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The Mazda5 Is the Greatest Minivan Nobody Bought

It’s been nearly 15 years since the Mazda5 first went on sale, as it was originally released in late 2005 for the 2006 model year. The Mazda5 was eventually sold for two generations, and it lasted through the 2015 model year, but it never really caught on with American consumers. I think that’s a shame.

First, let’s go through an overview of what the Mazda5 was. It was effectively a smaller minivan, a seven-eighths size Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna for people who just didn’t need all that space and all that engine power. The Mazda5 seated six people with 2-2-2 seating, or two seats in each of three rows. The original Mazda5 used a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder, and later ones used a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, with horsepower always right around 160.

Obviously, that power figure is well shy of the 230-plus horses in vans like the Odyssey and the Sienna, but the Mazda5’s smaller size made it acceptable. The 2006 Mazda5 was only 181.5 inches long, nearly two feet shorter than the 2006 Odyssey, and it weighed less than 3,400 pounds — an entire half ton less than the Odyssey. The Mazda5 also benefited from fuel economy gains over the Odyssey, adding 4 mpg in the city and 1 mpg on the highway due to its smaller size and smaller engine.

So why didn’t the Mazda5 catch on? Simple: it just wasn’t necessary. In Europe, where fuel prices are higher and distances are smaller and parking spaces are smaller and cities are narrower, smaller minivans like the Mazda5 are a success — but in North America, consumers just don’t have to worry that much about those things. If they can get a big minivan, they will — and they do. The smaller Mazda5 just didn’t have a place here.

But I like the idea of it — a smaller minivan for families who don’t quite need or want the enormity of a massive van. I also like that it felt nimble, it was priced well (the base price in 2015 was around $22,000, versus $30,000 for the Odyssey), and you could even get it with a manual transmission. It was a cool van, and a neat idea — and it’s a shame it didn’t take off.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. The minivan no one bought? More like a mini mini van. It doesn’t have nearly the cargo capacity of a true minivan. It’s closer to a full size station wagon with sliding doors. So if you were in the market for. Minivan. You probably wouldn’t be happy with a massage 5. At least that’s how I see it.

  2. heh I bought one new in 2011, with a manual trans.  Loved it, but about 2 years later moved to Houston where an auto transmission is a necessity so traded it on a 2011 Town and Country.  Still miss the 5er though, really wish somebody made a similarly sized/packaged EV (looking at you VW.  Mach scnhell mit dem ID Buzz!!!). 

  3. Minivans are the new station wagons, Someday when Crossovers become the new Minivans enthusiasts will seek out minivans…

    Minivans do make perfect sleepers though, No one will see it coming when a soccer mom mobile suddenly smokes you with the roar of an LS engine.
  4. We evaluated this at one time, and found the interior quality inferior to the Honda.  I don’t recall accurately, but feel like the doors wouldn’t open remotely(sliding), could be wrong. It was TINY in the way back, and for a couple grand more, you could get a full size.  Just didn’t have a great value proposition. 

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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