Jun 07 2010

Test drove a Mazda5


We found an ’07 Mazda5 on craigslist and it only had 47,000 miles on it. The asking price was around $10k. Sounded good. The Mazda5 is a one-of-a-kind sorta car — it’s like a station wagon with van elements. We hadn’t seen one up close yet.

It seats six (three rows of two people), the third row folds flat and the second row folds in half to be at the same level as the third row, so you could put some stuff on top if you wanted. Not sure about the load limits.

The passenger doors are actually sliding doors, which is where the van-esque factor comes into play. These doors are not power-operated (at least, not this model) and they were heavy. Some models of Honda vans have doors where they will easily spring back open if your hand is still in the way (or a small child is passing through). Not this one.

I had an extensive checklist to tick off before we did a test-drive. Most things I was seeking came from info from this article. I had a few additional items, such as measuring car seat dimensions. Yes, I brought a tape measure!

With the third row in use, the depth of the storage bay was only around 13″, and about 45″ wide. Yikes.

But if you just have two people in the second row, your cargo space is bigger than a good-sized trunk.

If you had two rear-facing car seats in the middle row, I don’t see how you could get to the third row without climbing through the tailgate. The car seat would certainly touch the back of the front row seats (and my measurements made it seem just as cramped, if not more so, than in the back seat of my itty bitty Ford Focus!).

If there was a forward-facing car seat, you could sort of walk down the center aisle to the third row. If no car seat, you could flip the seat forward.

Some red flags for this person’s vehicle:

This car/wagon/whatever didn’t look ready for a sale. It was dirty. The inside was dirty and cluttered. There were some stains on the upholstery and even on the ceiling (?). Under the hood, I was shocked at how filthy it was. The fluid reservoirs looked low. The oil didn’t look clear.

The owner said this was a garaged car, but it looked worse than my never-garaged car. And my car is one year older.

The owner did not have maintenance records. I just didn’t trust that it was regularly serviced — and while a Carfax could reveal that perhaps it was, I didn’t feel like taking the next step and purchasing a report.

Also, this man was the second owner. He said the dealer told him that the previous owner had been in a fender-bender, and scratches were still evident on the rear bumper. Great.

Shane took it for a quick drive, and then it was my turn. I did a few laps in the parking lot where we were at first, to familiarize myself with how it handled. I did some semi-tight corners (nothing crazy) and a few heavy accelerations and some hard stops. I was NOT pleased.

The acceleration was far from the “zoom zoom” that Mazda promises. Granted, the Mazda5 is a four-cyl., but so is my Focus and I feel like it had better pickup than that.

Why do I want a car with decent acceleration? Short highway on-ramps. Stuff like that. Put a few other people in the car and maybe some stuff, and it’s going to be even wimpier.

The brakes felt soft to me. I didn’t stomp on them with full force, but it just didn’t respond like I think it should.

Now — these observations don’t necessarily mean all Mazda5s are like this. I think it could be this guy’s, since like I said, I just don’t feel like it was extremely well maintained.

I also didn’t feel like I had a good sense of where the car’s boundaries were. I wasn’t comfortable enough with it to take it out on the busy road, so I decided to end my test right there.

I wasn’t wowed by what I saw, but I do think this vehicle could appeal to some families of 4.

Overall, this isn’t the vehicle for us. I’m starting to wonder if a regular mini-van is a bit much for a family with just two small kids. Maybe a better option would be just a vehicle that is roomy enough for three kids? And isn’t so cramped?

One thing we did discuss was if we had a smaller vehicle, we wouldn’t need to haul around gobs of gear on a regular basis. If we were taking a big road trip and had luggage and gear and whatnot, we might be better suited to just rent a van for that time instead of having one full-time.

12 Responses to “Test drove a Mazda5”

  1. We looked at that car and we didn’t buy it because it won’t fit 6 people comfortably. If you plan on keeping this car until it dies, your older children will be very cramped in the back. We had our then 12 year old twins sit in the back and they were cramped. Looks nice but if you are going to have more than 2 children you will need a bigger car. Keep looking. I have a minivan and I hope to buy a used Honda Odyssey when my 11yo dies. Here’s to wishing.

  2. Sorry this didn’t work out, but sometimes you have to look through a lot of not-so-right ones to find just the right one for you. My husband and I car shopped for several months (online) to find just the right vehicles for us at the right price. When you plan on keeping a vehicle for a long time and want to pay a good price for quality, it really is worth the effort to find just what you want.

    One of the things I really like about your approach to spending money, is that you have a very systematic and logical approach to spending it, esp on big ticket stuff. Very helpful, thank you!
    .-= Trixie´s last blog ..Our Severe Weather Emergency Kit =-.

  3. I think you are doing a great job really thinking about if you need a van. We did the same thing after we had #2. For us it made sense. We are taking a trip this summer & looked at flying and renting a van for the week vs driving our van there (long trip.) The cost of renting the van was incredible. It would have been close to or more than the airfare for the 4 of us. So it might be worth thinking about how often you’d be wanting to rent a van for trips & the price.
    Good luck finding the car for you!
    .-= Heather G´s last blog ..Done for love =-.

  4. I haven’t tried it yet, but I just think flying with a baby or toddler (or both) sounds like a huge hassle. Driving for a long trip sounds a little easier since you don’t have to deal with getting through security, delays, luggage requirements (and keeping that cheap)…so yeah. I’m not a fan of flying anymore.

    We’d probably only rent a bigger vehicle once every year or two, but I dunno.

  5. Just thinking, you might want to go to a dealer just to test drive some of the vehicles that you are thinking about. I know that it might not be the same year that you would end up with but it would give you an idea of the general size and everything. Don’t get frustrated after trying out a car just think of it as getting closer to the “ONE” that you want! Good luck!

  6. Have you thought about a used Volvo wagon? There are lots in our area (Providence/Boston) in the $7500-10,000 range that are well-maintained and very spacious. They last pretty near forever too.

  7. I have to echo Tasha’s recommendation on Volvos. You can’t get much safer than that, and they aren’t cramped at all. Station wagons are great for hauling things, if that’s something you need to have in a car, and any 5-person car that is relatively roomy in the back should be great for a 4-person family. My parents main car was actually a four-door Volkswagen Rabbit until I was in junior high and they got a Jetta. The four of us took a lot of road trips in those cars! I’m pretty sure most sedan’s are bigger in the backseat than a Focus is. Just think that with a van, you have 3 extra seats that you will only be using if you cart around other kids or lots of stuff. Otherwise they sit empty, and you’re paying for gas to drag that behind you. That is the main issue that I would have owning a minivan — the gas they guzzle — although I’m sure you’ve accounted for that in your budget. They aren’t kind to the bank account. Whenever I visit my parents, they always lend me their Toyota Sienna to drive around, and although I’m sure it’s better than many other cars, I get sad at the gas pump (I’m so used to the 10-gallon tank in my little car, but I’m pretty sure even my really old Volvo from college got better gas mileage than that van gets). They like it to haul things around, but they very rarely fill it with more than 4 people.
    .-= Bethany B-A´s last blog ..Fake Bacon =-.

  8. We are a family of 4 (the kids are 2 and 4) and we decided to go for the minivan when #2 was born because we do go on long trips and need various things like a pack-n-play and stroller, etc, so the minivan makes sense to us and we love it. It is also nice to easily fit other people in there (comfortably) like the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Just decide what you are going to use it for and if it makes sense for you to have a minivan, then go for it!
    .-= Promises Fulfilled´s last blog ..Getting Organized: Laundry Week 1 Review =-.

  9. Last summer, we were forced to look for a new vehicle that would serve as our primary family vehicle due to the untimely demise of our family car. We currently have two children (ages 1 and 3) and consider it highly likely that we will have another one, maybe two. Like, you, we decided to shop for a car that would suit our growing family. My husband was not sold on owning a minivan. Our first trip out, we test drove the Mazda5. The salesman was trying to sell us a new one until we made it clear we were only in the market for a used car. We liked the feel of the car all right, but our concern was similar to yours involving the carseats and being able to access the back row. My sister has an SUV with third row seating, and like you said, you can only get into the back row through the tailgate if you have carseats in the middle row. (I know this from personal experience!!) For that reason, I talked my husband out of any 6-7-passenger SUVs or crossover vehicles. We did end up getting a good deal on an Odyssey from the dealer– 2003 with 61,000 for around $11,000 I think. And we love it! Lots of space and it makes traveling so much easier since we often travel long distances to visit family and have to take along a lot of things like strollers, pack-N-play, etc.

    I really hope we don’t have to buy another car for a long time because I will agree with you that it’s such a pain!

  10. Buying a car is so hard! I feel for you! However it really sounds like you have your head on straight! I can’t agree with you more on the research aspect. My hubs and I researched and researched. We were able to get amazing deals on both of our cars. So taking the time is really worth it!

    I did want to encourage you about the van. I have two kiddos, and we went the way of the van when number 2 was born and have NEVER regretted it. There are just a couple things to really think about with regard to a van, especially if you are going to keep it until it dies. First of all, I realize right now that it may not seem like you need the space if the 4 of you can fit in a smaller car, but those kiddos don’t stay small for long. Think of this, if you are planning on getting say 8 to 10 years out of this new car, Johnny will be 9+ years old at the end of the van’s life. As soon as he hits kindergarten the playdates will begin. How will you fit your two kids and a friend or two comfortably in your car? And wait until they both are trying to have friends over at the same time! You and 4 kids, plus booster seats until they’re big enough and backpacks and whatever else they are lugging. Sometimes even a van seems small! LOL! And how about things like boy scouts or girl scouts? Or birthday parties where you want to carpool with another mom so you don’t have to travel both ways. These are VERY real scenarios that you will be dealing with in about 5 years. And I didn’t even mention the sports aspect! If your child chooses something like hockey…there will never be enough space. And in some places, like where I live, they start hockey leagues in 3th grade!!! That’s 8 years old. If you only have room for 4 people you will find yourself frustrated at times.

    And I know that it would seem easier to just rent a van when it comes to vacations…but boy are they expensive to rent. Sure you can get some deals here and there…but traveling in your own vehicle is so much nicer. We so love traveling now in our van, we don’t really consider flying any more. Our last trip to Florida from New Jersey was GREAT!

    One last thing, then I’ll shut up. Because my kids are getting older…hitting the teens this year (pray for me!) I was thinking maybe I’d switch to something like the Honda Pilot (both of our current cars are Hondas…the Odyssey and the CRV, we LOVE them) I was thinking that maybe a van wasn’t needed any more. And besides, the Pilot has the 3rd row. Yeah. Have you ever sat in that 3rd row? It was like sitting on a bench! No comfort!! There is no way I could stick my kids and/or their friends back there for a ride more than 30 minutes. And when your kids are in travel sports leagues sometimes you go further than 30 minutes to get to a game. I know with swim team we sometimes drove an hour or more away…that was when my kid was 7!

    So don’t forgo the van idea just yet. I think if you are patient you can get a GREAT one at a FABULOUS price. They are so worth it!

    Oh and one more thing, you were talking about camping…a van would so fit everything!!!

    Best of luck on your continued search! Sorry this was so long :(

  11. Tammy — Thanks for your response! Don’t feel like you have to limit the length of your comments.

    You make great points about how a van will be useful as my kids get over and more involved with outside activities.

    And I agree, a lot of third row seats are incredibly uncomfortable. Fine for a quick trip around town, but I feel like if I wouldn’t be comfortable for long there, why should I expect someone else to tough it out?

  12. As far as renting a van, it isn’t as easy as you think. We tried to rent one last summer when we were going on a long vacation and our van was on it’s last leg. Minivans are hard to find to rent and they are expensive. I never once saw a deal on one. We were not able to find one to rent that wasn’t going to cost us well over $1000 for the 9 days we needed it.

    Another thought – are you looking for a second car or to replace the one you already have? And what are your plans for having more kids? If you want a large family then it would be best to just get a minivan rather than another small car only to have to replace it in a couple of years. Most cars will not accomodate 3 carseats unless it is rather large.

    Another thought, do you have family visit you often that will need to ride with you? A minivan would be better for that. We ended up with an 8 passenger Sienna (we have 4 kids) and we love, love, love it! So glad we got it.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Life lessons learned the hard way =-.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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