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The Top Gear car review: Mazda Mazda5
For:As much fun to drive as an MPV gets. Sharp looks
Against:Rivals do the 'whole package' thing better
1.6d Sport 5dr
What we say:
Good value - and there's a touch of the MX-5 in here - but the 5 could be more polished
What is it?
Mazda’s MPV, which seats seven and is pretty good to drive at the same time. It’s one of the more stylish people carriers on the market, too, but the flipside of its engaging drive is the fact that the 5 is a bit on the firm side as MPVs go, so it’s not as comfortable as the class-toppers.
Nor is it as accomplished in the practicality stakes – yes, it’s a big car, but it’s not as clever inside as the best rivals.
The Mazda5 shines on the road. The Japanese company has definitely injected a dose of what makes the MX-5 such a cracking drive into its people carrier. Despite its size, there’s little in the way of body roll and the sharp steering makes the Mazda feel agile. There’s plenty of grip, too, so it can tackle tight corners with surprising vigour.
Two engines are on offer, a 1.6-litre 115bhp turbodiesel and a 148bhp 2.0-litre. This petrol motor is punchy enough and, coming from the same family as the motor in the MX-5, it’s pretty enthusiastic. It’s too peaky for a people carrier though, asking for too much revving and gear-stirring for relaxed cruising. The 1.6-litre diesel is the sensible choice – it has sufficient grunt to haul the 5 along at a reasonable lick and it’s the most frugal of the bunch. The six-speed manual gearbox has a short, sweet throw, as we’ve come to expect from Mazdas, and it’s something to be relished. If only the ride were more supple and less sportingly irritable over lumps and bumps.
On the inside
It’s big and will seat seven, but that’s about as far as it goes with the Mazda5. There’s a reasonable amount of room inside but it’s not as spacious as, say, a Grand C-Max, nor are the seats as flexible or as easy to fold down as they are in the majority of rivals. Fold everything flat and you’ll benefit from 1,485 litres of space, but plenty of estates that can top that. Things get better in the front, as visibility is good courtesy of the high driving position: sat nav is now available too, and standard on the Sport.
Diesel offers 54.3mpg and emissions of 138g/km, which isn’t bad for an MPV. A curious quirk saw the old 1.8-litre petrol engine prove less efficient than the bigger 2.0-litre. So, Mazda’s dropped it for 2013. Expect 40.9mpg and 159g/km from the 2.0-litre, which are actually pretty good for a petrol MPV.
The Mazda5 isn’t a huge player on the MPV market, nor is it as coveted as the best of the competition. In recognition, Mazda has dramatically reduced the model line-up for 2013, with just two variants now offered. One thing guaranteed on all is superb reliability, though.