The discontinued Mazda5 is a type of vehicle that simply no longer exists in the U.S. There are still plenty of minivans out there, but the Mazda5’s small footprint and car-like styling push it into the compact minivan category. Every other family-centered van available these days is gigantic with a heavy focus on sprawl and maximum space. Meanwhile, Mazda’s description of its Mazda5 is far more skewed to talking up its driving dynamics and handling prowess.
As an example of where Mazda’s head was at with this extra-mini minivan, it was offered with a manual transmission. The competition in the late 2000s did not have the same focus or determination to make their minivans drive like sports cars, as Mazda says it tried to accomplish with the Mazda5.
All that said, the Mazda5 is still shaped like a minivan and features three rows of seats to fit the kids and their friends. You can remove the seats and find an absolutely cavernous amount of space for larger items, too. It’s the type of vehicle for somebody who might need a minivan’s space and utility, but isn’t ready to start living the Toyota Sienna life.
Why the Mazda5?
If there ever was a driving enthusiast’s minivan of the past 20 years, the Mazda5 would be it. It replaced the Mazda MPV starting in the 2007 model year. And while Mazda still touts the MPV as a good-driving minivan, the Mazda5 took it to new heights with even more aggressive styling and improved handling. Those handsome looks were a part of Mazda’s scheme to make its minivan stand out in the crowd. It’s sharp and angular nose brought an edge not seen elsewhere in minivans at the time.
But beyond that, Mazda prioritized the normal minivan niceties with a tall roof and plenty of interior space. The second row has captain’s chairs standard. And while that means you max out at six seats, those second row chairs are super comfortable. The third row isn’t as comfy, but an adult can still take a short ride back there with its 30.7 inches of legroom available. Cargo capacity is predictably massive — fold those third row seats, and you have 44.4 cubic-feet awaiting you. Drop the second row, and Mazda says it offers up a load floor that is 63 inches long. We should mention that said load floor is super low in the car and makes loading/unloading far easier than any crossover or SUV might offer up.
Manual sliding doors are touted as a “feature” from Mazda — take of that what you will. However, there’s no arguing with the low curb weight and compact size. Mazda says the 2006 Mazda5 weighs just 3,333 pounds. Most minivans today are in the 4,500-pound range, making the Mazda5 a lightweight. It’s also small, coming in at just 181.5 inches in overall length. A new BMW 3 Series is just about four inches longer than this Mazda5, so yes, it’s smaller than you’re even imagining. That means it only needs a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 157 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque to get it moving (just don’t expect blistering acceleration). The first-gen Mazda5 saw its best fuel economy figures after its 2008 refresh — it was rated at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. That’s no 2021 Sienna hybrid, but it’s respectable for such a utilitarian vehicle.
What options do I want?
Mazda didn’t give folks a ton of choices in the beginning. The big decision was picking between the five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions. There was a base and a Touring trim. The Touring model added a few nice extras like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, CD changer, automatic climate control and a moonroof. Even rarer, you could tack on a voice-command DVD navigation system on the Touring — this system will of course be horribly outdated now.
Mazda’s 2008 refresh brought revised styling, but also some revised mechanicals. It added a five-speed automatic (replacing the four-speed), which returned significantly better fuel economy. And thankfully for three-pedal buyers, the option of a manual carried over.
A new Grand Touring trim also became available that added even more luxuries into the mix. The Grand Touring includes HID headlights, heated door mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a security alarm, leather (and heated in front) seats and Bluetooth. Once again, the navigation system is optional on top.
Availability and listings
Luckily, these Mazda5s are eminently affordable minivans. Even the nicest, top-spec, lowest-mile examples are listed for around $10,000. There are even a decent crop of manuals to choose from, too. You’ll find the cheapest deals on the pre-refresh vans, but if you want the peak of the first-gen Mazda5, you’ll need to pony up for the 2008-2010 model years.
Our used vehicle listings can be helpful to find a good deal near you. Narrow the offerings down by a radius around your ZIP code, and pay attention to the deal rating on each listing to see how a vehicle compares with others in a similar area.
What else to consider
There are so few things that are genuine equivalents to the Mazda5. You’re looking at wagons and minivans for the most part, but both have their compromises. A wagon would give you the dynamics, while a different minivan would offer up the utility. Neither are exactly alike, but you get close with both of them. Consider some other outliers like the Subaru Outback or the Ford Freestyle/Taurus X. If you’re willing to pay a little more, the Volvo XC70 exists, and let's not forget about the strange Kia Rondo, too.
Of course, these wagons won’t give you three rows of space. If that’s a priority, let us direct your attention to another oddball, the Ford Flex. And in case you decide to eschew weirdness and oddity altogether, a host of normal minivans are also available to choose from. There’s the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, and more. We’ll leave you with one final weird one to close things out: the Volkswagen Routan. It was essentially a Volkswagen-ized Chrysler minivan, but it’s rare and intriguing, and could appeal to the same kind of buyer who seeks out a Mazda5.
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