NEW FOR 2009:

– Leather Package is replaced with Luxury Package, including new six-CD stereo
– Exterior colours: Black Cherry Mica and Aluminum Metallic added, Sunlight Silver Metallic deleted

For 2009, the Mazda5 is unchanged save for an addition to an optional package. Previously known as the Leather Package, the new Luxury Package adds the previous package’s heated leather seats and adds a new in-dash six-CD stereo.

Best described as a compact "micro-van", the Mazda5 is based on the Mazda3 platform, but with three rows of seats and two sliding side doors, and the ability to carry six people. Available in GS or GT trim, the Mazda5 uses a 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine with five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed automatic with manual shift mode.

Features on the GS include 16-inch alloy wheels, power windows and mirrors, power locks with keyless entry, CD stereo with auxiliary input, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, 50/50 split-folding third-row seat, rain-sensing wipers and front mud flaps.

The GT adds 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning with automatic climate control, power sunroof, leather-wrapped wheel, LED taillights, anti-theft system, easy-close sliding door system, cruise control, centre-row fold-out table/cargo bin, heated mirrors, rear roof spoiler, sporty side sills, outside temperature display and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.

Available options on the GS include air conditioning with automatic climate control, while the GT can be outfitted with the Luxury Package and with a navigation system.

The Mazda5 is a good city vehicle for those who need people-moving capacity but don’t want a big van, and given the vehicle’s size, the third row is surprisingly roomy. Rear-seat passengers enter via two sliding doors, and entry into the third row is made easier by second-row seats that fold and slide forward. None of the seats can be removed entirely, but the second and third row fold flat to form a cargo floor. The GT’s "easy-close" doors are not entirely electric, but once you close them manually most of the way, an electric motor pulls them shut.

Easy to park and manoeuvre, the Mazda5 gets better fuel economy than most minivans, although the 2.3-litre engine works hard when the vehicle’s loaded, and you have to spend extra to put air conditioning on the base trim line.

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