We'll leave alone the question of whether the words "efficiently" and "large SUV" belong in the same sentence. It is a fact, however, that buyers who are attracted to the passenger and/or cargo capacity of an SUV may be put off by SUV bulk and SUV fuel consumption. A minivan does the same job more efficiently, but seems to carry a certain social stigma. Station wagons used to do the job, but have now all but disappeared.
So how does the style-conscious consumer transport spouse, children, parents and pets? Urban architects have known the answer for at least a century: Go vertical.
The skyscraper principle applies equally to motor vehicles. Start with a small-sedan chassis for handling, ride comfort, and fuel efficiency. Build the body tall to pack more people and things inside the same footprint. Then give it a clunky-funky look that says "SUV," or at least "SUV crossover," more than "minivan."
Europeans, who have lived with high fuel prices for decades, have been building and buying tall people movers since the 1950s. The Japanese, also, embraced the concept long ago. The idea is still novel in America, but vehicles as good as the Mazda5 just might help it catch on.
The Mazda 5, or Mazda5, is built on the same mechanical platform as the compact Mazda3 sedan. So it weighs less, and even covers a smaller patch of road than, say, Mazda's own mid-size sedan, the Mazda6. But the tall Mazda5 seats six, where even the Maxda6 sedan seats five at best. See how the game is played? And with the back two rows of seats folded, Mazda5 will hold far more than Mazda's own Mazda6 Sport Wagon. And it drives better than either a minivan or an SUV.
All-new last year, Mazda5 was offered in two well-equipped trim levels. Now for '07, Mazda has added the even more deluxe Grand Touring level with leather-trimmed heated seats and xenon High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights. The base Mazda5 Sport starts at $17,635, the mid-level Touring at $19,150. A totally tricked-out Grand Touring, with DVD entertainment, navigation, and Sirius Satellite Radio would still list for less than $26,000. Looked at this way, there's no competition.
The 2007 Mazda 5 is available in three trim levels. All are powered by the same engine, a 153-hp, 2.3-liter inline-4. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Sport and Touring, with a four-speed automatic optional ($900). The automatic is standard on the new Grand Touring model.
Mazda5 Sport ($17,635) comes with air conditioning; power windows and central locking; four-speaker, multi-source stereo; steering wheel-mounted speed and sound controls; inboard armrests on the middle-row seats; four passenger assist grips; and carpeted floor mats. Cruise control, a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, power outside mirrors and a six-way adjustable driver's seat with inboard armrest facilitate driver-to-car interfacing. An attractive and durable-looking fabric covers seats and door panels with seat side bolsters and insets wearing contrasting textures. The standard wheel-and-tire package consists of 205/50 V-rated all-season radials on 17-inch alloy rims.
Options include a power moonroof ($700), an MP3 player/CD changer ($500); and fog lamps ($300). One option package is offered, comprising an in-dash, six-disc CD changer, rear liftgate spoiler, and side sill extensions ($490).
Mazda5 Touring ($19,150) makes the moonroof, in-dash six-CD changer, side sill extensions, liftgate spoiler, and fog lamps standard; and further upgrades to automatic air conditioning, two more speakers for the stereo, leather cover for the steering wheel, and a combination fold-out table and cargo net bin for the center row of seats. Externally, the mirrors turn body-color (instead of black). A combined navigation and tire-pressure monitoring system is optional ($2,000).
New for '07 is Mazda5 Grand Touring ($21,300), which adds leather seats with matching cloth door inserts, heated front seats, and xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with manual leveling. Sharp-eyed observers might spot the GT's exclusive black light bezels, front and rear. Automatic transmission is standard, too, as we previously mentioned; the navigation/tire-pressure monitor is still optional.
Options for all models include several self-dimming inside mirrors with various built-in widgets ($230-300); Sirius Satellite Radio with a six-month subscription ($430); a rear-seat DVD player ($1,200); and pearl paint finish ($200). Additionally, Mazda dealers can install a range of accessories; a cargo net ($40), heavy duty all-weather floor mats ($60), a retractable cargo cover ($150), and wheel locks ($40) are just a few examples.
Safety features that come standard on all models include the required dual-action frontal airbags, plus front seat-mounted side-impact airbags for torso protection, and head-protecting side air curtains for all three rows of seats. Also, every seating position gets a three-point seatbelt and an adjustable head restraint. Be sure your passengers use those seatbelts as they're your first line of defense in a crash. The middle and rear seats have child safety seat anchors (LATCH). Antilock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist also come standard.