Wagon Wednesday: Finding the perfect enthusiast family vehicle in the Mazda5

//Wagon Wednesday: Finding the perfect enthusiast family vehicle in the Mazda5

Wagon Wednesday: Finding the perfect enthusiast family vehicle in the Mazda5

Can the Mazda5 be considered a wagon? Can the modern day minivan be considered a wagon of sorts? They’re car-based, have three rows of seats and a tailgate. To replace our Saturn Vue we have been looking at minivans and only minivans because once you get past your hang-ups, you will realize that it is the only viable vehicle for a family of five. A minivan gives you room for seven and their stuff, whereas a car will provide seating for five and a large trunk. There are some station wagons that would work, but a minivan cannot be beaten for room and functionality. SUVs/CUVs are great, but we already have a Kia Sorento.
In my minivan search I made a short list of things I was looking for:

  • Gas mileage needed to be equal to or better than the Vue.
  • Room for five or more.
  • Not an SUV/CUV.
  • Price had to be no higher than $24,000.
  • With $0 down, loan payment lower than $400.

With the price of typical minivans from Honda and Toyota approaching the $40,000 mark, the vehicle that most closely fits these requirements was the Kia Sedona. Kia is always fighting for sales and offers some of the largest rebates in the industry, for instance: the 2011 Sedona comes a $2500 rebate, and the 2012 Sedona already has a $1000 rebate, just for walking into the showroom. In addition, previous Kia owners received another $1500 rebate. They will give you another $1500 toward a minivan. At times it felt like they were just giving them away, craziness.
Starting with $27,000, the reduced price for the 2011 Sedona is $21,500; well within the range of our desired under-$400 monthly payment. The Sedona has not been updated in a few years and has some rarely seen quirky features such as an ashtray and cigarette lighter (turns out Koreans are heavy smokers, who knew?). In the end it is hard to turn down a proper minivan with a ten year warranty for that kind of money.

On our way to the Kia dealer, my wife and I started going through the other manufacturer offerings to make sure we were not making a bad decision. It turns out that there are very few three-row non-SUVs for under $24,000. The only other vehicle that kept coming up over and over again was the Mazda5. I asked myself “why did I remove the Mazda5 off the list?” I heard that the Mazda5 had a small third row seat and that it is too small for a family of five. My wife said that she would need to see it in person and we rerouted to the Mazda dealer to get it out of our system before buying the Sedona.
The dealer had three Mazda5s on the lot. Two were automatic and one was manual. The automatics had a $20,900 price tag and the stick was $19,990.  The loan requirements were there in spades. Size wise, it was bigger than we had thought, with enough leg room in the third row for the kids. All of a sudden we both realized that this purchase might happen. The salesman came out and we took it for a drive.
With three adults and three kids onboard, the bigger for 2012, 2.5-liter, engine purred and pulled hard. Oh and here is something really important – it is fun to drive. I mean silly stupid fun to drive. Do you know all those Mazda Zoom-Zoom ads? Turns out they are not kidding.
Downside is lack of cargo space with all the seats raised, therefore we have decided to lower half of the rear bench permanently. For longer trips a roof-mounted storage box will have to be fitted. Smaller items can be stored in many hidden storage locations, such as under the middle row seats.

The most important thing to me was the manual transmission! I can finally add myself to the 5% of Americans who have bought stick-shifts and prove that there are family friendly sticks available. If it is important to you to do your own shifting, I recommend a visit to your local Mazda dealer for a test drive. Just remember that supplies may be limited due to the recent earthquake in Japan.
It took three hours to get the sales paperwork done, which is an eternity for my kids, but they did it without incident. You may have heard that buying a car these days can be painful, but twice in the last eighteen months I have had two very good experiences, one with a Kia dealer and the other with a Mazda dealer. The Mazda5 is home and a more formal introduction will come soon.

By |2011-10-05T15:00:36+00:00October 5th, 2011|All Things Hoon|54 Comments

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  1. Paul_y October 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    I have no intention of ever reproducing, and I want a Mazda5. While it makes some compromises in the name of reasonable size, driveability, and price, it's an appealing package.
    It's obviously a good way to haul kids'n'crap without soul-destroying consequences.

    • Paul_y October 5, 2011 at 3:12 pm - Reply

      Then again, I'd also like to see big station wagons come back into vogue, so what do I know. I learned to drive in a B-body Buick, for crying out loud.

      • RichardKopf October 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm - Reply

        And I still own a B-Body Caprice wagon; and the Mazda 5? I like. So, I am with you on both accounts.

        • pj134 October 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm - Reply

          I third these statements. Can we add 20 ft long sedans too?

    • pj134 October 5, 2011 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Yeah, I don't get the whole fear of minivans thing. Fear of kids I get, fear of minivans not so much.

      • Paul_y October 5, 2011 at 3:23 pm - Reply

        The worst thing about Minivans is that they are coldly sensible vehicles. If you buy one, you're admitting that your needs trump your desires or what you think about what others think of you. There are worse things.

        • pj134 October 5, 2011 at 4:06 pm - Reply

          You're right, there need to be more 90's Previas in the world.

        • FuzzyPlushroom October 6, 2011 at 12:52 am - Reply

          My current daily driver seats seven (well, four or five in comfort), has loads of cargo room (though it's not as tall as the Mazda), and is fun to drive (despite the slushbox). Of course, you're sick of hearing about my Volvo…

          • pj134 October 6, 2011 at 5:50 am

            Note to self: Screw it, buy a V70R with a stick already

          • topdeadcentre October 6, 2011 at 8:40 am

            I have a V70R with a stick. The shifting is good, the engine power is good. Turbo mmm yummy!
            The active suspension is a design shambles, really bad for 2004-05, slightly improved for 06-07. You really get to know the bump stops at the end of suspension travel. Smooth pavement is a good time, but the active struts can't handle minor potholes, broken pavement, highway bumps, etc. The one-inch (or a little more) drop-offs or bump-ups that are typical of road and highway construction around here are murder to cross over.
            And… there's a few time bombs installed at the factory (I haven't yet had these happen to me…):
            1) Failure of the collar gear between the transmission and the angle gears that drive the propshaft to the rear wheels. Failure is sadly common, and the repair cost is many thousands.
            2) The clutch slave cylinder uses brake fluid from the brake system and is housed inside the clutch area of the transmission housing — what could possibly go wrong? Seal failure is not unknown and contaminates the clutch, requiring its replacement for many thousands.

          • pj134 October 6, 2011 at 8:48 am

            Oh well, a stick with atacama interior would be a bit hard to find.

          • FuzzyPlushroom October 6, 2011 at 9:53 am

            Sigh. I'd heard that the Haldex AWD on the '01+ P2 cars was more reliable than the older models' self-destructing system (identical tires or it's your head), but apparently it's just a different set of issues? Or maybe it's only reliable by comparison.
            Every time I mentally contemplate a newer car, I remember how easy mine is to work on and how infrequently major impossible things tend to go wrong. It's a big hurdle, I have to say.

          • fodder650 October 6, 2011 at 7:04 pm

            Just a note. Volvo has taken the V70 out of production now and will be taking the V50 out next year

          • pj134 October 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm

            Yeah I know. Stupid Chinese overlords. I'm not in new Volvo kind of money anyway.

        • fodder650 October 6, 2011 at 6:04 am - Reply

          Do you know how i announced that my needs outweighed my desires? The day my first child was born

      • wmoyer October 5, 2011 at 4:27 pm - Reply

        I have nothing against minivans other then the slushbox. I really wanted a do it yourself transmission and I was willing to give up space for it. Something I have never hid is how much I loved (not liked.. loved) my Ford Freestar. It could do it all and I miss it's size and utility. It came down to that damned transmission issue and Ford not recalling it that forced me out of it.
        The fear of having the transmission free wheel while i was doing 75mph on I78 with my kids onboard scared the heck out of me.
        As for minivans in general. Do note that I was going to go buy a Sedona. I had it in my head that i was driving a 2011 Sedona home. It's just that the cost of new minivans is prohibitive and makes NO sense to me. Why should a minivan cost the same as a 4×4 SUV? It shouldnt.
        So I rewarded Mazda by selling a six seat family vehicle with a proper transmission

  2. nurikxix October 5, 2011 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    The only thing that would probably stop me from buying something like this is the fact that I don't need that much room. A Mazda3 hatch on the other hand…

  3. JayP October 5, 2011 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Now convince the wife to get the suspension upgrade and some BBS RS wheels with sticky rubber.
    Everyone likes track days!

    • wmoyer October 5, 2011 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      I have a long term update that will be posted on another Wednesday but let me give you a part of it now. The suspension is pretty damned good. I took it out on a mountain road behind me. One that's paved but not level or even by any stretch of the imaginations. Plus it has turns every couple hundred feet.
      I was powering down the hill and made the turn and the rear end hopped! What an odd feeling that way. Next it all just settled down and it was back to normal.
      The point being is that the stock suspension will allow you to act really stupid

  4. Rust-MyEnemy October 5, 2011 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Wow, of your two reviews so far (both great, by the way) ,one vehicle you won and one you bought. At this rate you're gonna amass quite a fleet over the coming months.
    Your garage must be gigantuous.

    • wmoyer October 5, 2011 at 4:33 pm - Reply

      Well let's see I have a 2009 Kia Sorento that was bought by trading in the 2005 Ford Freestar I mentioned in an earlier comment. Decent family vehicle in it's own right. Next to it sits the Mazda5 in the driveway. The garage currently houses the following
      The Victory, a riding lawn mower, a push mower, a field trimmer, a weed wacker, and snow blower
      So it's less a fleet then the beginnings of a lawn care company

      • Rust-MyEnemy October 5, 2011 at 5:04 pm - Reply

        "…a riding lawn mower, a push mower, a field trimmer, a weed wacker, and snow blower"
        Hmm, a Hooniverse Garden Equipment review slot might just work!

        • pj134 October 5, 2011 at 5:12 pm - Reply

          If there are weed whackers I probably would have to wear pants though…

          • SSurfer321 October 6, 2011 at 5:41 am

            How much protection will 12 oz. of cotton really provide against a nylon wire spinning at 10,000 RPM?

          • pj134 October 6, 2011 at 5:51 am

            Oi, it's not the wire I'm worried about laddy! It's the pebbles flyin' at ma jibbly bits at 200 km/h!

        • fodder650 October 6, 2011 at 6:13 am - Reply

          I replied to this last night but since my login wasnt working correctly it didnt post.
          Yes I have a ton of garden equipment for a quarter acre lot. Theres a long story involved I dont feel like relaying as to why. In the end I have a couple grand worth of gardening tools and know more about them now then i ever needed.
          From a Hoon's point of view let me say this. The field trimmer is a 150cc and the riding lawn mower is a 500cc. Those are big motors for this short of thing. Heck even my push mower has six horsepower. I am living the Tim Allen suburban dream.

          • pj134 October 6, 2011 at 6:27 am

            Sometimes a comment won't post unless you reply to the same comment again. If you see <Poof> anywhere, that's what we're trying to accomplish.

          • Rust-MyEnemy October 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm

            Well, we live in a semi-rural housing estate. Our back yard is 40' by 60'. Pathetic, but sort of normal for a largish modern house in the UK. Consequently we use a electric hover-mower, made by Flymo. Buyline;
            "Why Slow-mow when you can Flymo?"
            Yeah, whatever. It's a fabulously easy to handle mower, and gives great results. But every Englishman still craves the sit-n-ride that most every American takes for granted. Say what we like about our respective countries, the 'States have definitely won the lawnmower wars.

          • fodder650 October 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm
          • Rust-MyEnemy October 6, 2011 at 11:08 pm

            I know! Like Fisher-Price for grown-ups!

  5. B72 October 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    Would a Mazda 5 be suitable as a camping vehicle? Is the cargo area big enough to sleep in when in a bear happy area, or during torrential rains?

    • wmoyer October 5, 2011 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      Well with the second and third rows folded down flat it might just work out for that.

  6. Devin October 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    I keep thinking it'd be the perfect car for my mom, since she's got MS and needs something that is easy to get into. But, Mazda doesn't have a dealer where my parents live and that's a deal breaker.

  7. Ol' Shel' October 5, 2011 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    On my way to a dealer to look at a used fwd manual Element, I spotted a 5. It, too, was a manual and we took it for a drive. This one felt a bit used up (high miles), and the main reason I wouldn't choose it was the separate rear seats that left big gaps around them when folded. I bought the Element, but am still a fan of the 5 and vehicles like it; they're the cars we need, even if we're too often unable to admit it.

  8. pj134 October 5, 2011 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    According to the always true Wikipedia there is a mazdaspeed5 coming in 2013…

    • fodder650 October 6, 2011 at 6:14 am - Reply

      I wonder how i missed that. None of my car magazines have mentioned that there is a turbo5 inbound. Like you said WIkipedia knows all. Although I still stand on the fact that a diesel 5 makes more sense

      • pj134 October 6, 2011 at 6:28 am - Reply

        Personally, I feel everything needs a diesel. Sadly, we live in the US and this will never happen.
        Oh well…

  9. scoutdude October 5, 2011 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Rather than getting a roof box and paying a huge MPG penalty, as well as the inconvience of loading/unloading it consider a hitch with a hitch haul/hitch box. No where near the MPG penalty and it's easy to load/unload as well as attach to the car.

  10. vwminispeedster October 5, 2011 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    I'm waiting for the review of the 5 from The Missus.

    • fodder650 October 6, 2011 at 6:07 am - Reply

      In the case of Mrs Fodder (Im finally logged in correctly as the author) she can't drive it.Slowly she's been taking lessons on how though

      • vwminispeedster October 6, 2011 at 6:20 am - Reply

        I was actually referring to Mrs. Odell. I didnt realize that Tim was not the author of this piece. Two hoons with Mazda 5s. Must be a pretty decent car then.

        • fodder650 October 6, 2011 at 6:24 am - Reply

          It is a clue for the enthusiast family driver. There is still a fun to drive vehicle on the American market for your kids and your stuff.

  11. Eggwich James Dio October 5, 2011 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    Good writeup. I like these cars in theory, but I have never actually driven one. You are good at writing on internets.

    • fodder650 October 6, 2011 at 6:15 am - Reply

      Actually I'm good at having an editor who does all the rewriting for me

  12. yellofury October 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    I love my dad's Toyota Sienna. Great interior and great drivetrain if not a little too torque happy in the wet.
    I convinced him to get one when his lease for the Grand Cherokee Laredo was up.
    He was not really thrilled about driving a mom-mobile but we have to get supplies every week for our restaurant and
    the Cherokee want really cutting it and the Expedition he had before it was ridiculous in gas.
    Soon afterwards we realized that minivans do indeed rock if you need to haul people/stuff or both.
    I have seen and sat in the Mazda 5 but I still don't know about reliability over the long haul from Mazda.
    I am a little spooked because my Nissan has been nothing but trouble for me since going over the 100,000 mile mark.
    I want to like it since its a tad larger than a Scion xB with much more utility but not quite as large as the big minivans.
    I kinda miss the old Mazda MPV too. It was the perfect size and a good option to the regular Dodger Caravan.
    More than likely the missus and I will plunk down on a lightly used Honda Odyssey and have a smaller car like a Civic as the commuter car.

  13. MayyC October 5, 2011 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    I had a 2001 Honda Odyssey and loved that vehicle. It was reliable, comfortable and dare I say enjoyable to drive ( I traded in an early 1990's Nissan Pathfinder for that. Good vehicle in its own right but cramped for twins and big dog). The problem with some of the newer vans is that they are not so mini anymore. I think the Mazda5 and the defunct Kio Rondo really fits a nice void for families trying to find an appropriate size vehicle.

    • yellofury October 5, 2011 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      I hear you and I wish they brought back real mini wagons (Corolla wagon, Focus wagon, Mistubishi Lancer Sportback, etc,.)
      The only thing on the market right now is the Jetta wagon which is ridiculously expensive for what I need. The Subie Forester comes close but its not a true cheap to own/maintain wagon of yore.

  14. tonyola October 6, 2011 at 4:55 am - Reply

    I like the concept of the Mazda 5. Minivans need not be the size of apartment buildings nor must they be devoid of entertainment value. However, I'm not really happy with the latest restyle of the 5 with the idiot loboto-smile and all the ripply stuff along the sides. I know Mazda is trying to add character but those things detract from what is basically a nice shape.

  15. SSurfer321 October 6, 2011 at 5:44 am - Reply

    I've not driven one yet but I do like the 1st gen 5 vans. The rear of the recent restyle kills it for me. Once we start a family, I am definitely test driving one, with a manual.
    Excellent write up BTW!

  16. pj134 October 6, 2011 at 6:01 am - Reply

    So I was thinking… with our growing reader base and increased traffic over the past couple weeks… is it time for us to have an award? The "Hoon's Choice" perhaps?
    The logo for it would have be something like Mr. Yuk doing a burnout in a drag prepped and diesel smokestack equipped wagon.

    • IronBallsMcG October 6, 2011 at 6:06 am - Reply

      I'm all for this as long as I can get the logo on a t-shirt. I need something to replace my worn out skull and driveshaft shirts.

  17. rick bradner October 6, 2011 at 7:10 am - Reply

    hey, I know the deal is done but around these parts you can always find new Dodge mini-vans for $20K-ish after rebates/discounts.
    nothing against the 5, as it would be my choice as per my Rondo comment

  18. medwards October 6, 2011 at 8:31 am - Reply

    I tried to get my wife interested in one of these, but the lack of divider with the rear seats down bothered her. She didn't feel it was safe. I've also heard that the front seat bottoms are short and cause discomfort on long trips. This put me off of it enough not to convince her to test drive one. Please tell me it's true so I don't regret my decision.

  19. Stephen Hood October 6, 2011 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Toyota offers a RAV4 with a third row that offers as much room as the 5. Gas mileage is slightly better on the RAV and it doesn't look as bad. I've tried several times to buy a 5, and the styling kills it for me. I was hoping for the CMax, but Ford has backed off bringing it here. You did find the only minivan that is truly mini and gets appropriate MPG in the city. The Honda and Toyota offerings are beautiful luxury appliances,but the average family needs lower cost and better MPG

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