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.