The engine makes just four horsepower more than the previous 2.3-liter engine, but it produces 15 more pound-feet of torque at a lower peak, so it should feel considerably more responsive in combination with the new Sequential Valve Timing system and Variable Induction System, meant to boost low- and mid-rev response.
The steering and suspension of the Mazda5 is very carlike--based on the Mazda3 small-car family--so it handles much better than most people-movers and utility vehicles. That's thanks in part to Mazda's electric hydraulic steering system, which uses a hydraulic setup combined with an electric power-steering pump. This year's new model has stiffer springs and an even more direct steering feel.
Inside, the Mazda5 has seating for six, in three rows. The two front seats are bucket seats with armrests; the second row has captain's chairs that slide and recline, and can also be folded flat for long cargo; and the third row is a two-place bench, split 50/50. It can be tipped forward and folded flat for an expanded cargo floor. The second and third rows are easy to get to through sliding side doors that, Mazda says, can be operated with one finger.
The Mazda5 has an impressive set of safety features, including electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, front side airbags, and side-curtain bags that protect all occupants. A new brake-override system automatically cancels throttle input if the driver also steps on the brake.
Sport models include air conditioning; power windows, mirrors and locks; a tilt/telescopic steering wheel; steering-wheel audio controls; a 6-speaker sound system; cruise control; remote keyless entry; and 16-inch alloy wheels. Touring models add some appearance and tech extras, including a rear spoiler, side-sill extensions, fog lamps, leather steering-wheel and shift-knob trim, a trip computer, a Bluetooth hands-free interface and larger 17-inch alloy wheels. At the top of the line, the Grand Touring adds xenon HID headlamps, leather upholstery, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, a 6-CD changer and Sirius satellite radio.
A moonroof and sound-system upgrade are the only major options on the Mazda5, though a DVD entertainment system will be offered.