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Barebones: Light On Tech, Plus An Economical Powertrain

2014 Mazda5 Sport: Say Hello To Tom's Hardware's Project Car
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The Mazda5's interior is sparse. Its most advanced technology option is a USB port for playing MP3s from a flash drive. Needless to say, navigating music folders without an LCD display is absolutely terrible. The little readout above the center vents always shows the folder number first, before the folder name or track data. Even with 8 GB of music, you'll quickly get annoyed flipping through the folders and waiting to see what's playing. I simply can't imagine suffering through that experience with a larger library of songs.

However, the vehicle's basic technology package is why this is a perfect project car candidate. The head unit can be swapped out for something aftermarket compatible with the double DIN form factor, and the steering wheel controls are easily integrated with third-party adapters. Again, we have a couple of head unit reviews planned that'll drop into the Mazda5 as a reference platform.

Moving out of the cockpit and into the engine compartment, we find Mazda's corporate MZR 2.5 L inline-four engine powering the microvan. This motor did its duty in a lot of Mazda and Ford vehicles over the last decade. Ford's Duratec 2.5 L is identical, serving as the base motor in its Fusion, Transit Connect, and Escape. The powertrain is simple, and confers proven reliability. Gasoline direct injection is, unfortunately, not on the engine's list of features.

The MZR is rated at 157 hp and 163 lb-ft, which is pretty typical for an economy cars. Unlike the lighter second-generation Mazda3, the MZR has an extra 369 pounds to move around in the Mazda5. That weight is worth adding though, if only for the sliding doors. Mated to the motor is a six-speed manual transmission, one of the main reasons I chose the car.

As a manual wagon with sliding doors, our Mazda5 is essentially the automotive journalist and enthusiast special. Let’s be honest: the company probably sells very few Mazda5s set up like this to the general family car-buying public. Regardless, I love it for its uniqueness and fun factor.

Display all 48 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Gelid03 , June 13, 2014 4:40 AM
    Looks great cant wait for the rest of the planned mods.
  • 6 Hide
    Amdlova , June 13, 2014 4:40 AM
    nice mazda 5 you have sir :)  I liked the wireles charge.

    I want see some night vision on car. drive without lights...
  • 0 Hide
    Matthew Busse , June 13, 2014 4:59 AM
    I might have to upgrade the wife's 2010 =)
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 8:29 AM
    Thanks guys. Next up will be a Blind-spot monitor system from Gosher's, ScanGaugeE, and some sort of wireless storage. Even have a set of Mazdaspeed 3 wheels ready to go, just waiting on tires :) 
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 8:30 AM
    I recently picked up a non-Nav equipped CX-9 Grand Touring AWD. I look forward to the head unit reviews. So far, I've put on an aftermarket trailer hitch, and half installed a Pyle backup camera system.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 8:32 AM
    Quote:
    I recently picked up a non-Nav equipped CX-9 Grand Touring AWD. I look forward to the head unit reviews. So far, I've put on an aftermarket trailer hitch, and half installed a Pyle backup camera system.


    How do you like the CX9 so far? The CX5 is still one of my favorites to drive. I've yet to get into a CX9 but I do love the Ford Flex, its platform mate.
  • 1 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:08 AM
    It's been good so far. I got it at the end of April, so haven't had it too long. The only thing I don't care for is the headroom up front. I'm 6'3", and If I have the seat adjusted more upright like I prefer, my noggin hits the roof.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:14 AM
    Quote:
    It's been good so far. I got it at the end of April, so haven't had it too long. The only thing I don't care for is the headroom up front. I'm 6'3", and If I have the seat adjusted more upright like I prefer, my noggin hits the roof.


    How's the driving dynamics? The CX-9 is supposed to be fairly sporty compared to the usual dreadful driving CUVs.
  • 1 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:16 AM
    It does drive very much like a car. I'm coming from a '02 Durango. I had also test drove the Acura MDX. Very similar ride at a lower price point.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:18 AM
    The first gen Durango's are awesome. I still love how they look. The MDX is nice. I drove the latest one and its a very nice car minus the annoying dual screen infotainment system. The price tag didn't help sway me either. As much as I enjoy driving expensive cars, I'm quite frugal when it comes to my own car :) 
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 9:25 AM
    It's an SLT+ with the 5.9l and a bad tranny. Interested?? LOL
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 9:26 AM
    I don't need anymore cars, but you sure it's not just a sensor? My dad picked up a '97 Grand Cherokee 5.2 a few years ago with a bad tranny. Turns out it was a bad sensor or something. Been running fine.
  • 0 Hide
    danwat1234 , June 13, 2014 10:24 AM
    THANK YOU for the LED headlight install. I have been watching this tech and am intrigued at the LED headlight kits on Ebay for under $100 that look similar to the kit you bought. It's now competitive to HID kits, though not as bright especially compared with 55w HID kits.

    Maybe if you adjust your headlight up a bit with the adjustment screw the light pattern will be better?

    I would be skeptical that power into the LED is 35 watts. Most say 25 watts or so on Ebay. More watts is more heat and less lumens/watt probably.

  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 10:25 AM
    Quote:
    THANK YOU for the LED headlight install. I have been watching this tech and am intrigued at the LED headlight kits on Ebay for under $100 that look similar to the kit you bought. It's now competitive to HID kits, though not as bright especially compared with 55w HID kits.

    Maybe if you adjust your headlight up a bit with the adjustment screw the light pattern will be better?

    I would be skeptical that power into the LED is 35 watts. Most say 25 watts or so on Ebay. More watts is more heat and less lumens/watt probably.



    I wanted to like them so much but the way they're designed, you can't really get proper lighting out of them. If you're in the city and only need close range lighting, sure they'll suffice. However, I live in the country side and being able to see the signs way down is necessary. I ended up pulling them out and buying wiring harnesses to install H9 bulbs. They're 65-watt and 2100 lumens. Life span is shorter but they're only $15 a piece.
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 10:50 AM
    Quote:
    I don't need anymore cars, but you sure it's not just a sensor? My dad picked up a '97 Grand Cherokee 5.2 a few years ago with a bad tranny. Turns out it was a bad sensor or something. Been running fine.

    I've thought about the possibility of it just being a pressure sensor. The transmissions in these are notoriously bad, though. I haven't decided if I want to bother with it yet or not.
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 10:52 AM
    I'd at least get the code read and if its just a sensor, replace it and sell the car for much more.
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 11:14 AM
    Quote:
    I'd at least get the code read and if its just a sensor, replace it and sell the car for much more.

    No codes are being thrown for it. :( 
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 11:16 AM
    That's odd. Could just need a flush and new filter?
  • 0 Hide
    SinisterSalad , June 13, 2014 11:18 AM
    Did that less than 10k before this. Went from WI to Badlands and back just fine last year. Did everything to it as far as maintenance right before the trip out. Mechanics are family, so I trust them. ;) 
  • 0 Hide
    tuanies , June 13, 2014 11:30 AM
    Yea if its not throwing codes, could be anything from solenoids or clutch packs burning out :-\.
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