The Mazda5 seemed like the ideal way to downsize from the world of minivans. It was great, until it started to consume paychecks with expensive suspension repairs, chewed up tires, and rust repairs. Yes, it was much more fun to drive, but any money saved on gas was spent on repairs. The six-passengers in a pinch convenience was nice, but we often found ourselves wanting that seventh seat anyway, and longed for one of our past minivans or station wagons.
I would not recommend this vehicle, given the known and unsolved suspensions issues with this model.
Safety & braking
Stops quickly and controllably. Those big rotors front and rear really do make a difference (and also force you to be careful in selection of aftermarket wheels). Much better than the bigger minivans that this often replaces.
Front seat support & comfort
Great, height adjustable driver seat, with good lumbar support.
Rear seat room & comfort
Second row seats have lots of room, can slide fore and aft, and can recline. The passenger seats up in a chair-like posture, with great support for thighs.
Handles like a Mazda should. Zigs, zags, and zooms.
Driving position & visibility
Excellent visibility all around, with high sitting position and good glass in all directions. This is part of what sold us on the car.
Materials & workmanship
Rust, rust and more rust. Look at any of these in a parking lot - the rear wheel wells are just where you first see the rust, but there's lots more where that came from. This started showing up by the time the car was 4 years old - entirely unacceptable. Additional rust underneath made it difficult to keep exhaust system and heat shields attached.
Reliability & durability
Plan to spend lots of money on suspension components and tires. It's not just that the bushings get noisy (see lots of other reviews), but the components wear out quickly and are extremely expensive. This, of course, also leads to premature tire wear (and you are already wearing out tires quickly because of the extreme negative camber settings in the rear suspension). Yes, it handles well, but is it worth the bill$$$
Because of things like rust, car was worth next to nothing at trade-in time -- only seven years old, but I would not sell it to anyone I knew, as I usually do with my cars.
Only real time with dealer (bought it used) was to have the PCM reflashed to account for their latest settings for coolant temperatures. Even though this was obviously something they did to correct issues with the vehicle and sensors, they charged me $150 to do it.
Controls and instruments
Intermittent wiper control was not up to par with the rest of the controls. No variable speed, just one sort-of intermittent speed between off and low.
Brand reputation & image
I used to think Mazda might measure up to the other Japanese brands, but this car is the last Mazda I plan to own for many years to come. Back to Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, where I've had only good experiences over the years.