• Yep, I agree with your assessment of these cars. Fun to drive (with the 5-speed) and useful. Even fairly stylish for a minivan-ish-thingy. Oddly, the ad for this car says "Automatic", but there is no doubt it is a standard.

    These can have a serious problem with rear suspension geometry. Many of them eat rear tires like they were donuts at a police station. There are replacement arms available that include a camber adjuster. When you pull off the original arms, don't be surprised to see them stamped "FOMOCO". Much of the chassis is from the Ford Focus Wagon, which does not share the geometry problem. Go figure…

  • I drove this car's twin up until recently. The five speed is a slick shifting unit as you would expect from Mazda, and it corners quite well for a vanlet. Unfortunately it also shares its proclivity to rust with other Mazdas of the period, especially around the rear wheel arches. Gas mileage is unimpressive for a car this size – I averaged under 25 mpg.

    I wanted to love it, and the sliding doors were great for unloading a baby in a crowded parking lot, but the combination of poor build quality and mediocre gas mileage made me realize having a minivan was just not a necessity, even with young kids.

  • The 2010 sport model (last year in this body style) with a 5-speed is the one to get. Stability control, TPMS, updated entertainment system and automatic climate controls along with sorted rear suspension geometry. I flew to Dallas and drove back to Colorado just to get one with a 5-speed as my daily driver and it handles well. My mileage is 25 -28.

  • Having driven the wheels off 3 automatic variants (08' 09' 11') and one manual (13") I can attest to this vehicles greatness. Personally, I think it is the best vehicle offered in the U.S. when you take into account people carrying capacity, fuel economy, low entry price and fun to drive factors. The 5-speed manual only makes it that much better. Build quality is only mediocre but then again, it was a very affordable vehicle that delivered a solid 27mpg. That by the way is real world mileage… something calculated… not trip computer reported. Name another $20k vehicle that seats 6 and gets better fuel economy. This is what makes this vehicle so great. Eventually I needed less room as our kids got older and I downsized to what is arguably the second best vehicle.. a Honda Fit Sport. The Fit actually gets only slightly better fuel economy but is much better built.

  • The third row is useless enough where a Mazda6 Wagon V6 Manual will do just fine in comparison, and be less labored doing so. I do like the Mazda5, but it's for an early-stage family. I'd still try to get a little extra power out of it (perhaps see if the newer 2.5L and six-speed manual can be swapped, and then mod that a little bit). The chassis seems better than the power, but a few tweaks would still be good.

    I'm not fond of the fact Mazda has the econo-car nuclear-piss-green lighting in there, either. Or that the center row seats don't have armrests on the door side (for earlier models) and that the center stack washes out in the sun because of all the silver… at least for me.

    • I bet there's what, 4 or 5 of those V6 manual wagons in the country? They make the Legacy GT Limited manual wagons seem commonplace.

  • I stumbled onto a used manual-trans 5 on the drive to look at a fwd manual Element. It drove like it had 90K miles on it (which it did) and was no revelation. The biggest disappointment was those 2nd-row buckets, which had large gaps around them, even when folded flat. I just wanted a smooth, flat space there for bikes and gear.

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