Mazda 5 driven
* Price £17,500 - £21,500 * On sale late autumn * First test of revised MPV...
Mazda has never believed you have to give up on driving enjoyment just because circumstances have forced you into an MPV.
The Mazda 5 compact seven-seater has always tried to put style and dynamics somewhere up the list of priorities. Still, there's always room for improvement, and this autumn there'll be a heavily revised model, although to call it all-new, as Mazda does, is taking liberties.
The platform it's built on and the variable seating layout are largely unchanged. So is the aim of providing functionality with a bit of fun. However, there are more efficient engines and suspension tweaks, plus a bolder look and a more user-friendly dashboard.
This car also becomes the first Mazda with a brake override system. The electronics controlling the brake system always have priority over those working the throttle, to prevent the kind of incidents that gave Toyota so much grief earlier this year.
We'll let you be the judges of the fresh styling that's meant to convey a fluid wave theme. We think the gaping black mouth and the heavily blacked-out rear side and tailgate windows look heavy-handed.
At launch there'll be a new 148bhp 2.0-litre direct-injection petrol engine and a revised 113bhp 1.8, both showing efficiency improvements over the units in the current car. Next year a 108bhp 1.6 diesel will be added.
The 2.0 has stop-start, helping to peg CO2 emissions below 160g/km. It's smooth, it's quiet and it's pretty consistent in performance: the trouble is, it's never really gutsy, partly as a result of the long gearing it has to cope with, so maybe the diesel will be the best bet.
The chassis changes are meant to make the car more consistent in acceleration, steering and braking behaviour, as much to reduce passenger head movements as to enhance driver shenanigans: if your kids get a nice level ride, the theory goes, they'll be less likely to throw up.
By and large it all works, too. This is a pleasant car to drive or travel in, although it's definitely on the stiff side with the 17-inch wheels on the version we tried. We'll have to see how that pans out in the UK.
As for the rest, much of what was good about the 5 sliding rear side doors, flat-folding rear and centre seats, and a reasonable amount of room remain. So do the things that weren't so good, such as the centre mid-row seat which, although now enlarged, is still a slim perch. There's no such thing as the perfect MPV.
What Car? says
Better in some ways; not so in others
Mazda 5Price £17,500-£21,500 (est)
On sale Late autumn
You'll like Improved handling and dashboard
You won't Overgeared and overly firm