But it isn’t down to anything as complicated as low noise, vibration and harshness levels, good handling or low running costs.
What has made a real impression on my family is a simple set of sliding doors and styling that ensures the Mazda5 isn’t mistaken for a van.
The doors are hardly an innovation as they have been available over recent years in models ranging from the Renault Kangoo to the Toyota Previa.
But in the mini-MPV segment, they are pretty rare and I love them and from the looks of it, so have other testers.
When the car first arrived at the end of last year, we said: ‘The Mazda5 should dispel people’s nagging fears that MPVs are not sexy.
‘With that combination of sassy looks, its dynamic driving qualities and versatile, spacious and classy interior, who could resist not having the Mazda on their ‘I want’ list?
And if CAP Monitor’s strong residual value predictions for the 5 are anything to go by, fleet managers and user-choosers alike should be on to a safe bet with the Mazda.’ The car settled in at Fleet NewsNet well, with the advertising campaign that featured life-like female shop mannequins who becomes quite ‘excited’ while being driven around sticking in one road tester’s mind.
Alongside plastic women, Tony Toma also like the ‘genuinely sensible’ features, such as seating for six people over three rows with a stowable seventh seat. He added: ‘The USP is the rear sliding doors. Anyone with young kids or someone with restricted mobility can vouch for how useful these are.’
One oddity was mentioned – the use of five-speed gearboxes for all petrol-engined Mazda5s and six-speed ones for the diesels, when the petrol would have been better suited with an extra cog.
When I took over the running of the Mazda5 it piled on the miles and the passengers, ranging from one through to a full complement of six-plus-driver, all complimented it.
The seating system is excellent. The rear set of two seats fold flat into the floor as with a number of other modern MPVs, while the rear two seats can be moved fore and aft independently.
In addition, the clever third seat, which folds away under one of the middle chairs, adds another dimension of flexibility for short journeys.
The sliding doors come into their own when making the most of this space, as they allow drivers to climb in easily, especially in tight parking spaces.
During the 9,000-mile test, the only reliability problem was a loose anti-roll bar, which was fixed quickly and easily at the dealer.
The engine was flexible and up to the job of carrying all the loads we threw at it, but the low gearing meant 30mpg was never bettered – about 5mpg short of the expected average.
Fleet buyers could go for the diesel, but looking at the wholelife costs, it would be 43,478 miles before the fuel savings would offset the £1,600 price premium, so only high-mileage drivers need apply.
When the 5 left our fleet, CAP estimated it would have been worth about £10,350, which fits in with the prices being charged at the moment, but is out of my range.
However, over the next few months, some higher mileage ones might be available so I may yet get a 5 on my driveway this year.
What the team thinks
THE Mazda5 is a lesson to other manufacturers of how to make an MPV look cool, be business-like yet family-friendly, versatile and bristle with innovative ideas.
And, crucially, with car-like road manners, the Mazda5 is also an enjoyable drive, which was just as well in the case of our petrol-engined long-term test car.
That engine’s rev-happy nature and flaccid engine torque characteristics dictated a very un-MPV driving style, with detrimental effect on the fuel economy. But this shouldn’t dissuade potential business buyers because there are two, more economical and infinitely torquier, 2.0-litre (110bhp and 143bhp) turbodiesel engines – both with the added benefit of six-speed gearboxes – to also choose from.
With the Mazda5’s many positive attributes (reliability, style and strong residual values to name a few) anyone looking for a small MPV would be foolish to overlook it. Tony Toma
Model: Mazda5 2.0 Sport
Price (OTR): £16,300 (£16,625 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 198
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £77 a month
Insurance group: 8E
Combined mpg: 34.5
Test mpg: 30.5
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,550/34%
HSBC contract hire rate: £326
Final expenditure: Nil