MAZDA 5 – UK launch

Press launches are a rare occasion to be a passenger as well as a driver. So a 2-day trip down to Devon and Cornwall to try out the improved latest version of the Mazda 5 was just such an opportunity as well as a chance to get to sample some great food and lifestyle down there. Lunch at Jamie Oliver’s 15, a restaurant run to help young people get a job opportunity and a career, was a splendid opportunity to relax and eat as we watched the surfers and half-term holiday crowds on the wide beach at Watergate bay.

Then it was off into the cars for driving across the moors and the winding small roads of Devon and Cornwall. So the car was a people carrier of which we had two different models to try. The two petrol vehicles we tried (2.0litre and the 1-8 litre) were underpowered (diesel models will be available later in the year in the UK).

The steep hills and tight turns of the small roads of this part of England showed this, with a lot of driving resorting to 2nd gear. The other major fault on the six-speed gearboxes is the reverse gear. No lock or gate meant as I changed down on a tight steep hairpin it easily dropped into reverse! My other gripe was with the front passenger seat where I was constantly rubbing my knees on the dash, so not ideal for the taller person. The rear seats can be configured in several ways depending on loading and passengers, with seating for up to 7, in three rows of 2-3-2 configuration. The side sliding doors mean easy access for rear passengers from either side when the car is parked in tight spaces, with doors opening to 686mm and barely standing out from the side of the car at 160mm. The rear seats can also be flattened in various configurations giving a large flat space for big loads.

But if you are tall be aware of the tailgate which is at eye /head catching height when opened up. The dash has a large selection of buttons 13e switches of which 5 are blank possibly for fog lights etc. The driver’s side has no less than 10 switches, but the one thing missing was the sat-nav! None of the models we tested had any fitted, which these days is a standard and not an extra in most cars. However, the 2.0 comes with i-stop which is becoming another standard in many vehicles as petrol prices soar, so there was a little saving grace. After a night in Rick Stein’s delightful hotel/restaurant, including a cookery demonstration in his cookery school followed by a sumptuous meal in the restaurant, we woke early for a drive up across Bodmin Moor. It was raining and the vehicle didn’t like the strong winds. The difference between the 1.8 and 2.0 petrol engines is not very noticeable and still the gear ratios of the vehicle are not very well suited to a people carrier. All in all not the best of the people carriers although a gourmet tour of Devon and Cornwall did make it a worthwhile road test…

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