Review: 2006 Mazda 5

Review: 2006 Mazda 5

New for 2006, the Mazda5 is a multi-faceted people mover based on a stretched Mazda3 platform. The innovative six-passenger design of this scaled-down minivan is geared towards young, active-lifestyle buyers who demand exceptional features and flexibility in a single, high-value vehicle. Available in Sport and Touring guise, the Mazda5 complements its first-in-class 2+2+2 flexible seating layout with an extensive list of standard comfort and convenience touches. Equally appealing, the price of both starts -- and in many cases, ends -- below $20,000.

With minivan cues but crossover character, the Mazda5 embraces a somewhat eclectic but contemporary style highlighted by its crisply rendered sheetmetal, dramatically swept-back windshield, and large, sliding side doors. Mazda heritage comes through strongest in its front and rear fascias, as well as its flared fenders and the signature "V" line of its lower backglass. While only the Touring has standard side sills, both variants wear 205/50VR17 all-season tires on cast-alloy wheels.

Black and aluminum-look plastic elements impart contemporary flair to the Mazda5 interior, although the latter can create annoying glare in bright sun. Complementing the look are seats covered in tasteful black cloth with silver center insets. Overall, the instrument legibility and switchgear layouts merit high marks. A large locking glovebox, pockets in each door, and a small covered console cubby provide basic stow space. All Mazda5s have dual front/mid/rear cupholders, a 12V powerpoint in the dash and rear cargo area, and storage bins beneath the second-row seat cushions and rear cargo floor. Touring models add a foldaway rear consolette with two more cupholders and a mesh storage bag.

Large, well-balanced sliding side doors ease access to the rear quarters. Once in, you can choose from two adult-scaled mid-row buckets or a better-for-kids 50/50 split third row bench. Both tiers feature theatre-style elevation (the roof has been raised by 6.5 inches over Mazda3 spec) and can easily be folded flat in any mix-and-match combination. With all seats up, there's room for about 7 cu ft of cargo, loadable through a large one-piece rear hatch. Drop down row three and capacity jumps to 44 cu ft. That figure virtually doubles when you opt for a two-seats-and-lots-of-stuff configuration, creating a 63-inch-long load surface in the process.

Even at Sport level, the massive Mazda5 standards roster includes air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, a tilt/telescoping steering column, wheel-mounted audio controls, keyless remote, cruise control, and AM/FM/CD audio plus safety touches like ABS disc brakes, a deformable pedal set, and front/front-side/side-curtain airbags. Step up to Touring, and the list adds a rear spoiler, side sills, a power moonroof, six-disc CD changer, and optional DVD navigation and rear-seat entertainment systems.

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