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.