The 2014 Mazda5 rides atop a platform not much larger than those of most midsize sedans, but with an amazingly versatile interior. Minivan-like sliding side doors make entry and exit so much easier, not to mention access to the third-row seat, and the fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine will definitely go easy on your wallet. The Mazda5's sleek styling also helps it get noticed, with deep grooves cut into the side sheet metal and a wide-mouthed grille that makes the Mazda5 look as though it's grinning all the time.

Mazda has wisely avoided many of the add-ons that have turned most minivans into very expensive, very large rolling luxury wagons, so you won't find an options sheet with a V6 engine or power-operated side doors. You also won't find a power lift gate, a high-end audio system or power folding rear seats. The benefit of leaving these options off the table is a price point that starts at around $21,000 for the Sport trim and tops out around $27,000 for a fully loaded Grand Touring with everything tossed in. Try doing that with a Nissan Quest or Honda Odyssey.

What's New for 2014?

Other than a new color, there are no major changes or updates to the 2014 Mazda5.

What We Like

Sliding side doors for ease of entry; good fuel economy; clever use of interior space; great handling

What We Don't

Engine not terribly powerful; no navigation or backup camera option; no second-row bench seat option

How Much?

$20,935-$27,000

Fuel Economy

The Mazda5's 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is rated at 157 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy estimates are 22 miles per gallon city/28 mpg highway. This being a Mazda, there is also the option of a 6-speed manual transmission, but only on the base Sport model and with no added advantage in fuel economy at 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The Mazda5 comes in three well-equipped trims: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. Only the Sport comes with a 6-speed manual transmission; the others come standard with a 5-speed automatic.

The Mazda5 Sport ($20,935) includes a 6-speed manual transmission, 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels, power door locks and windows with a driver's side 1-touch up/down feature, power mirrors, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, air conditioning with a pollen filter, an AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system with six speakers, auxiliary audio input and USB connection ports, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, a remote keyless entry system and 50/50-split fold-flat third-row seats.

The Mazda5 Touring ($23,065) brings a 5-speed automatic transmission, 17-in aluminum alloy wheels, sport side-sill extensions, a rear lift gate spoiler, fog lamps, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio connectivity, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rear backup sensors and a trip computer.

The Mazda5 Grand Touring ($25,465) adds a power moonroof, leather-trimmed seats with heated front-row seats, driver's seat lumbar support adjustment, HID headlights, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, Sirius Satellite Radio with a complimentary 4-month subscription and an anti-theft alarm system.

Options are limited to an automatic transmission for the Sport trim and a moonroof and audio package on the Touring model. Standalone options include remote start, a DVD entertainment system and satellite radio.

Safety

Mazda equips every Mazda5 with a set of front-seat side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags covering all three rows. Driver control is enhanced via the standard anti-lock braking system, electronic traction control and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Traction control helps eliminate wheel slippage on snow and ice, while DSC can help the driver regain control when the car skids from its intended path.

Currently, there is no crash-test data for the Mazda5.

Behind the Wheel

With its stiff suspension and taut steering, the Mazda5 is a joy to drive. It rounds corners with the grace of a lithe sport sedan, albeit not nearly as fast. We found the ride pleasant, although it can get choppy over rough pavement or when encountering numerous expansion joints. We credit the Touring's 17-in tires for the great handling as well as the somewhat firm ride. Interior noise levels are a bit higher than we'd expect in this type of vehicle, but not annoyingly so (unless you're trying to use the Bluetooth). You might think the Mazda5 is a tad underpowered. But this engine has a healthy dose of low-end torque, and the attached 5-speed automatic transmission does a great job of milking every drop of power when it's needed most.

Other Cars to Consider

Toyota RAV4 -- The RAV4 offers the same 3-row seating and low price as the Mazda5, but it can be equipped with AWD and offers better audio, navigation and communication options.

Dodge Grand Caravan -- The base Grand Caravan is priced similarly to the Mazda5, but it has a much larger interior and a V6 engine, plus more available features.

Dodge Journey -- The Journey may not have the Mazda5's sliding side doors and 28-mpg fuel economy rating, but it does have more interior room, a lower base price and optional all-wheel drive.

AutoTrader's Advice

We'd opt for the top-of-the-line Grand Touring version of the Mazda5. Sure, it costs more, but at just a shade over $25,000 it's still less expensive than most well-equipped sedans and comes with such necessary features as heated side mirrors, leather seating, driver's seat lumbar support and HID headlamps. We think that's a pretty good deal.

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