Let's say you're the folks at Mazda, where global demand for the Mazda3 outstrips supply by approximately 100,000 units per year.

Let's say you're the folks at Mazda, where global demand for the Mazda3 outstrips supply by approximately 100,000 units per year. Do you: (a) increase production of the vehicle without adding capacity; (b) shift some buyers into the larger Mazda6; (c) introduce a new vehicle based on the Mazda3 to the market; (or d) all of the above? The answer is "d." Says Weldon Munsey, planning manager for the Mazda5 program: "The Mazda3 drives a huge amount of traffic and sales for the Mazda6, and the Mazda5 puts us in a market segment that's underserved." That market caters to 25–40 year-old couples with young children who are looking for a Multi-Activity Vehicle (MAV) instead of a minivan or SUV." MAVs are a growing segment in Europe that's forecast to quickly exceed 1.0 million units annually, but failed in North America in the early 1990s. Though vehicles like the Nissan Axxess, Mitsubishi Expo LRV and the original Honda Odyssey fit the MAV mold, they were ahead of the curve. "The time is finally right for MAVs in North America," claims Munsey, "because people are looking for a vehicle with space, utility, and driving dynamics they can enjoy at a reasonable cost." And so now there's Mazda's MAV, the Mazda5.

  • Compared to the Mazda3, the Mazda5's wheelbase is up 4.1 in. to 108 in., width remains the same at 69.1 in., overall height increases 6.1 in. to 63.6, and overall length fits neatly between the Mazda3 sedan and 5-door at 177 in. Turning radius is less than 35 ft.
  • The interior measures 142 ft3, which classifies the Mazda5 as a mid-size wagon according to EPA standards, and cargo capacity is a generous 44 ft3 with the second and third-row seats folded flat.
  • The floorpan is stepped, which raises the H-point of the second-row passengers 2.0 in. above those in the front seats. The third row is a further 2.0 in. higher. Mazda claims this reduces car sickness, improves speech legibility for those in the back rows, and gives each row a clear view forward.
  • Mazda engineers spent months lowering friction on the sliding rear doors, and claim they can be opened or closed with one finger. The aperture is 700 mm when the door is fully opened, which is larger than the opening on the larger Mazda MPV. Step-in height is 2.5-in. lower than on the MPV as well.
  • There are six individual seats in the Mazda5, and the center pair slide, fold, and have storage areas under their lower cushions.
  • The drivetrain is pure Mazda3 with a 157-hp 2.3-liter inline four mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
  • Four-wheel disc brakes are used, with 11.8-in. vented rotors up front and 11.9-in. solid rotors in the rear. ABS is standard.
  • The suspension carries over the Mazda3's MacPherson struts in front and the multi-link independent rear setup. Electro-hydraulic power steering is standard.
  • There are two front and two side airbags, plus a set of side curtain airbags standard.
  • Two models are offered, the $17,995 Sport and $18,950 Touring. The equipment difference extends to fog lamps, a rear spoiler, sunroof, body color mirrors, a leather steering wheel, an AM/FM/6-CD sound system, and automatic climate control. A fully loaded Touring with navigation system stickers for $22,410.—CAS