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Mazda5: The Cheap, Flexible Vehicle for Growing Families

Updated on February 4, 2013

Slightly bigger car for a growing family

With two dogs and a baby our 2002 VW Jetta just wasn't cutting it. We needed something with more room and flexibility. So we got a 2006 Mazda5. It's kind of a wagon and kind of a mini minivan, seats six and starts at around $20,000.

As much as I liked my Jetta, the 5 has been a great choice. Keep reading to find out more about the flexibility of the Mazda5.

Top 5 Reasons Why I Like the Mazda 5

5) Sliding doors. Easy in, easy out.

4) It still drives like a car, has a tight turning radius and isn't some overbearing vehicle.

3) I can cram six people in if I need to, one more than most similarly sized cars.

2) I can get my daughter's carseat in and out without bending over and awkwardly climbing halfway into the car.

1) Flexibility. I can cart six people around or a ton of stuff or something in the middle.

Why Small SUVs & Wagons Didn't Work

When we had a baby we discovered that the only place the carseat would fit was the middle of the backseat of our Jetta (it's actually the safest place to put the carseat, so no complaints there). This is true for most small cars, but it becomes a problem in that the rest of your backseat becomes virtually useless. Cramming in next to the bulky carseat is uncomfortable at best. Our five seater car suddenly became a three seater.

When we took a weekend trip with our two small dogs we had to wedge their kennels into the backseat next to the carseat and we realized this just wouldn't work.

So we went car shopping. We hoped to keep the price under $20,000, and hopefully well under. That meant small SUVs and wagons. But both types of vehicles had the same problem--you put the carseat in the middle of the bench-like backseat and you lose all your room.

The Flexibility of the 5

Then we looked at the Mazda5. It has three rows--like a minivan--but of only two seats in each row. It's also built on the frame of a small car (the Mazda3), so it's not a beast of a car and actually drives just like a car.

The middle row of seats are two bucket seats that can actually adjust forwards and backwards like a front seat. Since they're independent bucket seats, plopping a car seat into one of them doesn't crowd the other seat. Or as kids get older, they're not making lines in the seat as a challenge to their sibling.

The back row of seats are defintely small. They'd be fine for kids or adults on short trips. The adjustability of the middle row makes it the back row a little more usable. Plus, since the middle row are separate buckets seats with space in between, an adult in the back can stretch their legs up between the middle seats.

The back end is admittedly small, big enough for a duffel back, but not shaped right to line up your groceries (the angle of the back seats cuts off your vertical room). If you're carrying six people you are lacking cargo space. But each rear seat folds down independently, meaning you can carry four people with loads of cargo space or five people with a decent cargo capacity.

When the rear seats are both down the cargo capacity is about the same as a small wagon (Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Jetta, etc.) or a small SUV (Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Toyota Rav4, etc.).

So bottomline, you have the same storage capacity as a wagon or small SUV, but you have the option of carrying six people

Need More Space? - Get a Car-Top Carrier

When we had three kids our Mazda5 was pretty full. Taking a roadtrip to visit the grandparents for Christmas was going to be pretty difficult. We could pack light and bring no presents (not an option!) or we could expand our luggage capacity.

We went with a car-top carrier. Our Mazda5 didn't have a roof rack, so we had to go with one of these bags that cinches down on the roof. It's not ideal, but it worked pretty well. Road noise is increased and it will slow you down and kill your gas mileage. Make sure you have it tightened down properly, that you've distributed the weight and you've spaced things out as aerodynamically as possible.

If you don't need the expanded space too often (once or twice a year), it's a great way to get more mileage out of your Mazda5.

Have you tried a Mazda5? Love it? Hate it? What's your ultimate family car that's smaller than a minivan?

What do you think?

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