Monday, December 05, 2005

Consumer Reports Rates 2006 Mazda5 Best Overall Among Wagons and Hatchbacks

YONKERS, N.Y., Dec. 5 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Mazda5 is Consumer Reports' new top-rated vehicle among wagons and hatchbacks, following tests of four "tall wagons" for the January 2006 issue. The Ford Focus wagon had previously been CR's top- rated vehicle in that category.
New for 2006, the Mazda5 earned an "Excellent" overall rating in Consumer Reports' battery of tests-the only wagon or hatchback that has been recently tested by CR to achieve such a high score. The previously-tested Ford Focus wagon had a "Very Good" overall score.
CR tested the Mazda5 against the Pontiac Vibe, Chrysler PT Cruiser, and Chevrolet HHR. The Vibe and PT Cruiser earned "Very Good" overall scores, while the HHR received a "Good" score.
"The Mazda5 is a microvan-a small version of a minivan-that possesses many of the advantages of a traditional minivan yet is more agile, maneuverable, economical, and affordable," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. Even with an optional navigation system, the Mazda5 costs less than $23,000.
Full tests and ratings of the four "tall wagons" appear in the January issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale December 6. The complete report is also available to subscribers of
Consumer Reports recommends two of the four tall wagons in this test group-the Pontiac Vibe and the PT Cruiser. Reliability for both the new Mazda5 and the Chevrolet HHR are unknown at this time. Consumer Reports only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's surveys of its own subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
Based on the excellent Mazda3 small sedan platform, the Mazda5 is styled like a minivan complete with sliding rear doors, but it is smaller than a conventional van. With seating for six in three rows, the vehicle offers some of the flexibility and versatility of a traditional minivan in a more compact package. The Mazda5 Touring ($22,615 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price as tested) is powered by a 157-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers adequate acceleration but lacks reserve power for passing, climbing steep grades, and carrying a full load. The four-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. Braking performance was very good overall. The interior is spacious and airy. But the third-row seat is useful only for small children-and then only if both second-row passengers move their seats forward.
The Pontiac Vibe and its twin, the Toyota Matrix, are tall wagons based on the Toyota Corolla. The Vibe's compact dimensions, versatile interior, and good fuel economy make it a handy, nimble, and economical runabout. But a flawed driving position and a boomy engine detract from the vehicle's overall performance. The Vibe is also the only vehicle in this group available with all-wheel-drive. The Vibe ($19,960 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 130-hp, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that provides adequate acceleration. The four-speed automatic transmission downshifts energetically and makes the Vibe feel responsive. Braking was very good overall. The 60/40-split rear seats easily fold in one step for extra cargo room. With the rear seats folded, the Vibe holds 26.5 cubic feet of cargo.
The PT Cruiser's interior versatility and ease of access make it a practical choice. Some controls have improved from previous versions, but outward visibility, a wide turning circle, and limited rear cargo space remain problems. The PT Cruiser Limited ($23,485 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 180-hp, 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers the best acceleration in this test group and better fuel economy than the base engine. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly but isn't very responsive. Braking distances were fairly long. The 60/40-split rear seats fold flat with the rear floor or can tumble forward for more cargo room. With the rear seats measured, CR measured 32 cubic feet of cargo space.
The HHR is similar in some respects to the PT Cruiser. But the new vehicle, based on the Cobalt small sedan, is styled to resemble Chevy trucks from the 1950s. The low roof, wide roof pillars, and small-window styling take a toll on visibility. The HHR LT ($22,055 MSRP) tested is equipped with the optional 172- hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivered good acceleration on CR's test track and reasonable fuel economy. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, though the transmission's shifting and tall gearing make the vehicle feel lethargic in normal driving. With the 60/40-split rear seats folded, the HHR holds 29.5 cubic feet of cargo.
Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Website; the magazine's auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe to Consumer Reports, call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at
EDITOR'S NOTE: An image of this month's Consumer Reports cover is available online for free editorial use at:


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