By Chris Chase, CanadianDriver.com
In Europe, MPVs – short for multi-purpose vehicles – are a big deal. Think of an MPV as The Continent’s answer to the minivans we know here: three rows of seats to accommodate the entire family, but usually with four-cylinder engines (many of them diesels) and sized to fit comfortably on tighter European roads.
In North America, Mazda sold a minivan named the MPV, so it’s a little ironic, maybe, that the same company was the first to bring one of these Euro-friendly MPV-type vehicles to Canada and the United States, in the form of the Mazda5. Mazda wasn’t the only player in this new field for long: Kia rolled out its Rondo in 2007. Similarly-sized, it also had three rows of seats (but seated seven instead of the Mazda5’s six) but used swing-out rear doors where the Mazda had van-style sliders.
In Europe, where Mazda gives its cars real names instead of the numerals it uses here, the 5 is called the Premacy. What we know as the first-generation Mazda5, which first went on sale here in 2006, was the second iteration in Europe, where the Premacy had been on the market since 1999.
The 5 is based on the same platform as the smaller Mazda3, but stretched to create the 5’s additional interior space. Additionally, it uses the same 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine found in uplevel versions of the 3, rated at 157 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission choices were a five-speed manual as standard kit, with a four-speed automatic being the option. Rated horsepower dropped to 153 in 2007, but only to conform to new SAE measurement standards; the motor’s performance wasn’t affected.
The 2008 model got a mid-cycle styling update, including a new front end, headlights and taillights and wheel designs. The engine was unchanged, but the four-speed automatic transmission was scrapped for a five-speed. Nothing major happened again until 2010, when stability/traction control was added as an option on the base GS model, and standard on the GT trim.
It’s not mentioned in Consumer Reports’ information, but here’s a thread at MSProtege.com discussing what appears to be a fairly common power steering failure issue with 2007-2009 Mazda5s (and Mazda3s). Mazda USA has produced a video showing what will happen, and what to do, if the power steering does fail. Shortly after this review was published, Mazda Canada issued a recall to address the power steering problem.
Rear tire wear issues are common, as detailed in this thread at MSProtege.com. The issue is either the alignment or camber (the vertical angle of the tire relative to the road) of the rear wheels. Here’s another thread that talks about a possible fix.
Watch for bad suspension struts and control arm bushings, too, particularly in the rear.
There’s a well-documented problem with body panel corrosion on Mazda3s, but it’s not clear if rust is as serious an issue with the Mazda5. At least on very disgruntled Canadian Mazda5 owner created a blog through which to air their concerns. That link can be found here. My gut feeling is that it would be wise to err on the side of caution on this topic, based on Consumer Reports’ so-so ratings for the Mazda5 in the Paint/Trim category. My advice would be to look the car over, and have it looked at by someone knowledgable, before you buy for signs of corrosion or corrosion that’s been repaired. Unless the repair was done very well, the rust is likely to return.
Poor-quality brake components are likely to blame for brake pedal pulsations (warped rotors), squealing brakes and premature wear.
Transport Canada issued a recall concerning the Mazda5’s sliding doors. It was discovered that ice build-up could prevent the door from latching properly and cause it to open while the car is in motion.
Overall, Consumer Reports gives the Mazda5 an average used vehicle reliability rating for 2007-2009 models, while the 2006 version earns only a below-average.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tested the 5 in 2008 and gave it five stars in frontal crash tests for driver and passenger protection. In side impacts, the car earned five stars for front-seat passenger protection and four for the rear. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) didn’t test the 5.
Mazda5 values starts at $11,525 for a 2006 GS with manual transmission and no air conditioning, to $23,100 for a full-zoot 2010 GT model with automatic, air, leather and navigation. The restyled 2008 is sharp; the simple GS with air conditioning and manual transmission is worth $15,450. A 2009 GT with automatic is valued at $18,775. The Kia Rondo is less expensive used, but its standard use of an automatic transmission is either a plus or a negative, depending on how you look at it. The Rondo was also offered with a six-cylinder engine.
The Mazda5’s novelty is in its packaging, and with only one true competitor, it has captured a large segment of the market for efficiently-packaged family vehicles. It’s a compelling vehicle if you like Mazda’s fun-to-drive philosophy, but my enthusiasm is tempered by the 5’s rust problem. Rust is a problem with many Asian vehicles, but Mazdas seem to be particularly affected by it: the Mazda3 and early Mazda6s had/have rust issues too. When looking for a used 5, look for one with a corrosion-free body, and then have the car looked at closely for signs of a repair job. As I said above, unless it’s repaired very well, the rust will almost definitely come back. Shop for a car with complete maintenance records and scan these for evidence that the power steering recall has been done (for 2007-2009 models), and whether the previous owner(s) had any problems with the rear suspension or premature rear tire wear.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) August 2010:
|Year||Model||Price today||Price new|
|2010||Mazda5 GS, manual+A/C||$19,150||$21,695|
|2009||Mazda5 GS, manual+A/C||$17,350||$21,695|
|2008||Mazda5 GS, manual+A/C||$15,550||$21,895|
|2007||Mazda5 GS, manual+A/C||$13,875||$20,995|
|2006||Mazda5 GS, manual+A/C||$12,225||$20,995|
There are no dedicated Mazda5 discussion forums on the web, but a number of other Mazda sites set aside some space for the Mazda5. MazdaWorld.org has a quiet Mazda5 section; same goes for Mazda3Club.org, TheMazdaForum.com. Better spots include the Mazda5 section at MazdaForum.com, which attracts many owners in the UK, and MSProtege.com. The Mazda5 section at MPVClub.com is worth a look, too. TorontoMazda3.ca doesn’t have a Mazda5 section, but the similarities between the 3 and 5 means you’ll find at least some useful information here, but you’ll have to dig. The upside is that the site (obviously) is Canadian.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006351; Units affected: 1,683
2006: On certain vehicles, water can accumulate within the manual door latch mechanism and freeze in low ambient temperatures. The ice build-up can interfere with proper door latch operation. If the sliding door is not properly latched, it could open during vehicle operation. Correction: Dealers will replace the right and left sliding door latch modules with updated versions.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005281; Units affected: 2,510
2006: If certain vehicles are operated at very high RPM levels, the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) logic, which is unique to vehicles produced for the North American market, combined with insufficient insulation around the main silencer, can permit an excessive heat build-up in the exhaust system which in the worst case, can cause a vehicle fire. Correction: Dealers will replace the rear silencer, install a heat insulator kit, and update the PCM.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.
Chris Chase is an Ottawa-based automotive journalist. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).
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