2006 Mazda5
2006 Mazda5; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase

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In Europe, MPVs – short for multi-purpose vehicles – are a big deal. Think of an MPV as The Continent’s answer to the minivans we know here: three rows of seats to accommodate the entire family, but usually with four-cylinder engines (many of them diesels) and sized to fit comfortably on tighter European roads.

In North America, Mazda sold a minivan named the MPV, so it’s a little ironic, maybe, that the same company was the first to bring one of these Euro-friendly MPV-type vehicles to Canada and the United States, in the form of the Mazda5. Mazda wasn’t the only player in this new field for long: Kia rolled out its Rondo in 2007. Similarly-sized, it also had three rows of seats (but seated seven instead of the Mazda5’s six) but used swing-out rear doors where the Mazda had van-style sliders.

In Europe, where Mazda gives its cars real names instead of the numerals it uses here, the 5 is called the Premacy. What we know as the first-generation Mazda5, which first went on sale here in 2006, was the second iteration in Europe, where the Premacy had been on the market since 1999.

2006 Mazda5
2008 Mazda5 GT
Top: 2006 Mazda5, by Jil McIntosh; bottom: 2008 Mazda5 GT, by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

The 5 is based on the same platform as the smaller Mazda3, but stretched to create the 5’s additional interior space. Additionally, it uses the same 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine found in uplevel versions of the 3, rated at 157 horsepower and 148 lb-ft of torque.

Transmission choices were a five-speed manual as standard kit, with a four-speed automatic being the option. Rated horsepower dropped to 153 in 2007, but only to conform to new SAE measurement standards; the motor’s performance wasn’t affected.

The 2008 model got a mid-cycle styling update, including a new front end, headlights and taillights and wheel designs. The engine was unchanged, but the four-speed automatic transmission was scrapped for a five-speed. Nothing major happened again until 2010, when stability/traction control was added as an option on the base GS model, and standard on the GT trim.

2006 Mazda5 GT
2006 Mazda5 GT; photo by Peter Bleakney. Click image to enlarge

It’s not mentioned in Consumer Reports’ information, but here’s a thread at MSProtege.com discussing what appears to be a fairly common power steering failure issue with 2007-2009 Mazda5s (and Mazda3s). Mazda USA has produced a video showing what will happen, and what to do, if the power steering does fail. Shortly after this review was published, Mazda Canada issued a recall to address the power steering problem.

Rear tire wear issues are common, as detailed in this thread at MSProtege.com. The issue is either the alignment or camber (the vertical angle of the tire relative to the road) of the rear wheels. Here’s another thread that talks about a possible fix.

Watch for bad suspension struts and control arm bushings, too, particularly in the rear.

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