In 2006, the Mazda5 was something of a newcomer to the North American market. But vehicles just like it had been around in Europe and Asia for some time.
In fact, the Mazda5 itself had existed in Asia since 1999, where it was known as the Premacy. Built on the same platform as the phenomenally successful Mazda3, by 2006, it was in its third generation, worldwide, and technically known as a "space wagon."
Half econobox and half minivan, it was definitely roomier than your average hatchback, but considerably smaller than conventional minivans such as the Kia Sedona, Hyundai Entourage and Dodge Caravan.
Whatever its designation, the Mazda5 had sliding side doors, a two-stage rear lift-gate, seating for six and provided everything you could ask for in terms of economical, practical transportation.
It immediately outsold and eventually replaced the MPV, Mazda's minivan offering. The fact that it could seat six was a definite plus, although the third row was a little on the snug side - in most cases, this was where kids and pets ended up spending their time. All the seats could be folded down to create a completely flat storage area.
Power was provided by a 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine that developed 157 horsepower at 6,500 rpm. This was the same powerplant found in the Mazda3 hatchback, and you could choose from either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. The shifter was handily located part-way up the centre console - a very European touch. And this was also one of those cases where the engine was versatile enough to manage an autobox with some degree of authority.
Loaded down with passengers and all their gear, the Mazda5 wasn't exactly a powerhouse, but for most applications, it did the job and was an almost instant hit with young families.
Interestingly, the engine also came with a timing chain, as opposed to a timing belt, which meant - theoretically, at least - you wouldn't have to shell out 500 bucks for a new belt two or three years down the road.
It was also reasonably thrifty, although not at the top of the heap: about 10.6 litres/100 km in town and 8.0 on the highway.
The '06 iteration of the Mazda5 came in two versions: GS and GT. Both were well-equipped, with things like power windows, air conditioning, power door locks, CD player, rain-sensing wipers and keyless entry.
The GT model featured larger, 17-inch wheels and tires, heated mirrors, cruise control, power-assisted side doors, power sunroof , and a fold-out accessory table, among other things.
There was also available storage under the second-row seat cushions, which was a nice touch. Gotta put those juice boxes somewhere.
Two safety recalls from Transport Canada to report. The first concerns sliding-side-door mechanisms that can become jammed with ice in sub-zero weather and, as a result, prevent the side doors from closing/locking properly. The second has to do with the rear silencer in the exhaust system, which can overheat and, in a worst-case situation, cause a vehicle fire. Dealers can easily correct both of these glitches.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has these two, and a third warning about aftermarket Thule roof rack kits that may have come with inadequate mounting bolts. Said bolts could break and cause the rack to come loose or fall off the vehicle.
There are some 23 technical service bulletins on file with NHTSA as well, and they cover a range of issues. Some of the more noteworthy items involve "unstable" idling or stalling due to carbon buildup in the fuel injection system, power steering fluid leakage (this also applies to the same vintage of Mazda3), unco-operative keyless entry and warning chimes, malfunctioning dashboard indicator lights, and engine vibration and knocking at low speeds. An unusually large number of heating and cooling issues seem to afflict this year of the Mazda5.
It gets an "average" used-car verdict from Consumer Reports magazine, with the brakes, paint and trim, body integrity/hardware and, especially, the suspension, all coming in for criticism from this organization.
Things get a little better in 2007 and much better by 2008, by which time the Mazda5 garners a "much better than average" rating from the magazine.
The vehicle gets mostly average or below marks from market research firm J.D. Power. As far as it is concerned, there's nothing particularly noteworthy or special about the first year of the Mazda5, and overall dependability seems to be below average.
There seems to be about a $1,300 difference between the GT and GS models, but prices for a three-year-old Mazda5 are in the $11,000 to $16,000 range, depending upon equipment level. Either way, it's held its value quite well.
Type: Compact minivan
Original Base Price: $19,995; Black Book Value: $14,675-$15,975; Red Book Value: $11,800-$13,150
Engine: 2.3-litre, four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 157 hp/148 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed manual/four-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.6 city/8.0 highway (automatic transmission); regular gas
Alternatives: Kia Sedona, Hyundai Entourage, Dodge Caravan, Pontiac Montana, Saturn Relay, Ford Freestar