pheller UltimaDork
7/27/22 1:54 p.m.

Our family has grown to four, we welcomed a new baby girl on July 5th. 

She'll join our 4.5 year old in the back seat of a family hauler.

Current lineup is 2010 Prius (beater), 2012 Honda Fit (her pride and joy because of color and size), and a 2006 Toyota Tundra crew-cab. 

We're thinking of ditching the Prius for a Mazda 5. 2012-2015 specifically. Likely automatic. 

It's one of the few minivans with sliding doors that my wife actually likes. She thinks many traditional vans are too big. She likes that the Mazda 5 resembles her Honda Fit. It can also haul 6 which would be nice for family visits. 

Looking through threads on GRM about this car shows the following potential faults:


From user Uncle David about his 2009:

"Reliability was not its forte'. It ate brakes and shocks and struts, the right sliding door jammed, the exhaust was dead after 7 years (I've found that most newer cars have nearly lifetime exhaust systems), the A/C died, it started to develop some rust spots in body panels, which is pretty much unheard of these days in my corner of the Mid-Atlantic, and most concerning, it developed excessive negative camber at the rear, apparently because of a weak structure. The 5 shares a platform with some Fords and Volvos, and the negative camber is common enough that adjustable links are sold to deal with it. "

Other potential issues: underpowered for our mountain west trips. We agree that the Fit and Prius both feel sluggish and you've got to ring them out in order to get up the hill with the flow of traffic. It'd be nice to be able to do some bolt-ons or just a tune and get a little more pep, but I doubt I'd ever go as far as doing a turbo swap. 

The only other minivan we're interested in is the Toyota Sienna Hybrid which I can't find for less than $30k. We really don't drive enough to warrant a new vehicle, or even a $30k vehicle.

Thoughts comments concerns?

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
7/27/22 2:17 p.m.

We have one, a 2010. It's a fun little van and my wife likes it for the same reasons you are looking at them.

They are not particularly durable or rustproof. I did shocks, struts, control arms, and exhaust before 100k. Not a big deal to me because parts are cheap and they are easy to work on for all that stuff. But still, I've replaced stuff that a lot of cars don't need until they are 20 years old.

Fwiw, ours has lived its life on salty and pot-holed Midwest roads. Definitely don't buy one that's been around salty winters if you want to keep it for awhile. The 2nd gen might have been better in that regard but I'm not sure.

The automatic trans is very good. The 2.3 doesn't have much extra power when loaded with kids, luggage, and stuff. I could see it being annoying on a mountain trip.

Not much room in the 3rd row. I wouldn't want to deal with a car seat back there. There is not much luggage space with the 3rd row up either. With two kids to haul around, its perfect.

Javelin GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/27/22 2:30 p.m.


FYI - There's no LATCH anchors in the 3rd row and Mazda does not recommend using that row for any car seat besides a booster.

2nd Gens with the 2.5 have a noticeable power bump, though they still are underpowered with a full load.

Suspension is a wear item (front LCA's, rear camber arms, struts, and endlinks) but parts are cheap and easy to change.

Get one from a non-salty area and you won't have any of the other issues.

I found 2 kids was great with a Mazda5 and loved both of mine dearly.


AMiataCalledSteve Reader
7/27/22 2:37 p.m.

I know you said your wife doesn't like them, but have you considered vans from a similar vintage as the Mazda5? If you want a van, just get a van, and a 10 year old Sienna won't be 30k. They're reliable, decently powerful, supremely comfortable, efficient enough, and incomparably practical. If you don't want a van, it sounds like you already have several cars that can hold four comfortably. Are you just looking for a car with sliding doors?

rob_lewis UberDork
7/27/22 2:40 p.m.

I'll jump in.  Bought a 2008 model (older than you're looking at) back in December as our daily driver.  We rarely drive much anymore with both of us WFH, to the point that I just now have to do my second oil change soon.  Car has 133k on it.


  1. It swallows a bunch of stuff.  The ability to fold all the rear seats flat and a low rear overhang, makes loading it up with stuff a breeze.  I had to haul a new 40 gallon water heater home and realized I could have fit a second one (and maybe a third) in the back.
  2. It handles well. No, I wouldn't mistake it for a sports car, but still rock solid to drive
  3. Freeway trips are a breeze if it's not 110 or more outside (see below)
  4. I'm not a small guy (around 300 lbs) and it's way comfortable to drive.  My 21 year old son has no issues riding in the back for hours at a time
  5. Interior has worn very well. 
  6. Except for one weird issue the day after I got it where it wouldn't start, it's been a good purchase


  1. The car is black and I live in Texas.  Moving my kid up to college a few weeks ago, we could not get the A/C to keep us cool.  Prior to that, we had never had an issue with it.  I'm still thinking it's because it would sit in the hot sun and any trips we made were 15 minutes or so, so the A/C just couldn't catch up.  Also, I could feel the heat at the back of my head when we were on the freeway heading home.  We were cool up front and I turned on the rear A/C to help, but the heat was still there. 
  2. Shocks and struts were shot.  Looks like they were originals when I replaced them.  KYB's were available for it and were pretty easy to replace
  3. Bushing are, apparently, notorious to go bad.  My rear swaybar bushings squeaked bad before replacing.  Front end had a nasty clunk, front swaybar bushings fixed that (but kinda challenging to do.)  There is some wicked wheel hop in low grip.  I'm not sure if it's normal, but will be doing the lower engine mount soon to see if that helps
  4. I loathe the 17" rims.  The short sidewall tires just crash over bumps.  If the car hadn't come with almost new tires when I bought it, I would have swapped to 16's
  5. Both drivers door handles broke within a week of each other.  Front wasn't too bad to fix.  The sliding door one was a bit fiddly, but still not bad.  The lock motor on the drivers side is bad and I still need to replace it.
  6. It's not fast.  But, it's quick enough that I think a manual transmission version would be kinda fun to drive


pheller UltimaDork
7/27/22 2:40 p.m.

Sliding doors yea with ability to seat 6. 

Not being able to use the 3rd row of the 5 does put a damper on it. 

93EXCivic MegaDork
7/27/22 2:43 p.m.

In reply to pheller :

I half considered replacing my Element with Mazda5 but everyone told me the third row is fairly useless.

Javelin GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/27/22 3:02 p.m.

The 3rd row is perfect for kids in boosters and up to about 13 y/o depending on size. If your usage is outside of that, it is not the van for you.

wae PowerDork
7/27/22 3:11 p.m.

We love ours.  In fact, my wife texted me earlier this morning that apparently on this day 9 years ago, we drove ours off the lot.  Since then, we've put about 113k miles on it and haven't had any major problems.  A brake caliper froze up in the back and needed to be replaced.  The evap purge solenoid went bad, but that was a fairly quick fix.  Other than that, it handles better than it has any right to and with the 6spd manual, it's fairly peppy for what it is.  In a lot of ways, it's kind of like what the Miata would be if they made a station wagon version:  You're not going to win any drag races, but it's fun to drive and very nimble.  We call ours "Jack" as in "Jack, be nimble / Jack, be quick".

The only thing that is problematic is that with the third row in use, there's almost zero cargo room.  I bought a rooftop carrier to solve the road-trip problem and that makes it a bit more practical.  But if you were taking 4 or 5 kids to hockey practice, for example, your passengers might be regretting your decision.

Indy - Guy
Indy - Guy UltimaDork
7/27/22 3:32 p.m.

Curious for those of you who own one.  What kind of (real world) gas mileage do these get ?

rob_lewis UberDork
7/27/22 3:49 p.m.
Indy - Guy said:

Curious for those of you who own one.  What kind of (real world) gas mileage do these get ?

Around town we get around 20. Mainly freeway will see around 22.  I did have one stint that was 27, but it was 99% freeway averaging around 70 mph.  Tires halfway between tire max pressure and Mazda recommended pressure, A/C on full blast the whole way.


wvumtnbkr GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/27/22 3:52 p.m.

Here is my take...


Back seats are absolutely useless.  However, with a family of 4, it works perfect and we just have a huge trunk with the back seats folded down.


Ours has been reliable except for a E36 M3ty exhaust.  Had a local exhaust place make a new one.


Bought with about 12k miles on and it has 140k miles on it now.


I will say that the passenger seat in the front is not the most comfortable.  It needs to move back further.

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
7/27/22 3:55 p.m.
Indy - Guy said:

Curious for those of you who own one.  What kind of (real world) gas mileage do these get ?

Consistent mid 20s. Mostly 55mph roads and some around town driving.

eastsideTim UltimaDork
7/27/22 4:18 p.m.

2012 automatic here.  I tend to get 18-19 MPG when it is used on mostly < 5 mile trips.  For around town where it isn't being shut off right after it warms up, it is usually more like 21-22.  Road trips it usually gets 27-29.

I'll echo exhaust and suspension issues.  I'm at around 107K, I think, and I've replaced the rear shocks.  The front suspension could afford to be looked at, struts at least, but I bet some bushings are going bad.  There are a couple leaks in the mid pipe where brackets are welded to them.  Haven't decided if I am going to try to patch it with some sort of parts store exhaust goop, or just buy another and deal with rusty bolts.

I love the thing, though, so much room in such a small vehicle.  It is my junkyard and parts hauler.  I will admit that after a 2000 mile round trip in it, I am casually looking for something else for my next road trip vehicle.  It wasn't painful to drive, but it was far less comfortable than I would have liked.  


Racebrick Reader
7/27/22 4:46 p.m.

The Mazda 5 may be the best car I have ever owned, and I have had quite a few.  I drove a manual transmission 2014 that I bought with about 30k on it in 2016.  My kids were 7, and 8 years old at the time. I did a lot of kid driving around, and road trips.  I towed a camper through something like 30 states with that car, and all I ever did was maintenance the entire time I owned it.  I taught both my kids how to drive stick in that car.  I sold it in 2020 with just under 100k since the family was starting to outgrow it, and we didn't need it with the pile of cars we already had.


However the car was not perfect.  The heat is very weak, and takes forever to get the car warm.  There is also no dedicated heat for the back seat passengers. The manual sliding doors were also quite a match for the children weak of body or mind. 10/10 would buy again.

CyberEric Dork
7/27/22 5:06 p.m.

I haven't owned one but man, I love them. I've nearly bought one on several occasions even though I don't need one. The size is just perfect to me and so rare. It's small on the outside, big on the inside. 

They handle well for what they are. It's basically a tall Mazda 3. I think the extra weight is hard on suspension bits.

I wish Mazda still made them. I'd go for one with the 2.5 as none really get good MPGs and the extra power is nice. 

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon UltraDork
7/27/22 6:32 p.m.

A couple more notes. The third row is split 50/50 which is convenient. The second row seats need the headrests removed to fold flat so that's a three step process, which is less convenient.


pheller UltimaDork
7/28/22 10:50 a.m.

The trouble that we have is that our newest will be in a carseat for at least another 5 years, and even though our oldest will be able to ride in a booster in the third row, those wierd situations where we need to haul 6 people will make it tricky with both kids in the 3rd row. 


I'm also not thrilled to hear that it gets such poor MPG. It's a small car with big car thirst. 

eastsideTim UltimaDork
7/28/22 10:53 a.m.
pheller said:

I'm also not thrilled to hear that it gets such poor MPG. It's a small car with big car thirst. 

Yeah, I really wish the later models had been available with the SkyActiv engine.

barefootcyborg5000 PowerDork
7/28/22 11:29 a.m.
Indy - Guy said:

Curious for those of you who own one.  What kind of (real world) gas mileage do these get ?

Mine seems to be 22mpg around town with the air on when wife drives, 25 when I do. 28 on the freeway like clockwork when we've done our Disney trips. 3000' to 50' and back. I'm not heavy footed and usually set the cruise around 75. It's a 2013 auto with 110k. 

It is getting to where it needs some suspension work, just did the front brakes a couple months ago. Zero issues with sliding doors, and as noted the back row isn't for big folks. There is more road noise than the Camry it replaced, but the handling makes up for it. 

With kids, I find that the favored trash/food receptacle is the 3rd row cup holder. I usually have to scrub candy out every couple weeks. 

eastsideTim UltimaDork
7/28/22 1:09 p.m.

Any chance a Transit Connect Wagon would be acceptable?  I think they have more interior room than a 5, and depending on the engine, might get a bit better mileage?  They will be harder to find, though.

mad_science New Reader
7/28/22 1:35 p.m.

Have a 6MT 2012 we bought new in 2011. 118k on it now.

Like it for having sliding doors and a 3rd row but being smaller than any other vans or 3-row CUVs out there. It's been incredibly cheap to buy and own. We get like low 20s MPG in town, high 20s on the highway. We've had pretty good reliability. In its whole life it got a motor mount under warranty, needed a new shifter assembly (like $500!), some brakes, and...I think that's it.

Ours is dark gray and the paint hasn't held up as much as I'd like. The roof and hood have had the clear coat roasted off and there are a bunch of little nicks turning into little rust zits. (this is in California). Full window tint does a lot to keep it cooler and improve the looks.

The 3rd row is pretty small and with the 3rd row seats up you might fit a Trapper Keeper in the back. I view them more as "emergency use" for when you gotta take the in-laws or an extra friend somewhere. Wouldn't recommend if you're regularly planning to carry around 3-4 kids in the back. They'll fit, but then there's no room for stuff.

At 118k ours definitely needs a suspension freshening as it's getting pretty sloppy. Also the driver's side sliding door handle occasionally decides not to work.

Maybe a little in the GRM spirit: the chassis is Ford's Global C Platform, meaning you can scheme about swapping in various MazdaSpeed3, Focus ST or speedy Volvo bits into it. Volvo V50 rear suspension upgrades are a good fit, I've heard. Also if it dies, the 2.5 Duratec/MazdaL engine is somewhat sought after for swaps into Miatas and stuff.

We're kinda considering getting rid of ours for either something all electric or speedier...but it's a really tough sell b/c it's just so damn cheap to keep owning and running.

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