A stylish people carrier

 
Ryan Borroff
TO move seven people around in comfort, whether on the school run or otherwise, is a challenge. Many car makers these days sell seven-seaters but usually the only people that can comfortably sit in the far rear seats need to be small. Which means most seven-seaters are really 5+2 seaters with room only for kids at the back. They are usually very bus-like which often means they drive like one. Or look like one, or both.

Or you could drive a <a href="http://www.mazda.co.uk/showroom/mazda5/overview/"; target="_blank">Mazda</a> 5 which is Mazda’s seven-seat MPV which neither looks nor drives like a bus. In fact it looks like no other MPV you’ll see and possibly like no other Mazda either. The Mazda 5 looks uncommonly sleek for a car in this segment but the styling will certainly not be to everyone’s taste. It has an unusual wave-like design pressed into its flanks. But this doesn’t matter because you will already be distracted by the insane grin of its oversize front air intake. Pretty it isn’t. But I suggest it’s more interesting than most of its rivals, though I may be in a minority here.

Inside though it’s actually quite clever. Not least because of its fantastically flexible seating. Despite the sleekness of its exterior it’s very roomy. Access is via two sliding doors – one on either side – which prove a pleasure to use and kids in particular seem to love hopping in and out of them. As a five-seater you get a sizeable boot. But you can also lift up the left seat in the middle row and replace the centre seat with a storage container and cupholder tray for a roomy four seat option. This centre seat is then stowed back under the other middle row seat. While for seven seats, the two rearmost seats are pulled up out of the floor of the boot. There is less legroom in the rear but we found it acceptable for smaller adults and certainly kids.

Elsewhere the interior is let down by poor quality plastics particularly on the dash, but the steering wheel is very sporty and the controls intuitive and fantastically simple to use. Driving the car is where one discovers that Mazda has played its masterstroke. The Mazda 5 does not drive like a van at all. It drives like a car and a pretty good one at that. We’re driving the 150PS 2.0-litre petrol version. The ride is firm and the steering light. The car even feels agile in the corners and not bus or boat-like. The gear changes are smooth, not sluggish and though the car is hardly fast, it is particularly comfortable on the motorway and surprisingly quiet too. Unlike some rival systems, the stop/start works well which improves economy and emissions. So overall it’s a very decent seven-seater bus that doesn’t drive like one. It’s just a bit funny looking, that’s all.

THE FACTS:
MAZDA 5

PRICE: £20,650
0-60MPH: 11.0SECS
TOP SPEED: 120MPH
CO2 G/KM: 159G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 40.9MPG

THE VERDICT:
DESIGN
PERFORMANCE
PRACTICALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY