2008 Mazda5 Followup Review: A Few Months Later

So we have had our 2008 Mazda5 Touring for a few months now and we have put about 3,000 miles on it. Is it still the car we were so excited about? What new things have popped up? What do we love? Overall, we are still very happy with our purchase and it is everything we were looking for in a car. There are a few minor things, but nothing that is not manageable and overall, as a package, it is still a perfect car for our family of 4.

For those who didn’t read this post, we decided a while ago that the Mazda5 was the perfect car for our family. We live in the city of chicago, and thus a small car was a big need. We had a 2002 Toyota Camry and while nice, it was a problem with 2 car seats and a friend: we had to squeeze someone in between the car seats, which is not really comfortable by any means or we had to take 2 cars. Not great, especially in the city. So our needs were small car, seating for 6 albeit only short term, and decent gas mileage. And Rebecca wanted it in blue.

The only cars that really fit the niche in the US market were the Mazda5 and the Kia Rondo. Honestly, we didn’t drive the Kia. I decided I didn’t want a Kia. I know that their quality has improved and everything, but I wasn’t ready for that. Not to mention the Rondo is not that attractive. Not that we are so vain, but I wasn’t feeling the Kia.

So onto the Mazda5. We test drove a 2007 and decided we would wait for the 2008s with the new transmission being the primary thing. We told our dealer we wanted a Stormy Blue Touring with the homelink/dimming mirror, the cargo cover, the all season mats, and the rear bumper cover. Sure I could have perhaps got those on my own for cheaper, it wasn’t much cheaper if at all and it wasn’t worth the hassle.

On January 16th, we picked up our car. We loaded up the car seats and went back to living our normal life.

Fast forward a few months to today…. There are a lot of things we really like. The Mazda5 handles like a car, especially compared to the full size minivan crowd. But it feels much sportier than our Camry did too, which I much prefer. Mind you, my 2 other cars are both modified and have stiffer suspensions and I am an instructor for the Audi Car Club, so I know the difference between ‘sports car’ and ‘touring car’, but I can honestly say the Mazda5 is not a slouch. While I haven’t taken it to the track or autox’ed the car (yet?), I have found that sudden steering inputs like that pop up pothole are actually doable and not scary. Much better than the Camry. WAY better than the Toyota Sienna we rented over the holidays. There have been some complaints that it is a bit firm, but it is by no means offensive. But those complaints come from the crowd coming from the Camry or the Buick scene. You’ll know in a 10 min ride if you can’t handle it.

The space is great for us. The Mazda5 is smaller than the Camry was, so city driving is great. We fit in places the Camry wouldn’t, and we feel more nimble doing so. The interior space is great for our family of 4. We can load up the kids, all their associated gear, and go on our way. We haven’t really filled the back yet. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a cave back there, but it is fine for our needs and the wagon form factor allows up to stack up if needed. We have used the 3rd row more than a few times, and while putting 2 adults back there is a bit of a challenge with the 2 car seats in place, it is doable and my in-laws have both ridden back there without complaint. We wouldn’t want to put them back there and start a 500 mile road trip, but a jaunt around town is fine, and that is exactly what we wanted. There are also reports in the press that the front seat space is though on taller people, but I haven’t found it to be a problem. I am 6-1 and I haven’t had a problem with the seating position.

Surprises… The sliding doors. They are VERY nice with the kids. We have a 1 car garage, which is marginally larger than the car. Having the sliders allows us to load the kids in the car in the garage without a problem. We don’t worry about how close the idiot parked next to us got. They are great. The taillights… I am all for technology, and I am really happy with the light output of the LEDs. Nice and bright. And they look pretty good too. I am still surprised at how it is actually fun to drive in the handling department. I was told by Rebecca that I was not to do any suspension mods, so I’ll have to be happy with the stock setup, and I am ok with it.

Minor dislikes… I would like a little better gas mileage. I haven’t actually calculated our real life mileage yet, so I am going off the EPA MPG rating, but I would always like to see a car in the 30s over the high 20s. So that complaint isn’t really based on ownership per se. Sound level in the car is a tiny bit nosier than I would like on the highway. It isn’t intrusive, but it is present, which is surprising given the low cd of the Mazda5 (0.29). It could be the tires. I can tell the engine isn’t as refined as that of my Audi, not that I am surprised, I am in a different price point, but it is still something I notice. It isn’t super fast, but it is more than adequate for driving with the kids. I leave the aggressive driving for life sans kids anyway, so it is not a problem. We can merge without issue and cruise at traffic +10mph without issue.

Major dislike: I had to get the grand touring to get HIDs. Grr. Bluetooth would have been nice too, but not a major point. But heated seats would have been nice. Being a vegetarian, I refuse to get a leather interior, so that ruled out the Grand Touring package. But heated seats and xenons would have been very nice touches.

I would like to see map lights for the 2nd row. I would like to see a pocket on the back of the driver seat. I would like to see a floor mat retainer clip on the passenger floor mat to match the driver side. Having the sunroof go INTO the roof vs. over it would have been nice, but I imagine that is a concession to head room, of which there is a lot and I would be hard pressed to give that up. Again, HIDs as a standalone option would be nice. The center console seems inefficienetly designed, but I have no idea what is in there, so maybe it isn’t. The door cards have no storage, which is odd, but again, I don’t know what is in there, but I would think that the window motor isn’t that large. Factory tint on the rear would be nice (I’ll add that soon as summer sets in). But those are all minor things that are not a big deal and shouldn’t preclude anyone from considering this car.

So overall… in the few months we have really gotten to know the car and I still enjoy it. It looks great. It performs great. It is a great size for us. I am very happy with the purchase and I have no regrets. Would a turbo MazdaSpeed5 be better? Sure. Would I have bought one for an extra $7,000 or so? Would have been a hard sell, especially with the MPG hit I am sure we would have endured. I already have a turbo car, I don’t need one for the family hauler.

The Mazda5 is a great car in a great size for a great price. It should be considered for any family of 3-4 that thinks they need more space but doesn’t want the size of an SUV or a minivan.

15 Responses
  1. Liz

    Could you please tell me what the handling is like in rain (you haven’t taken it in snow yet, right?). The only thing holding me back is the lack of traction/stabilizing control. I am an excellent swerver with fast reflexes. Can the 5 handle highway speed swerves in the rain or snow?

    We’re trying to decide between the 5 and the Odyssey. Costs twice as much, tons of bells & whistles, but has both traction & stability control.

    Thanks from a fellow Chicagoan.

  2. Page

    Be careful buying a Mazda5 if you are concerned about rain. I had my brand new Mazda 5 for 731 miles when I drove through a large puddle in Tampa during rain. The car died and now I have to buy a new engine ($6000). And no, it’s not that I am an idiot and don’t know to avoid driving through bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, etc. It really was just a large puddle on a major road (other cars ahead of us drove through it without a hitch). Furthermore, my husband spoke with 6 other people at the dealership that also flooded out too easily. They were also stupefied and irate. We all think it’s a major design flaw.

  3. bryan

    Interesting. I have not heard anything about this, nor do I see anything about it on any forums or some google searching. Obviously any internal combustion engine ingesting water is bad. I haven’t actually looked at the air intake, so I am not sure where it pulls air from, but I do know that it is very similar to the Mazda3 and they have sold a lot of those, seemingly without major issues.

    Good luck with yours, sorry to hear about you troubles!

  4. Luke

    Dumb question, but how do you fit the floor mats in the back? That one that is shaped like an elongated “E” makes no sense to me, and I own the darn van! I’ve tried to put it in the 3rd row, but the sides don’t seem to fit under the passenger seats. What am I doing wrong?

  5. bryan

    the rear mat… the E one.. the middle of the E goes in between the second row seats… does that make sense? so it goes under the second row passengers feet and the long middle part on the path to the 3rd row…

  6. Luke

    OK, so it’s an “either or” thing? I also have two stand alone mats for each rear passenger seat. It just seemed redundant to me.

  7. bryan

    there are 2 factory rear mats, they are both the same shape. one is the carpeted one and the other is the all weather one. if you have 2 small ones for the back seat they are not the factory ones. that is to say you can’t use them, they just aren’t the factory ones.

  8. Melissa

    Hi, just wanted you to know that your review and comments about the Mazda 5 sealed the deal for me. I bought a 2008 in July and absolutely love it! We traded our Honda Odyssey for it and I am thrilled to be able to park without trouble. I definitely prefer it to the Odyssey even though it’s not as tricked out.

    1. trust me, I am allowed to mod my own cars, she just doesn’t want her car modded my way. If it were my car, I would think about suspension mods done, exhaust, and perhaps intake. Maybe.

  9. B Crawford

    HI Bryan,
    we are looking at buying this same mini minivan and was wondering if you can tell me any glitches that you have run into?


  10. Brian,

    Just happened upon this site and while reading was like wow, This guy knows where i’m comming from. I am an audi guy. I sold my b5 avant for the mazda5 since I can grow with it and its not a minivan I hate minivans. You won’t catch me driving one. My friends now give me crap about buying this car. Saying why not buy the routon or the toureg or something german. Well I am now getting older and spoiled by what Audi has given me, even older audi’s like my 200 20v avant or the b5’s with auto climate controls heated seats, full power everything.
    I was about to buy a BMW but the prices were all over the place on those and on the e46 325i i was not impressed with the power, seems like the transmission ate up to much torque. the mazda had more get up and go.
    I just picked up my mazda5 this weekend. handles nice compared to anything else in its class and even better then some cars too. It has many options I like. Many companies don’t put stering wheel controls on the wheel or have limited control. Not the 5, volume even a mute which is really nice, cruise control and the speed control is very responsive IMO I can easily just use the +/- on the highway. I would have liked a mutifunction display like mpg and so on but hey i got auto climate controls. These are not easy to come by for some odd reason.
    Audi spoiled me here. I hate always adjusting the temp. in winter you crank the heat next thing you know your roasting then you turn it down then your freezing. The mazda has rear a/c on/off great add on.
    I wish I jad HID’s but hey non of my audi’s had them prior to me having the car, they do now. I am also looking for add ons like blue tooth i know where the plug is but can i just add it? same with auto head lamps maybe i’m getting to lazy here. The noise in the car is a little more then expected. I can hear everything. I am wondering if maybe an undercoating will help, i was thinking of doing this just for rust reasons.
    Brian I would love more feed back on your mazda experience especially since your an audi guy like me. I’m trying to find out more about known issues, and more ownership knwoledge. Its a minivan I don’t see many people joining the forums for one of these like the owner of an URquattro.
    codeyell0@yahoo.com definitly would love to hear from you some time

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