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.