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2006 Mazda5 Road Test (Video Clip)

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In a word: Versatile

Money is tight. The family is growing. Now, the time has come to trade in the 10-year old Miata and Protegé. What should you buy? You obviously love to drive but it is time to face the music and grow up. Where only five years ago, you would have had no choice but to mature, many car builders are offering many interesting alternatives to small families. These choices come in the form of versatile compact mini-wagons and compact crossover-like vehicles. In North America, Mazda is at the forefront of the pack.

For the 2004 model year, Mazda unleashed the 3 on the World. Dynamic,
(Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre,
sporty and flexible, this car does it all. For 2006, Mazda does it again. They have introduced perhaps the most European-influenced product on our roads at the moment. The all-new Mazda5 integrates versatility, driving pleasure on a budget that is certain to please every burgeoning family.

A base 5 GS retails for $19,995. At the top of the chain, an automatic transmission equipped GT has a sticker price of $24,895. I drove GT with the manual transmission. It has an asking price of $23,895.


All of Mazda's recent models, save for the Tribute, are some of the most
(Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre,
eye-catching vehicles on the road. Take the [link artid="32136"]RX-8[/link] or even the Mazda3. These cars are some of the most stylish in their respective segments. It should be no surprise then that Mazda really can make a minivan look cool. Mazda's MPV is the sportiest looking of the bunch of "full-size" minivans on the market and their smallest, the smallest period, is very attractive. The 5 is adorned, in trim, with handsome alloy wheels, a deep front fascia and stylish clear-lensed taillights. The 5's panels are well assembled and the paint application shows very little orange-peel.

(Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre,
The most intriguing aspect about the 5 is the sliding doors. Not since the much loved Nissan Axxess has there been a vehicle this versatile and functional. Access to the second row of seats is easy as apple pie; ingress and egress are a matter of short step-over and in the 5 we find ourselves. Getting to the third row, yes there is a third row of seats in this Mazda3-based automobile, is a little more difficult. Once back there though, legroom and elbow room are tight.

The actual cabin of the 5 is airy and roomy. When looking back through the rear-view mirror, the impression is that the car is humongous. The two first rows of seats benefit from gobs of head and legroom. The seats themselves are comfortable enough however some of my passengers did
(Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre,
complain that the lower cushion was too flat and not supportive. The fit and finish is exemplary as is the selection of material for both the dashboard and the seats.

The ergonomics are great; all controls are within easy reach and simple to operate. My personal favourite is the location of the shifter: it is right at the bottom of the center console. The gap between the steering wheel and the knob is only a few inches and therefore makes shifting a pleasure especially when combined with precise throws and a light-action clutch. Noteworthy is the presence of a small shelve with cup-holders and a net-bag for the second-row passengers that stows neatly under the passenger-side seat.