Mazda 5

What is it?

This is the new Mazda5, the replacement for an MPV that's done remarkably well for the Japanese company: around 175,000 have found homes in the UK, and one sixth of those this year.

Is it any good?

Well, it's not bad, but let's get to the point: it's not as good as the latest wave of MPVs from Ford, Renault and Volkswagen.

The reason is lack of refinement and quality. We've no doubt the 5 is built to last, like all of Mazda's cars, but the standard of plastics and general cabin ambience are well below those of the new Ford Grand C-Max, Renault Grand Scenic and VW Touran.

But positives include a good, comfy driving position, a composed ride that doesn't succumb to body roll yet smoothes out most roads, and a seat arrangement that's pleasingly flexible - because it's carried over straight from the current car. The boot is huge too - when not filled with seats.

Unfortunately, the two petrol engine choices when it goes on sale in October - a 1.8-litre with 114bhp and a new 148bhp 2.0-litre - feel sluggish and make an unpleasant din while they're slowly reaching the rev limiter. Overtaking is not advised. And from around 40mph there's wind and tyre noise to contend with - plenty.

Should I call the bank manager?

Costing from £17,695 for a TS level car, the Mazda5 is at least reasonably priced to start with. That said, the 114bhp 1.6-litre diesel that turns up in January (which we suggest will be the engine to go for) begins in middle TS2 territory at £20,195. Add £1,300 for Sport spec with the diesel engine, and basically the 5 lands right in Ford Grand C-Max heartland.

Petrol economy isn't too bad on paper (39.2mpg for the 1.8 and 40.9mpg for the 2.0) though the reality will be a good few mpg down. The 1.6-litre diesel, with 54.3mpg, is much better. Specification is alright as well, with air conditioning, cruise control and alloys standard; a TomTom satnav, climate control, 17-inch wheels, electric sliding doors and leather seats are found higher in the range.

Summary

The curved metal work of the Mazda5 has, to our eyes at least, already lost its initial impact. That's not to say it has dated, but ultimately it can't hide the fact that the new 5, though improved over its predecessor markedly, still feels a generation behind the best. The diesel might help matters, but until January at least, we can't really recommend going into a Mazda dealership to satisfy your people carrying needs.

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