2014 Mazda5 Sport: Say Hello To Tom's Hardware's Project Car

We love reviewing the latest and greatest automotive technology. But when the factory toys don't evolve fast enough, we turn to the aftermarket. A new 2014 Mazda5 will serve as our platform for testing third-party technology moving forward.

Over the past two years we’ve covered new vehicles with detailed reviews. Our first automotive story happened more than two years ago with SYNC With MyFord Touch: Automotive Infotainment For All, and we’ve written about everything from crossover competitions to rally racing and high-end luxury vehicles since then.

But clearly, this is Tom's Hardware. Our readers are enthusiasts. And we know you enjoy working on your own technology. The need to tinker runs deep, whether you're dropping in a new graphics card, flashing the newest nightly ROM release for your phone, or upgrading your own car.

This devotion to do-it-yourself is why I purchased a brand new vehicle to use as a platform for our own upgrades and modifications. For as much as we have driving the latest vehicles, automotive technology continues to lag behind mobile devices by years. We're only just now seeing Nvidia's Tegra 2 show up in a mass-produced vehicle as Audi introduces its 2015 A3 sedan.

I take the comments left by you, our readers, to heart with every story I publish. And there is a definite contingent of folks who believe that cellphones and aftermarket devices better serve enthusiasts than the factories manufacturing the cars we review.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce the very first Tom’s Hardware project car, a 2014 Mazda5 Sport micro van. Why on earth would I choose a micro van as the basis of our project car? Aside from the two kids I have to haul around (plus the occasional fifth or sixth passenger), I'm also an enthusiast who enjoys driving. I needed some sort of compromise there.

The Mazda5 is based on Ford's global C1 platform that underpins the 3, Volvo S40, V50, C70, C30, Ford Transit Connect, Escape, Focus, and a couple of other vehicles. At its heart, the 5 is essentially an extended and taller Mazda3 hatchback with sliding doors and seating for six. Mazda’s driving dynamics remain intact, offering excellent throttle and steering response, plus suspension tuning that is comfortable, yet engaging. Of course, the cherry on top of this micro van sundae is the six-speed manual transmission.

There is a downside, however, and that is Mazda’s Nagare styling language that was applied across the line-up when the 5 was updated in 2012. The car looks extremely happy, but I'm not fond of the aesthetic. The previous-generation (2004-2010) Mazda5 looked better on the outside. But the new generation's interior is a massive upgrade, and that's where we spend our time.

We bought the car a month ago and have already logged more than 1000 miles on it. The exterior remains stock, except for window tint all around. Mazda's emblems are spray-painted dark gray with Plasti Dip, and the Mazda5 badge on the tailgate was removed. 

Since this is our first project car, I'll make this story a bulk update with all of the little changes made to it, including the installation of an integrated Qi wireless charger, a backup camera, a dash cam, an iPad 2 for rear-seat entertainment purposes, and LED headlights. 

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  • Gelid03
    Looks great cant wait for the rest of the planned mods.
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  • Amdlova
    nice mazda 5 you have sir :) I liked the wireles charge.

    I want see some night vision on car. drive without lights...
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  • Matthew Busse
    I might have to upgrade the wife's 2010 =)
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  • tuanies
    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 :)
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  • SinisterSalad
    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.
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  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    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.
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  • SinisterSalad
    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.
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  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    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.
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  • SinisterSalad
    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.
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  • tuanies
    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 :)
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  • SinisterSalad
    It's an SLT+ with the 5.9l and a bad tranny. Interested?? LOL
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  • tuanies
    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.
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  • danwat1234
    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.
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  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    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.
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  • SinisterSalad
    Anonymous said:
    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.
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  • tuanies
    I'd at least get the code read and if its just a sensor, replace it and sell the car for much more.
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  • SinisterSalad
    Anonymous said:
    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. :(
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  • tuanies
    That's odd. Could just need a flush and new filter?
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  • SinisterSalad
    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. ;)
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  • tuanies
    Yea if its not throwing codes, could be anything from solenoids or clutch packs burning out :-\.
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