The Grand Touring trim level of the Mazda5 features LED tail lamps that are brighter, quicker to illuminate, and longer lasting than the standard incandescent tails. However, we're not really fans of the chrome tail lamp aesthetic, which didn't look great on our dark-colored test model.
Almost every cubic foot of the Mazda5's interior space is devoted to people carrying, which doesn't leave much space for carrying items behind the third-row seat. Fortunately, the second and third rows fold flat in seconds, freeing up a huge space for bulky items.
The Mazda5's interior is plagued by cheap material and what feels like shoddy build quality. While we can understand the use of hard, easy-to-wipe plastics in a kiddie carrier, the dash materials feel brittle and easily breakable.
The steering wheel and instrument cluster are Mazda parts bin pieces and are of substantially higher quality than the rest of the interior, which makes the whole dashboard to the right of the driver look that much worse by comparison. Controls for the voice-commanded Bluetooth hands-free system are also located on the steering wheel.
Power is delivered through a five-speed conventional automatic transmission. The transmission has a sport shift mode activated by moving the shifter to the left from Drive. Shifts are actuated by pulling back to upshift and pushing forward to downshift. We don't really see the point of a sport shift program on an underpowered minivan, as the automatic mode seems to work just fine.
Mazda's touch-screen navigation ranks fairly low on our list of favorite cabin tech interfaces, mostly due to the steep learning curve for getting the most out of the system. Once one is familiarized with the interface's nuances, the system is useful.
Destination entry is takes some getting used to and is at times maddeningly frustrating, but once the system's learning curve is crested, entering an address is a breeze. Point of entry search is another matter altogether. With a limited database of POIs (points of interest) and an even more confusing method of choosing them, point of entry selection never seems to get easier.
One very cool feature of the navigation system is that it offers three routes to the chosen destination: shortest, fastest, and alternate. We most often found ourselves choosing fastest, but those looking to save gas may find themselves choosing shortest. We don't really see the point in the alternate route, nor do we understand how the system goes about choosing it.
Our test Mazda5 Grand Touring came equipped with AM/FM/CD player with MP3 playback capabilities. Satellite radio is available as an option but wasn't equipped on this model. Interestingly, there are two buttons for aux-ins, even though only one could be found, and a button for iPod control, even though such a thing isn't even listed as an option for the Mazda5.
The eighth-of-an-inch auxiliary input is hidden beneath a flip-up panel at the bottom of the center console, next to a 12-volt outlet. Just below that, we can see the toggles for the Mazda5's heated leather seats.
When playing back MP3 files from the CD player, we're presented with ID3 tag information. While we were able to skip back and forth between folders, we were not allowed to browse the folder tree to locate an exact folder or file.
The Mazda5 shares the 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine with the smaller Mazda3. With more vehicle to haul around, the engine feels overtaxed and underpowered. The turbocharged, direct-injected mill from the MazdaSpeed3 would provide adequate acceleration and torque in this application.