Calgary Herald

Mazda5 ‘best the market has to offer’

- GRAEME FLETCHER

Having a large family has, at least for me, been a mixed blessing. The warmth and company of four young ladies is a special thing for any father.

However, when it comes to taking everyone out in one vehicle, there has long been a problem — there are precious few vehicles capable of carrying six in comfort. In the past, it has boiled down to taking a minivan or multi-row SUV.

While these vehicles do deliver the needed space, there is a big but — they are thirsty beasts.

The solution arrived in the form of the Mazda5. It was/is best described as a mini minivan that has the ability to haul six people without exacting the fuel consumptio­n penalty. A week with the new 2012 GT version delivered a commendabl­e test average of 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres, which came as a very pleasant surprise.

Essentiall­y, the Mazda5 is a Mazda3 with a third row of seats and two sliding rear doors. Yes, the third row is a little tight and the squab sits a tad too close to the floor, but it serves its purpose. The middle-row buckets are comfortabl­e and slide back and forth, which maximizes legroom when the rear seat is empty or folded flat. The luxury package, which adds leather trim and a power sunroof, includes a handy storage bin under the left middle-row seat and a storage net.

As for cargo space, the Mazda5 lives up to its promise, although there is an anomaly. Mazda Canada lists the cargo capacities as follows: With the third row up, there’s 3.95 cubic feet; 15 cu. ft with the 50/50-split third row folded flat and 30.3 cu. ft with both rows folded down. Unfortunat­ely, these numbers do not do the Mazda5 justice — Mazda USA lists the capacity with the third row flat as 44.4 cu. ft. From a visual perspectiv­e, this appears to be more representa­tive of the actual space available. I suspect Mazda Canada only measures to the beltline, which understate­s the true capacity

The rest of the interior is equally well conceived. The black leather seats, complete with red piping, make the Mazda5 feel decidedly upscale. The attractive electrolum­inescent gauges reinforce this impression.

The centre stack layout is also entirely logical. To begin with, it is arranged in the right order with the audio functions sitting above the large rotary climate control knobs. In keeping with the functional aspects, the cabin is dotted with cubbies and storage trays.

The other thing that impressed me is that the step-down from the vehicle is normal as the Mazda5 rides like a regular car.

Where the Mazda5 separates itself from most other multi-row vehicles is the manner in which it handles.

All too often, these vehicles tend to feel as though there is a length of elastic somewhere between the steering wheel and the steered wheels, which introduces an unwelcome numbness to the feel and feedback. The Mazda5’s comportmen­t is both positive and pointed.

There is some body roll, but the suspension does a good job of limiting it to a few degrees. Likewise, understeer remains at arm’s length. The combinatio­n means the 5 can actually be driven with a degree of enthusiasm.

The 2012 Mazda5 is powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that produces 157 horsepower and, more importantl­y, 163 pound-feet of torque at a low 4,000 r.p.m. While initial launch is not going to wow many drivers, the 5 does have the wherewitha­l to pass a slowermovi­ng vehicle with the desired punch. When equipped with the five-speed manumatic (a six-speed manual is the standard gearbox), the Mazda5 accelerate­s to 100 km/h in 10.1 seconds.

For those with the need to ferry more than five around, even if only on an occasional basis, the Mazda5 is still the standout and is the best the market has to offer.

 ?? Graeme Fletcher for Postmedia ?? The Mazda5 carries six passengers in comfort without guzzling gas.
Graeme Fletcher for Postmedia The Mazda5 carries six passengers in comfort without guzzling gas.

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