Mazda5, a MAV for all seasons
The words glamour and Multi-Purpose Vehicle could never be put in the same sentence, but Mazda's latest offering is an improvement says Campbell Spray
The MPV name has never had much glamour attached to it. Multi-Purpose Vehicle conjures up the image of lots of sticky children being squeezed in beside bags of shopping while SUV or Sports Utility Vehicle leaves an impression of drives across frozen tundra or pulling a boat out of a forest lake. The latter are of course my bêtes -noires as they were more likely to be blocking a pavement or cycle lane in Dublin's Ranelagh than being anywhere near Cavan's Lough Sheeling.
The MPV was the car for school runs, picking up the sofa from IKEA and taking little PJ and his five friends to the zoo for a birthday treat.
On the whole looks were the least of the worries, practicality and accessibility meant everything. The designers spent their times ensuring seats would fold into floors or come out completely rather than any attempt at aesthetics or streamlining. The Ford S-Max was almost the first MPV to make some appeal to the heart as much as the tape measure. Even the smaller or so called "Compact MPVs" didn't fare much better. And even in these there was a constant battle between space for passengers and luggage.
In the MPV segment the Mazda5 has always punched above the marque's overall presence in the national car park. Now the range has been substantially refreshed although the company insists on calling this MPV a Multi Activity Vehicle (MAV). This might sound bit more appealing but it is still a versatile box-like seven seater. Priced from €24,995, before all the crazy dealer-related charges, and equipped with a new low-emissions diesel engine, the new Mazda5 hopes to build on the success of the previous model which sold more than 500,000 units. The company claims it was the first to introduce rear sliding doors (perfect for those tight car park spaces) on to a car in this segment. This has been followed up by many other manufacturers. It is definitely more convenient but I'm not sure if there aren't some safety concerns about passengers -- especially children getting straight out on to a road.
The loading capabilities are extremely good. Second and third row seats can be easily folded into a variety of seating configurations with Mazda's clever Karakuri seating system, including a flat 1,485 litre space for transporting bulky items. Users will also enjoy the 45 storage compartments and power sliding doors on the Sport model. The last row of seats is really only for children or people much smaller and more nimble than I.
The introduction of a 1.6-litre (115ps) diesel engine gives a 13 per cent improvement in CO2 emissions and drops the Mazda5 into Road Tax Band B (€156). Combined fuel economy of 5.2L/100kms (54mpg) marks a 15 per cent improvement from the previous model's 2.0-litre diesel engine, whilst the six-speed gearbox makes for more refined motorway cruising.
The range-topping Sport model at pence under €30,000 includes leather seats, 17" alloys, power sliding doors and heated seats. The specs of the overall range is very high. The Mazda5 is a great improvement on its predecessor and seems to have got some of the good looks from the S-Max of its parent company. It also has some of the best driving characteristics of its segment and is amazingly easy to manoeuvre. It feels very well built and the reliability should be very good.
It still rather resembles Portakabin on wheels but even that is an improvement on some of its competitors although some, like the Peugeot 5008, have gone on the crossover route to become more appealing. The Mazda5 isn't for me and I didn't make the best use of it over my week with it. But I know many a family who would. The marque is often overlooked. It shouldn't be.