison the 113bhp 1.8 feels a bit weedy. The new diesel certainly has plenty of torque. It peaks between 1,750rpm and 2,500rpm, which makes it very easy to drive although if you accelerate from below this there's precious little activity. In raw terms, 0-62mph in 13.7 seconds and a top speed of 112mph are not much to get excited about.

The new diesel engine is much lighter than Mazda's old one, which has benefits for the handling and steering. The 5 is surprisingly sharp for an MPV and the 5 is actually fun to hustle along twisty roads, with no obvious deficiencies in the ride department either.

I love the 5’s twin
sliding rear doors (one
on each side, which is
very rare in this market),
which open to offer
excellent access and no
danger of hitting other
cars because they hug
the sides of the rear
panels. If you go for the
Sport version, you
get electrically-powered
rear doors
...”
The gearbox is slick and easy to use, with very tall gearing so that motorway driving is relaxed. Unlike the 2.0 petrol, there's no stop/start system but, despite this, the 1.6D delivers very respectable fuel consumption 54.3mpg and tailpipe emissions are a low-ish 138g/km.

The main problem with the diesel engine, though, is the noise. At low revs cold or warm it's pretty intrusive and even at cruising speeds the engine note never really fades away. That's a shame because the petrol-powered Mazda5 is, in contrast, impressively quiet.

In other respects, the diesel 5 is a very convincing choice. It's a lot more car-like to drive than many rivals; more akin to a regular hatchback than a van and some MPVs still do drive like vans, as well as look like them!

I love the 5's twin sliding rear doors (one on each side, which is very rare in this market), which open to offer excellent access and no danger of hitting other cars because they hug the sides of the rear panels, sticking out just 159mm. If you go for the Sport version, you get electrically-powered rear doors.

The Mazda5 is a full seven-seater. That said, luggage space is very tight with all seven seats up: just 112 litres. The middle row accommodates three people well, only two in any comfort because the centre seat is narrow and very hard. Folding the rear seats is very easy, creating a large, flat cargo area in which you can stow a massive 1,485 litres of luggage. The cabin is well laid out and well made but the plastics are quite hard and unappealing many rivals do better in this respect.

The styling may well trouble you. The new, so-called 'Nagare' design direction soon to appear on all Mazdas features 'flowing waves' down the sides of the body. Is it a beautiful seascape? Or a messy collection of dents? You decide.

The 5’s main challenge
is the recent arrival of the
Ford C-Max and
Grand C-Max. In the
latter, Ford finally has a
seven-seater medium MPV that can challenge
the best — and the
Mazda5 has long been
the best
...”
The new 1.6D Mazda5 starts at 20,650 for the TS2, and all models get six airbags, dynamic stability control, climate control, cruise control, parking sensors and alloy wheels. The Sport version boasts electric rear doors, 17-inch alloys, a body styling kit, leather seats and front fog lights.

The 5's main challenge is the recently-arrived Ford C-Max and Grand C-Max. In the latter, Ford finally has a seven-seater medium MPV that can challenge the best and the Mazda5 has long been the best.

Ford has copied the 5's seating layout and Mazda's excellent sliding rear door system. Even more significant, Ford also offers a more potent 2.0 TDCi 138bhp diesel variant which has much peppier performance and only costs 545 more than the Mazda5 1.6D.

The Mazda5's saving grace is, I think, that although its styling may not appeal to everyone, it's certainly prettier than the pig-like Grand C-Max. Plus it has practicality, ride comfort and generous standard equipment on its side. Chris Rees

Mazda Mazda5 1.6D TS2
| 20,650
Maximum speed: 112mph | 0-62mph: 13.7 seconds | Overall MPG: 54.3mpg
Power: 113bhp | Torque: 199lb ft | CO2 138g/km