The idea of a minivan with an available manual transmission sets the tone that the Mazda5 is a minivan with a different mystique. Mazda, in fact, seems to prefer the wordy designation "multi-activity six-seater sports vehicle." (We're sure that there's an acronym in there somewhere.)
In reality, a vehicle that its maker claims was created with sports car inspiration seems as unlike a minivan as a vehicle can get. But then, there are those sliding side doors. And that minivan-only attribute is about the only typical signature trait that could link the Mazda5 with the world's many mom-mobiles. Mazda5 doesn't even seat seven, another seeming prerequisite for minivan status. Instead, it seats only six—with no apologies, please. (Need room for more? Mazda will remind one that it has two new crossovers to do that job with ease.)
With Mazda5 riding on the company's "Zoom Zoom" campaign that underscores every Mazda on American roads, there has to be a performance aspect. Lacking one would deviate from the brand's sporty image and maverick tendencies. The Mazda5 is powered by the same 153-HP, 2.3L four that revs up five other sporty Mazda models, including the Mazda3, and seems more fitting for pulling Gs around a tight corner than propelling a five-speed manual trans minivan through its transport paces. An automatic with manual mode is available, but seems less endowed for addressing the weight of the vehicle when fully loaded.
Who is Mazda5 aimed at? Quite likely the adventurous traveling family with plenty of activities gear and a zest for driving. New for 2007 is a Grand Touring model that tops out last year's Sports and Touring renditions and adds leather trimmed heated seats, high intensity headlamps and some exterior trim upgrades.
With function in mind, the Mazda5 has easy open sliding side doors for unencumbered access and multi-adjustable seating for more cargo room. Second row individual seats slide, recline or fold flat with headrests intact. It starts life at $17,635 (not including $595 destination fee) and earns about 22/27 (manual) in the MPG race.
With Mazda5's sporty genes dominant, one could forget this is a minivan. After all, who ever heard of a roll bar on a minivan?