Impressing the kids: driving my teens in a manual Mazda 5

2014 Mazda 5 Minivan
The small size of the 2014 Mazda 5 minivan is deceiving; it seats 6 with plenty of comfort and room

The Mazda 5, a basic minivan, gets my teens excited about stick shifts

Parents can feel like aliens around their kids; we never know what will click with them. The latest iPhone – or a huge plug-in hand set to make actually talking on the phone easier. And driving a stick shift – sometimes annoying for those of us stuck maneuvering through traffic, or the manual Mazda 5, which inspired my teens to learn how to drive a stick.

2014 Mazda 5 Minivan

The driver’s seat, the well-organized dashboard and the stick shift that makes a mom look magical and mechanical all at once

But maybe it’s that whole, D-I-Y esthetic teens and young adults have – how cool! We can pickle our own vegetables! So much better than buying a jar. So I was surprised when our recent drive in what I thought was an extremely basic car, the Mazda 5 minivan, left my teens jazzed about learning how to shift.

I took my three teens on a weekend trip and to tell the truth, I was dreading the stick. We faced a four hour drive each way, without traffic, but it was a holiday weekend and of course there would be traffic. Plus, since my husband wasn’t joining us, I would be the only one who could drive.

Readers, it was a great trip.

2014 Mazda 5 Minivan

Not touching: Just where you want your teens in the car, and that’s what happened in the Mazda 5’s center row captains seats

Mom finesse: I can do something they can’t

At a certain point, your kids grow disappointed with your imperfections, so finding a way to demonstrate a skill they couldn’t begin to understand was truly glorious. And each kid took a turn sitting in the front passenger seat, watching closely as I shifted and trying to absorb my little lessons.

Unplugging In the Mazda 5

Though the Mazda was roomy, and offered a comfortable ride, it was very sparse. There was no DVD player, WifF or infotainment screen (that feature is not offered on the Mazda 5), so the teens were left looking at each other (and me!) for entertainment. So, we socialized the old fashioned way: we talked. When we needed a little quite time, we could all plug in: the car has a USB port and two 12 volt power outlets. It is also equipped with Sirius XM radio (available with a subscription). If I needed the phone I also had to go old school with hands-free earbuds; this model did not have Bluetooth connectivity, however that feature is available on other models.

How thirsty is it?

2014 Mazda 5 Minivan

Excuse me! No need to take up the whole parking spot: The Mazda 5’s lower profile and narrower body helps its efficiency—both fuel and parking

The first thing you have to appreciate about the Mazda 5 is its economy: the sticker price for the model we drove is just $21,000, it uses regular gas and it’s very efficient. We got about 28 miles per gallon, driving mostly on highways – right on target with the stated MPG. For a car that can fit 6 passengers, it is quite fuel efficient.

How loud is it?

This is an economical, basic car and it is does not have luxury touches like noise-dampening windows. But it was not so loud that I couldn’t hear my kids oohing and aahing over the music, watching me smoothly shift into the six speeds…

How versatile is it?

There were four of us on the trip: two up front, two in the center seats and all their camping gear in the rear. And it all fit with the third row folded down. If we had needed space for a fifth passenger, we might have been able to get all the gear into the space with half the third row folded down, or used a roof rack. When we needed the third row, it was easy to reach via the sliding doors, which offer a wider opening than typical car doors, and the path through the center of the car past the center row captains chairs means no folding seats down to get into the back. The Mazda 5’s doors are  not automatic, push button sliders;  they are manual doors, but easy enough to open and close.

2014 Mazda 5 Minivan

The Mazda 5 accommodates two people easily in the third row via its sliding doors

The size of the car–much smaller than the typical minivan–made it versatile in traffic and parking: easy to get around in, park and with sliding doors, no worry of dinging the car next to us.


Oh, and that traffic I anticipated? Never happened.

What We Loved

  • The manual transmission
  • Roomy trunk – each kid had a huge duffle bag, and I had a suitcase – everything fit easily
  • Good gas mileage – 21 miles per gallon in the city, 28 on the highway
  • There are air bags for all three rows of seating

What You Need To Know

  • The car is not quiet
  • Base price for the Mazda 5 is $20,140. Price of the model we drove: $21,010
  • Some features are not available
  • 36 month / 36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty
  • 60 month, 60,000 mile powertrain warranty

Disclosure: Mazda provided the car for our test drive. Opinions expressed are my own.