a time when women usually wore skirts, there were ones known
as "mini" and "maxi." Maxi, of course,
was longer while its counterpart mini was sometimes barely
there. Mini, as in minivan, originally had a similar meaning.
But during 20-plus years as an American staple, some have
evolved to a more maxi size, leaving smaller scale vans
the front-drive Mazda5, a two-model minivan on a much smaller
level, that promises to deliver a more agile, fun-oriented
performance drive (if not heavily loaded) while retaining
a minivan's many morphing attributes. Rather than a more
standard minivan appearance, Mazda5's wedge-shaped design
sports a no-apologies look of fun, riding on 17" alloy
wheels. A steep sloping hood flows back over the roofline,
and a sharply upward angled beltline screams "speed."
Both lines converge at spoiler-topped taillamps that frame
the liftgate's upper glass.
smaller Mazda5 is a six-seater, instead of today's popular
seven. It also pales in size compared with Mazda's time-tested,
multi-purpose MPV van. In addition to the Sport model features
including AM/FM/CD stereo, Touring adds such amenities as
power moonroof, spoiler, side skirts and front fog lamps.
Despite its diminutive size, Mazda5 yawns with the best
of them. Side sliding doors give lots of extra clearance
for loading people or things and fold-down seats provide
ample flat-floored cargo space. (A hidden second row toy
box can keep clutter out of the way.)
comes from the same 2.3-liter, inline four (157-HP) with
variable valve timing that powers the compact five-door
Mazda3. A five-speed manual or four-speed auto with manual
mode kick it into gear. Among safety features are brake
assist, a rigid safety cage with side-impact door beams
and a full contingent of airbags.
is based at $17,435 (manual) or $18,950 (automatic), with
the Touring's nav system at $2,000 the priciest option.
And as expected, its smaller size equates to better gas
mileage at a time North American gas pumps are ratcheting
up to unprecedented pricing levels. The manual is rated
at 22 city/27 highway, and the automatic gets 21/26. With
no sign of cheaper fuel on the horizon, we think Mazda's
multi-activity "driver's" van is a very good idea
in a small package.