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Mazda5 2.0 Sport

Click to view picture gallery“The two best mid-size MPVs on
  the market have, i
n my view, always
  been the Vauxhall Zafira and the
  Mazda5. And now there’s an updated
  ‘5
from Mazda...”


FOR WHATEVER REASON, though, the Zafira is the number one seller in this market segment and by a huge margin. The poor Mazda5 has consistently floundered as an also-ran at the bottom of the sales chart. Even the VW Golf Plus outsells it, for goodness' sake, and there's no obvious good reason for anyone to buy one of those.

It's about time that this seven-seater MPV's fortunes were well and truly turned around. Perhaps the new Mazda5 is the model to do it — really, it does deserve better.

If you can get past the styling, that is. Mazda's new design direction is the so-called 'Nagare' approach, which debuts on the 5 and will soon be seen in other Mazdas. The 'flowing waves' motif that adorns the sides of the body splits opinions in a big way. Is it a beautiful pattern reminiscent of a beach at low tide? Or does it look like Freddy Krueger has drawn his razor fingers down the sides?

Whatever your opinion, it's certainly distinctive. And a lot more car-like than boxy rivals such as the VW Touran. In fact, that's quite a good description of the whole Mazda5 experience — it is much more like a regular hatchback to drive than some of the more van-like MPVs.

“The gearbox is very
slick and easy to use,
with tall gearing
for refined motorway
driving
...”
The 2.0-litre petrol engine is the best choice of the launch range (we'll have to reserve judgement on the 113bhp 1.6 diesel until it arrives in early 2011). Boasting 148bhp, the 2.0 is keen, sweet-revving and smooth, if not terribly punchy. You need to keep the revs up and change gear often to get the best performance out of it, which really goes to show that the weedier 1.8 petrol doesn't quite make the cut.

The gearbox is very slick and easy to use, with tall gearing for refined motorway driving. And the 5 is very quiet, with only some wind noise intruding at speed. The light steering is surprisingly sharp for an MPV and the 5 hustles around back roads better than most cars in this class. Its ride quality is also pretty decent.

With its stop/start 'i-stop' system, the 2.0 Sport returns very good fuel consumption of 40.9mpg; CO2 emissions are down by 15 per cent (compared to the old Mazda5 2.0) at 159g/km. Expect 0-62mph in 11 seconds and a 120mph top speed.

This isn't an all-new model but an update of the existing Mazda5, which is no bad thing as I've already stated. One welcome feature it has kept is the old model's USP of two sliding rear doors; one on each side and unique in this market sector. The doors open up to provide a huge aperture but they only stick out by 160mm beyond the bodywork when open. On Sport models the doors are electrically powered.

Like most cars in this class, the Mazda5 is a seven-seater with three rows of seats. Also like most cars in this class, luggage space is tiny with all seven seats in place (just 112 litres). If you want lots of luggage room when seven-up, buy a bigger MPV. If you only occasionally need seven seats, however, the Mazda5 is a great choice — with one caveat. The middle row of three seats is really only comfortable for two: the third centre seat is for occasional use only as it's way too hard and narrow for regular bottoms (although still better than the old Mazda5).

The cabin is well styled
and attractive, with
sensibly laid out
controls. Some of the
plastics aren’t that
brilliant, although overall
build quality
is beyond reproach...”
Folding all the rear seats is very easy and opens up a huge, flat-floored cargo area that's 857 litres big when loading up to the window line, or a massive 1,566 litres from floor to roof.

The cabin is well styled and attractive, with sensibly laid out controls. Some of the plastics aren't that brilliant, although overall build quality is beyond reproach.

The new range starts at 17,695 for the 1.8 TS. Even base models have six airbags, dynamic stability control, two ISOFIX child seat mounts, air conditioning, cruise control, six-speaker CD and alloy wheels. The Sport version, as tested, boasts electric rear doors, 17-inch alloys, a body styling kit, leather seats (fronts are heated) and front fog lights.

To conclude: Aesthetically challenged it may be but the new Mazda5 offers huge practicality, a supple ride, a car-like driving experience and lots of standard equipment. It also looks quite unlike anything else on the market, which has to be a good thing.
Chris Rees

Mazda5 2.0 Sport | 20,195
Maximum speed: 120mph | 0-62mph: 11.0 seconds | Overall MPG: 40.9mpg
Power: 148bhp | Torque: 141lb ft | CO2 159g/km