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Mazda Mazda5 2.0 TS2

Click to view picture galleryKids trump driving pleasure!
  Is that really an immutable law of
  motoring? Not as far as Mazda
  are concerned, as demonstrated
  by their extensively refreshed
  multi-activity Mazda5
...”


PROVING THE POINT that you can happily have both (kids and driving pleasure) is the latest 2.0-litre petrol-engined Mazda5. As usual, it's all a question of balance and the '5' is a very well judged package that accommodates the family without spoiling the fun for the designated driver.

At the heart of the dual-serving Mazda5 is a new 147bhp 2.0-litre engine. And it's a willing, sweet-revving performer with enough fizz to get the seven-seater off the line and to 62mph in 11 seconds.

There's good urge, particularly if you keep the revs up and make good use of the gears a slick-changing, six-speed manual 'box is standard. Mechanical noise is well-suppressed; at 80mph on motorways the engine is unobtrusive and contributes significantly to the Mazda5's unruffled in-cabin refinement.

Mazda has fitted a start/stop system to maximise economy and during our week with the '5' it returned a real-life 33mpg not bad for a petrol engine pulling a large multi-purpose bodyshell around. Officially it should do 40.9mpg in the combined cycle, 31.4 in town and 49.6mpg touring.

“Mazda has fitted
a start/stop system to

maximise economy
and during our week
with the Mazda5
it returned a real-life
33mpg — not bad for
a petrol engine pulling
a large multi-purpose
bodyshell around...”
Equally as important as 'zip' are the looks. Within the limitations of a 'one box' shape, designing a good-looking MPV doesn't allow much room for flair.

But Mazda's stylists have worked wonders in fact, the term 'snappy dresser' fits very well indeed and it certainly looks more flamboyant than most of its more boxy rivals.

The Mazda5's lines flow back from the sharp nose and steeply raked screen along the sculpted flanks with their distinctive wave-like mouldings.

Inside the updated cabin there are seats for seven. The good news is that the '5' remains as versatile as ever thanks to its multi-configurable seating and the extensive storage solutions. These alone are very good reasons why the Mazda5 should be high on your list if you're after a compact (4,585mm long), family-friendly, multi-activity vehicle.

For child-rich families, the electrically-operated sliding rear side doors (there's one on each side) are a major plus point simple and light to use, they also self-latch in the fully open position for loading and unloading on steep gradients. And each door has a touch-sensor strip to protect careless little fingers! If sufficient force is applied to the strip by a person's body or some other object and causes the strip to deform even slightly, the sliding door stops instantly, reverses direction and returns to the open position.

The rear door openings helped by a 130mm-wide step make easy entry possible even for somebody holding a child in their arms; and they really are a boon in today's cramped car parks where their tight-to-the-body sliding action (they only protrude a shade over six inches when open) makes getting in and out dead easy not just to the middle row but also to and from the third row's two individual seats. The electric rear doors can be opened remotely with the key fob or via a button on the fascia, or manually using the door handles.

Like the front, there's good room all-round in the middle row. The piggy-in-the-middle spot benefits foot-wise from there being no transmission tunnel although this is a bit of a perch compared to the two outer seats. If not required, this middle seat can easily be reconfigured in several ways: the backrest section can fold down into an armrest; and the seat base can be folded away to reveal a deep net storage bin between the outer seats with a tray top lid and built-in cupholders.

“For child-rich families,
the electrically-
operated sliding rear
side doors (there’s one
on each side) are
a major plus point —
simple and light to use,
they also self-latch
in the fully open position
for loading and
unloading on steep
gradients.
Each door has an
anti-trap feature to
protect careless little
fingers!
The split/fold middle row outer seats slide fore and aft by eleven inches and also have storage bins under the seat bases; their seatbacks recline extensively all the way to a 50-degree semi-reclining position. Nicely shaped and with drop-down outer armrests, they're as comfortable as the front pair, particularly so on long journeys. Views out are excellent thanks to the long, deep windows in the sliding doors.

All passengers travelling in any of the six well-shaped, smart, cloth-upholstered main seats will do so very comfortably. And, essential in a family car, there are numerous storage compartments throughout the Mazda5 (45, to be precise!) including a good-sized glovebox with a useful open shelf above it, cup-holders and even fold-down airline-style seatback trays for middle row passengers that have bag hooks, a built-in cup-holder and are strong enough for writing on or picnicking.

In row three the individual seats 6 and 7 can be used by real-world adults. Note that these are 'proper' seats, not the glorified camping stools found in some other seven-seaters. And they are easily accessed by sliding forward either outer seat in row two. Views out are equally good in the third row and kids will just love sitting back here.

Another of the Mazda5's strong points is that it can go from full passenger capacity to maximum cargo space quicker than the time it takes to accelerate to 62mph. Even with seven seats in use there's still some boot space: 112 litres, which, while not a lot, is better than many. However, folding the second and third rows (these stow into the rear floor and are easy to pull up again) gives you a massive, and completely flat-floored, cargo bay that, if you load it to the roof, will take 1,485 litres.

The self-lifting tailgate, incidentally, opens to a regular aperture for easy loading; it also clears your head and provides an 'umbrella' on wet days. Beneath the lift-up boot floor you'll find a good-sized and fairly deep tray for all that 'extra stuff' that kids have a knack of conjuring up out of nowhere.

As to that comment about the Mazda5 serving two masters (the driver and the family) equally well, the driver enjoys a commanding view out from behind the multifunction, leather-wrapped (and nicely grippy) steering wheel. The smart black dash houses reflection-free and crystal clear white-on-black dials. Controls and switchgear are sited logically and work with a precise action and the trip computer displays all the essentials including range and average mpg.

The front seats are supportive as well as extremely comfortable and the driver benefits from generous height and reach adjustment on the wheel. Front seatbelts also adjust for height.

“Tall cars and good
driving dynamics don’t
often make good
bedfellows.
Not so the Mazda5
which offers plenty of
grip, progressive and
accurate steering,
good brakes and a well-
balanced chassis that’s
up for some spirited
driving and which can
be hustled along
back roads.
..”
Both front seats are also fitted with their own Captain's chair-style drop-down inner armrests. Fairly slim A-pillars and mini-quarterlights make for very good visibility with no blind spots on roundabouts.

For the record, the bonnet shape has been optimised to give the driver a wider field of vision for safer city driving and easier parking. And it works, too. All good news for the one doing the driving.

Adding to the ease of driving is a light clutch pedal much appreciated in today's heavy traffic. On the move, the slick gearbox is a pleasure to use and made better by the high-set position of the gear lever, so there's no stretching for changes. The box's higher ratios, aided and abetted by the impressively quiet petrol engine, make for smooth motorway progress.

Along with a quiet (well-suppressed mechanical noise, a quiet climate control fan and near-silent wipers) and very liveable cabin, there's plenty of kit to keep the driver and passengers happy starting with a highly-efficient automatic climate control system, a decent audio/CD unit with MP3 compatibility, cruise control, electric rear doors, four electric windows, heated and power-operated door mirrors, steering wheel-mounted remote audio controls, Bluetooth hands-free kit with voice control, rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers and privacy glass to the rear glass.

Safety features include dynamic stability control with traction control, six airbags, Isofix child seat anchorages on the outer centre row seats, dual front and side airbags plus front and rear curtain airbags.

Tall cars and driving dynamics don't often make agreeable bedfellows. Not so the Mazda5 which offers plenty of grip, progressive and accurate steering, good brakes (discs all round; vented at the front) and a well-balanced chassis that's up for some spirited driving and which can be hustled along back roads with some verve.

Unlike many MPVs, the Mazda5 offers keen drivers the handling and road-holding abilities of a decent family saloon or hatch you won't need long behind the wheel to discover how enjoyable this car-like MPV is to drive. The ride quality is pretty good, too the suspension shrugs off bumps to deliver a compliant ride, particularly at town speeds where it keeps occupants well insulated from the blacktop.

The super-practical Mazda5 is a people-carrier for the active family that doesn't penalise the driver unless you're watching your reflection in passing shop windows, you could be riding along in a regular car. Smart, comfy and versatile, the Mazda5 can be your Flexible Friend! MotorBar

Mazda Mazda5 2.0 TS2 | 19,360
Maximum speed: 120mph | 0-62mph: 11 seconds | Overall test MPG: 33mpg
Power: 147bhp | Torque: 141lb ft | CO2 159g/km