Fleet News

Mazda5

Mazda

Review

MAZDA is doing a one-for-two offer. When it goes on sale this autumn, the stylish new Mazda5 people carrier will effectively replace both the slow-selling and entirely anonymous MPV and Premacy models.

The company hopes the 5’s combination of fresh styling, high equipment levels, low pricing and well thought-out cabin will make it a more attractive proposition to fleet drivers wanting something more flexible than the 3 and smaller than the 6.

But make no mistake, the 5 will have its work cut out – it will be entering a fiercely competitive market. Mazda is, however, quietly confident that the 5 will have enough individuality to take on its rivals from Renault, Citroen, Vauxhall and, of course, Ford – the 5 shares its basic architecture and components with the C-MAX. Key to that appeal will be its ‘from the inside-out’ design that places the emphasis on the versatility of the cabin environment rather than its exterior styling, and its novel ‘6 + One’ seating arrangement that allows drivers to quickly and easily switch between six and seven seats.

DESIGN

ALTHOUGH it shares its basic architecture with the Ford C-MAX, the Mazda5 is arguably the better looking car. Its sleeker, rakish lines, more steeply raked windscreen and long 2,750mm wheelbase (100mm longer than the C-MAX) gives it a slightly sportier, wedgier look. Its proportions are deceptive though, because it’s actually slightly narrower and taller than the Ford.

As usual, Mazda has paid close attention to linking the 5 to other models in the line-up – check out the arrowhead grille, high-sitting rear lights and swoopy front headlamps.

Indeed, it looks almost identical to the MX-Flexa concept car shown at the Geneva show earlier this year.

With the emphasis clearly on versatility and passenger friendliness, Mazda’s designers decided to drop standard hinged rear doors in favour of two sliding rear doors – a first for this class.

Although initially nervous that the doors would encumber the 5 with the look of a commercial vehicle, the greater access to the rear seats – the gaping 70cm opening means no more tight squeezes and dented doors in cramped car parks – ensured they got the design green light.

The key atmosphere that interior designers Soichiro Shibata and Kouji Tabata wanted to achieve was that openness, where passengers in the second and third rows of seats did not feel excluded.

Hence the dash-mounted gear lever, flat floor and wide central tunnel that bisects the seats to create what they call a ‘communication channel’, which is aided by seats that all move independently.

When not in use the two rear seats fold flat to boost luggage space. The chairs in the second row of seats have a tilt-slide function to further boost versatility. But it is Mazda’s clever ‘6 + One’ system that impresses most. When needed, another seat folds out from beneath the cushion of the left-hand second row seat to provide seating for a seventh passenger between the second row seats.

Alternatively, a utility box stowed beneath the cushion of the right-hand seat opposite can be folded out to occupy the same space to further boost storage space.

If necessary, the second row of seats can be hinged flat to create an Ikea flatpack-swallowing loadbay. It is a neat and efficient system that does away with having to remove and install heavy, bulky seats.

Other design options include an onboard DVD player with drop-down screens, a credit-card keyless entry system, a reversing camera with predictive parking guides and a built-in hard disc drive that can store up to 3,000 songs to play on the car’s stereo.

DRIVING QUALITY

WE’VE yet to drive the Mazda5 but going on past experience of other Mazda models, we think the front-wheel drive people carrier will be far more dynamic and engaging to steer than most of its rivals.

Thank its risible but well-intentioned ‘zoom-zoom’ ethos for that.

Because it is based on the C-MAX architecture, expect a taut and well-composed ride and tidy handling from the stiff chassis and tweaked McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension.

Like the Ford, the Mazda will employ an electronic hydraulic power assist steering system that offers a fuel saving over a fully hydraulic system, while maintaining more feedback and feel than a fully electric set-up.

All models come with vented front disc brakes and solid discs at the rear.

The 5 comes fitted with six airbags that cover passengers in all three rows, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and dynamic stability control systems as standard, and Mazda is confident of a five-star Euro NCAP result.

POWERTRAINS

WHEN it arrives later this year, the Mazda5 will come with the choice of four powerplants – two petrol and two turbo diesel engines – and the choice of either five or six-speed manual transmissions. All engines meet Euro IV emission levels.

The petrol range starts with a 1.8-litre 16v unit that develops 113bhp, followed by a 142bhp 2.0-litre 16v engine. They both drive the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. The common rail turbodiesels share the same the 2.0-litre capacity but have two different outputs – 108bhp and 141bhp – and both are hitched up to six-speed manual transmissions.

At the moment, there is no move to introduce the four-speed automatic box buyers in Japan and America will get.

Nor is there any word about performance, CO2 and economy figures – Mazda is still tightlipped about figures, but we think our estimates will be an accurate guide.

FACT FILE

1.8 2.0 2.0 DIESEL 2.0 DIESEL
ENGINE (CC): 1,998 1,998 1,998
MAX POWER (BHP/RPM): 113/5,300 142/6,000 108/3,500 141/3,500
MAX TORQUE (LB-FT/RPM): 122/4,000 137/4,500 229/2000 266/2000
MAX SPEED (MPH): 125 130 115 125
0-62MPH (SEC): 10.5 10.0 11.5 10.5
FUEL CONSUMPTION (EST MPG): 37 35 48 45
CO2 EMISSIONS (EST G/KM): 180 195 170 175
FUEL TANK CAPACITY (L/GAL): 50/11 50/11 50/11 50/11
TRANSMISSIONS: 5-SP MAN 5-SP MAN 6-SP MAN 6-SP MAN
ON SALE: AUTUMN 2005
PRICES (ESTIMATED): £13,500-£17,500

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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