FOR many, there comes a time when a family bids a warm welcome to a new addition, and for some it usually means a larger vehicle.
Enter the Mazda5, which is an entry-level multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) with a six-plus-one seating layout.
It’s readily identifiable as an MPV, and there’s always that stigma that it is nothing more than a people mover with some comfort and from little to no engine performance.
With the Mazda5, that stigma gets shelved, thanks to Mazda’s proprietary SkyActiv technology along with some handling performance that tries to attain Jinba-Ittai – a Japanese saying which means “rider and horse as one”.
Its styling cues are very much infused with Mazda’s design DNA – sure it’s just an MPV, but even from a distance it’s readily identifiable with the Japanese brand, thanks to that headlight-to-headlight smile for a front grille.
The sheet metal on the Mazda5 is one that suggests that there’s something sporty to it, attributable to the intricate lines that are made obvious at the front before gently disappearing into the rear haunches and lending some muscularity for some visual appeal.
The Mazda5 doesn’t seem very bulky to begin with, even if the lines weren’t there, but with them, we realised that they do help to visually “shrink” this MPV a little more.
Opening the rear power-sliding doors, a roomier cabin than expected came to sight.
Ideally, it’s meant to ferry six, but with the provision of a karakuri (loosely translated as mechanical) seventh seat, it makes things a little more convenient.
The seventh seat literally folds out from under the left second-row seat’s cushion and what was the centre armrest then folds upward to form the backrest.
In addition, the armrest also folds sideways too for added space to access the third row.
But wait, there’s more! Beneath the right second-row seat’s cushion is a karakuri utility box that allows a large tray with two cup-holders and a net below it to fold out, revealing a 6.3L compartment.
In addition, there are more stowage compartments, which begins with the front passenger’s side instrument panel tray, the front console tray beneath the shift lever panel and the driver’s side instrument panel tray.
The cabin in its entirety is both pleasant and adequately comfortable to be in, with most controls within easy reach and labelled quite legibly.
However, our biggest gripe comes in the form of the matte plastic shift lever panel that does well to “stick out like a sore thumb” by marring the fluid lines of the dashboard with its boxy and plain appearance.
Mazda could have graced it with some refinements to help it fit in, but has instead allowed for it to be alienated, which is an odd rarity – especially when this MPV comes with a RM157,279.40 (OTR with insurance) price-tag.
However, the saving grace for the Mazda5 lies in the way its engine and gearbox respond and the way it handles.
The way a Mazda engine turns over is an exceptionally unique one for a mass-produced vehicle, and might we add, this six-plus-one seater can get moving with urgency when demanded.
The Mazda5’s heart may be the familiar 2.0L SkyActiv-G that’s commonly found in all of Mazda’s stablemates, but the difference here is that its compression ratio is 12:1 instead of 14:1.
We suspect this could be for a more durable set-up, even though power ratings have also been reduced to 146bhp at 6,000rpm and 190Nm of torque at 4,100rpm, versus 159bhp at 6,000rpm and 210Nm of torque at 4,000rpm with a compression ratio of 14:1 in the Mazda3.
Yes, there’s less power, but there’s still the element of potency from its engine to provide a good amount of gusto, but can it handle the corners?
With little fuss is what we stand firm on.
Albeit the Mazda5’s rear does feel light around the bends, but it does exceptionally well to hold the line as an MPV, simply because it’s rear suspension is meant to take on a payload of six more passengers, which requires it to be a little more firmer.
It’s surprising to find an MPV equipped with a direct steering and brake-feel as well as a planted front-end with some progressive understeer to let you know where the limits are, driving pleasure for the Mazda5 is surprisingly good.
The engine simply feels racey even though its screams become obviously audible when it begins to pass the 4,000rpm mark, but it’s here that it feels exceptionally nimble on the road.
We love the fact that the Mazda5 can be fast around the bends, but it’s not just for those who know how to handle a fast car in order to appreciate it.
Instead, we’d rather think of it as a crucial advantage over most other MPVs to help keep the driver in control, while loved ones are seated in the rear, to help avoid any sort of dire circumstances.
Ultimately, it’ll be a fun MPV to own.