So while we haven’t signed anything, I think we are buying a new car. We are going to sell the 2002 Toyota Camry that rebecca drives daily and replace it with a 2008 Mazda5.
The camry has been a great car overall. Although it is a bit wide and long, it has nice space in the back seat for the kids and their car seats. It has a nice sized trunk. While I think it is nearly mind numbing to drive, the ride is smooth, gas mileage is great (especially on the highway), and there is enough power to get around. Handling is crap, although it is a bit better since I replaced the stock Bridgestone Potenza RE92s with General UHPs. It would be nice to have an aux in on the stereo for the iPods, but whatever. The problem the camry has is that if we want to go out with 1 other person, we have to take 2 cars, and that is annoying. The 2 car seats in the back take up the entire backseat. The camry otherwise has the space we need to get around and really has been a great car. Aside from oil changes and the like, we have done nothing. And aside from petty vandalism (rock thrown at the car, odd dent on the trunk that appeared, and the keying of the passenger side) it is in amazing shape.
The Mazda5 is a car that has low sales, gets poor reviews because journalists can’t put it in a box, and is pretty much the perfect car for us. Although common in both europe and japan amongst others, the concept of a mini-minivan, or MPV, is not popular here. The Mazda5 is a 6 seater (although it is 7 in japan/europe) in a 2+2+2 arrangement. The 3rd row, albeit tight, can hold an adult for shorter trips. With the 3rd row up, you have virtually no trunk, but that is ok. I am not planning on bringing 6 people on a road trip, just on in town jaunts, etc. Think of it as a Mazda3 (the platform on which the Mazda5 is based and shares most components) where you can trade the trunk for 2 seats. The Mazda3 link is really the other major selling point: this is a car. It is not an SUV, or a minivan, or a hybrid. It is a station wagon with sliding doors and perhaps an identity problem. The weight is in check at 3475lbs. It is shorter then the camry by a noticeable amount, and only a bit longer than my Audi A4 wagon or my mother in laws Acura TSX. It is not lifted off the ground like an SUV. It is nimble (enough) and driving it is much more fun than the camry. Sure, it isn’t an autox car, although I might give it a shot sometime.
While we decided it might be a good car for us, and we had taken an hour long testdrive, I called around and found one to rent for the weekend last friday. We picked the black touring model up from hertz friday night and put about 250-300 miles on it over the weekend. We put the car seats in, we took trips to the store with the kids, ourselves, and other adults. We made older people sit in the way back. We carried larger items that wouldn’t have fit in the other cars easily along with our double stroller, gear, etc. I pushed it on the highway, I blared the stereo, I played with all the buttons, settings, etc. I put the clock in 24hour mode (yay!).
Conclusion: This is a great car for us. We don’t want the SUV thing because they are absurd on so many levels, not the least of which is WE LIVE IN THE CITY. Everything around us is paved. Why give up handling and fuel economy for the visual allure of off road capability? Especially when that rarely comes with the added benefit of more interior space? It is sportier than the camry while still offering a more efficient interior layout for our needs. It can carry more with the 3rd row folded than the camry, and it can carry 4 adults as well as the 2 kids with relative ease. There is even some modding potential if I can talk rebecca into it, as the Mazda3-Mazda5 connection brings with it some aftermarket support. And, optioned out as we want it, MSRP is $22,610. The only thing we are leaving on the table is the “Grand Touring” trim, which adds leather interior, bluetooth handsfree, headed seats/mirrors, rain sensing wipers (I still don’t get this, but I digress), and xenons. While I REALLY want factory xenons, and heated seats and bluetooth would be cool, I WILL NOT buy a leather interior. I ordered cloth in the Audi, and I would rather retro fit xenons as needed then have leather.
The 2008 Mazda5 gets a suite of minor upgrades, but the large plus is the addition of a 5 speed automatic replacing the 4 speed that is currently in the car, and that in and of itself is worth the wait, even though they are dealing on 2007s right now. The 2008 also gets the aux input for the iPods, which is nice too.
It also works out that the dealership my parents have bought 5 cars from in the last 10 years happens to sell Mazdas, and since my sister is replacing HER car, we have a bit of leverage for a good price. I need to get an order in for a blue one, as this will be rebecca’s first NEW car for herself, and that is the color she wants. I am already thinking about snow tires, lowering springs, relay modding, rims, tint, and a few hard wiring projects for the navigation and the V1.
While I can’t figure out exactly why the american population hasn’t embraced this market segment, I have to remind myself that I don’t understand why the average american does most of what they do, so why I would think I could understand this is beyond me. But I am glad I have the opportunity. And needless to say I’ll post some pics when we take delivery.