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Sit pretty in sleek style and at a bargain price; Motors ROAD TEST Mazda5 1.8 TS2.

Byline: By Bill McCarthy

THOSE clever people from Mazda seem to have done it again. They have produced a medium-sized people carrier that thinks its a full-size model and features a smart design, legendary Mazda reliability and a bargain price.

The Japanese car maker now seems to have a winner in nearly every segment of the market and the Mazda5 is a case in point where they call their offering a C-MAV (Compact-Multi Activity Vehicle)

The Mazda5 has a sleek, sweeping, wedge-shaped exterior with sophisticated detailing, minimal panel gaps and high build quality for a stylish and clean appearance and efficient aerodynamics.

Nominally a seven-seater, Mazda calls the layout karakuri seating - three of those seats would only suit children, particularly in the third row, and the middle seat barely warrants that description.

The seventh seat cushion is stored a seat and can be folded out into the central space when required.

But this is still the kind of car that would appeal to a medium-sized family, who occasionally want to take nan and grandad along as well. The 'theatre-style' seating has each row of seats mounted a little higher than the row in front. The two regular second row seats, which slide and recline, can be double-folded without removing their headrests to create a flat load area. They feature a one-touch lever which automatically tips the seatback forward and slides the cushion to its front-most position to allow access to the third row.

The third row seats are split 50:50, can be tipped forward individually and drop onto the cushion to form a flat load surface.

With all seats in place, boot space is limited to 112-litres, but this increases to 426-litres with the rearmost seats removed and up to a maximum of 857 litres.

Extra stowage comes via 40 storage compartments providing maximum convenience and practicality.

Access to the rear seats comes via manual sliding doors which are also a boon in tight parking spaces, but as with all cars with sliding doors, care needs to be taken when exiting roadside.

It feels big and roomy and perhaps most importantly of all, it is cheap. A lot of metal for the money with versatility, decent performance and low running costs.

It comes with a choice of three engines, two petrol and a diesel. The test model featured the 1.8 litre 115 bhp petrol engine, but a two litre petrol and two-litre diesel are both available.

I thought the 1.8 would be underpowered, but it is surprisingly sprightly, mated to a precise six speed gearbox, and only really struggles when fully laden.

This does make car thirsty though I struggled to get anywhere near the official combined figures of 35.8 mpg. A better option, although more expensive, would be the diesel which comes tuned to either 110 or 143 bhp, which offers extra power and better economy.

The ride is on the firm side and bumps and potholes can take their toll on a long drive.

A real plus is handling, where the Mazda feels surprisingly agile for this type of vehicle and it feels stable, even when entering corners a little too zealously.

Another key feature for families is safety with six airbags protecting all passengers and ABS anti-lock braking, and electronic braking assistance providing added peace of mind.

The Mazda5 sold over 4,900 units in 2006, and with prices from pounds 14,415, you can see the attraction.

FAST FACTS

MODEL: Mazda5 1.8 TS2

PRICE: pounds 15,380

MECHANICAL: 113bhp, 1,798cc, 4-cyl, petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-spd transmission

MAXIMUM SPEED: 113mph 0-62mph: 11.4 secs

COMBINED MPG: 35.8 mpg

INSURANCE GROUP: 6

CO2 emissions: 190g/km

COMPANY CAR TAX RATING: 24%

WARRANTY: 3yrs/60,000 miles, 12yrs body protection
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 20, 2007
Words:631
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