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Comparative Test: Mazda5 2,0 Individual vs Volkswagen Touran 1,4 TSI Highline

by CAR magazine on 01/04/2011

Comments: 0

At A Glance

Make VW Touran MAZDA 5
Retail Price R305 600,00 R294 200,00
kw 103 106
Torque 220 180
Top Speed 202 196

IT was a Friday morning. The countdown to the weekend had begun. And to get rid of the office fatigue we decided to blitz the country and coastal roads north of Cape Town in a full-up road trip in order to put two of the latest offerings in the MPV segment through their paces: the facelifted VW Touran – now featuring Wolfsburg’s latest corporate face and engines – and the all-new Mazda5, sporting the Japanese marque’s Nagare design language.

The Mazda has always been a favourite in the CAR offices – something which was affirmed as the seven seats of the 5 were quick to be filled after the lap- tops were slammed shut. While Mazda points out that this is an all-new car, it is – in terms of hardware, at least – a carry-over of the previous generation. And that’s not a bad thing. When we first tested the vehicle in May 2007 we noted that what makes the Mazda5 special is that it’s both a driver’s car, providing enough power, good dynamics and sporty looks, as well as a practical people mover with versatility, good luggage space, a neat interior and an impressive specification level. On paper, the latest incarnation seems to offer much of the same.

We generally try to refrain from commenting on things as subjective as styling, but feel that the 5 requires some discussion – the new car is the first Mazda to make use of the firm’s natureinspired Nagare – or “flow” – design language, which is illustrated in the three waves along the side of the body. The general concensus of the team is that the design is overly fussy and perhaps not best suited to a fivedoor, seven-seat family wagon. We find it strange that the 5 is the first to receive this treatment since most Nagare concepts were sportscars and a decision was recently made that Nagare will not be used extensively in the future.

The front end is an evolution of the look of its predecessor and gets the latest Mazda treatment with a smiling grille and slanted headlights, à la Mazda3. The rear is less successful with Mazda shelving the previous vertical units for dumpy-looking horizontal lamps that lend the rear aspect a bulky appearance. It reminded us of the SsangYong Stavic and those travelling in the Touran preferred to have the 5 in its rear viewmirror rather than driving up front. Perhaps a neater and simpler design – as with the Touran, which now features a Polo-like grille and lamps – would have been more appropriate.

Otherwise the 5 remains the accomplished people mover that it has always been. Interior updates include a new design for the instrumentation and centre console, with soft-touch materials on the upper part of the facia and doors. There’s still a lot of buttons, but now in a far more intuitive layout that’s easier to work with, and the dark finishes lend the 5 a classy feel.

The range-topping Individual comes standard with low-profile 17-inch alloys that do contribute to a fair amount of road noise, but for the biggest part the 5’s cabin is a pleasant place to be. Two sliding rear side doors can be opened manually or at the touch of a button on the facia or on the key fob. These doors now have sensors along the edge that will prevent kiddies’ hands from getting caught.

All the seats are comfortable – bar the middle “jump” seat in the second row – and plush although they do not offer the same amount of support as the VW’s alcantara-and-cloth clad seats with oversized bolsters. With the tug of a cord, the 50:50 split third row of seats pop out of the loading bay floor and two of our shorter staffers easily hopped into the back. The second row of seats can easily be slide-adjusted by up to 270 mm and the seatbacks recline up to 50 degrees. The 5 is 80 mm longer than its predecessor and both the third and second row offer more leg- and headroom: even our tallest passenger could find a comfortable seating position in the back.

Tipping the left-seat cushion of the second row forward allows the middle seat cushion to be stored in the space below. The centre seatback can then either be folded down to create a comfortable centre armrest, or a practical utility tray can be put in its place with a net below it for storage. When the utility tray is in place there is extra storage space available under the right-seat cushion.

This is certainly a spacious cabin even if it does seem a little confined – probably due to the dark finishes – but still does not seem to offer the same practicality as the VW. By the first stop the Mazda’s middle-row passengers were less than happy. While the 5’s sliding doors, standard seven seats, large boot space and versatility are welcome, the trade-off seems to be a cramped middle row. Unfortunately, this is the row that will be used most – relegating the 5 to being a very accomplished six-seater.

The Touran, on the other hand, is designed foremost as a fiveseater, which means that its second row offers three comfortable, individual seats. It soon became the first choice on the trip and clearly offered the most comfortable ride for five passengers. The second row of seats can be slide-adjusted and reclined. The slightly narrower central seat can also be removed, and the two outer seats of the second row moved inwards a little to give their occupants more elbow room – this requires the seats to be unclipped and reattached as it does not slide sideways as is the case with some of its rivals. All three seats can tumble forward to offer increased utility space and can also be removed completely.

The centre seatback can be folded forward to double as a table and – as is the case with the Mazda – small pop-up trays are attached to the backs of the two front seats. On Comfortline and Highline models, the front passenger seat can also be folded flat to offer extra loading space and the cabin is filled with small storage compartments, including neat compartments in the rear footwells and trays under the seats. There are also two handy storage spaces in the roof lining, but these units rattled a lot during our trip, which became increasingly irritating.

For R7 900 extra, a third row comprising two individual seats can be added – both able to fold almost completely flat with the loading bay floor. The third row is a little more cramped than is the case with the Mazda (it is much more suited to younger children only) and it also uses up most of the boot space, but it was much easier for the Touran to be filled with seven passengers. Added to that is the fact that the VW only offers a puncture repair kit with the seven-seat option, whereas the Mazda manages to stow a space-saver spare under the boot floor.

It would appear then that, from a practicality point of view, the choice between the two vehicles will depend on a buyer’s specific requirements since both offer great versatility – but at a cost.

The VW does seem to be the better thought-out of the two though: We’ve mentioned the extra storage spaces, but small details such as a neat storage space for the luggage cover when the third row is upright (the Mazda’s needs to be left at home) and a plastic cover that automatically moves over the exposed bolts used to secure the seatbacks of the third row are welcome additions to an already neat package.

The Touran’s cabin has been spruced-up with a new layout and design for the centre console and instrumentation (now with white backlighting) and switchgear borrowed from the Golf VI. The use of soft-touch plastics on the facia also adds some class to the package. The driver’s position is especially comfortable and matches the Mazda in offering full adjustment of both the seat and steering wheel.

With our tummies full after a hearty lunch and the freeway behind us, it was time to tackle the mountains. We are aware that outright performance and dynamics are not of great concern in this segment, but as we’ve found in the past, the Mazda does have the advantage in these departments. Its engine line-up remains unchanged, with all models making use of the 2,0-litre four-cylinder MZR engine, producing 106 kW at 6 500 r/min and 180 N.m of torque at 4 500. Fuel consumption has been improved, the latest model registering a CAR fuel index of 9,84 litres/100 km. The unit feels sprightly enough, but cannot be described as sporty – the car’s 11,15 seconds sprint time to 100 km/h confirms that, but is certainly strong once the engine speed has been pushed higher up the rev range.

The Mazda remains an impressive driver’s car, despite being a people carrier. The body structure has been made lighter, stronger and stiffer. The suspension dampers and bushings have been modified both front and rear and all the spring rates have been increased, but the new car remains compliant over rougher surfaces. It tracks true through corners, has very little body roll for an MPV, and does well to hide its large dimensions and relatively high mass. The steering has also been fettled and now features a rubber damper, but while it is nicely weighted the electrohydraulic system does have a tendency to go light mid-corner and could do with offering a tad more feedback.

On the move, the Touran is also surprisingly compliant – both manufacturers have done well to offer commercial levels of space with the comfort, ride quality and ease of a saloon (this is a cliché, we know, and perhaps a bit of a stretch, but the Touran is defi nitely comfortable to drive). It feels very much like a Golf V – largely because it’s based on the Golf – under acceleration and braking, its steering and gear changes. The steering is light, but manages to offer progressive feedback. Grip levels are high and despite not offering the same “entertainment” behind the wheel as the Mazda, the Touran would defi nitely be able to keep up with the 5 in most circumstances.

The latest Touran features allnew engines including VW’s 1,2 TSI (77 kW) and 2,0 TDI (81 kW) as well as the 1,4-litre TSI of our test unit – as a result of VW’s downsizing strategy. The Touran delivers similar performance to the Mazda from its 1,4-litre turbo- and supercharged unit. It produces 103 kW at 5 600 r/min and 220 N.m of torque at 1 500, enough to propel the Touran to 100 km/h in 11,10 seconds. The engine does well to lug the car’s weight around town, over hills and even over mountain passes, but there is a small amount of turbo lag before the needle really gets going. The true benefi t of forced induction is the car’s low fuel consumption, having a CAR fuel index of 8,16 litres/100 km – much better than the Mazda’s.

TEST SUMMARY

There is certainly no shortage of options in this segment: the market for MPVs is about as jampacked as our two vehicles during our road trip, with buyers being able to choose between fi ve to seven seats, an array of powertrains and transmissions, and solid competition coming from near-executive wagons such as the Chrysler Grand Voyager and Renault Grand Scénic as well as more affordable options like the Toyota Verso.

With their latest updates both the Touran and Mazda5 remain solid contenders. The VW has become an even classier act while the Mazda remains a surprisingly rewarding (if somewhat awkward-looking) package. Have a look at the features box and it will be no surprise to see that both these top-spec models come fully equipped in this cut-throat market. Safety levels on both cars are very high, with both featuring six airbags. There really is not much to choose between the two… expect, perhaps, for the price.

During our in-depth scoring procedure, the VW started to run away with the tally for its ride and comfort, packaging and fuel effi ciency. It certainly has the hardware and software to make it one of the short-list choices in this segment, but the Mazda claws back with its level of affordability. Yes, it does not offer as complete a package as the German, but at R307 700 (including the seven-seat package) the VW is R22 560 dearer than the Mazda. Get it fully up to spec (adding leather to the interior and a six-disc CD player) and the Touran is R42 410 more expensive than its Japanese rival. That’s certainly not an insignifi cant amount. All things being equal though, we feel that the Touran is the better of the two as its strengths lie in the areas that are of most concern to a typical MPV buyer.

SCORECARD
Mazda5 2,0 Individual VW Touran 1,4  TSI Highline
Ride & comfort 18,97/25 20,28/25
Packaging 18,39/25 20,33/25
Performance 6,83/10 6,56/10
Dynamics 3,75/5 2,78/5
Fuel efficiency 9/15 11,44/15
Value for money 15,78/20 12,56/20
Average 72,72/100 73,95/100

Prices And Specs

Make
Model
Retail Price
kw
Torque
0-100km
Top Speed
Fuel Type
Fuel Consumption
Tyre Size Front
Tyre Size Rear
Rear Tyre Size Width
Rear Tyre Size Profile
Rear Tyre Rim Size
Spare Tyre Size
Tyre Pressure Monitor
Tyre Specification
Wheelbase

Safety And Features

Air Conditioner Automatic Automatic
Audio System CD Frontloader CD Shuttle
Rev Counter Yes Yes
Gearbox Manual Manual
ABS Brakes Yes Yes
Power Steering Yes Yes
Seats 5 7
Steering Wheel Heated No No
Speakers 8 6
Colour Coded Bumpers Body Colour Body Colour
Leather Trim Partial Full
Alarm Yes Yes
Anti Skid Control Yes Yes
Electronic Defferential Yes No
Gears 6 6
Height 1794 1615
Onboard Computer Yes Yes
Immobiliser Yes Yes
Split Rear Seats Yes Yes
Brake Assist Yes Yes
Electric Seats - -
Cup Holders Yes Yes
Electric Mirrors Yes Yes
Electric Windows Front Rear Front Rear
Airbag DPS DPS
Doors 5 5
Airbag Driver Yes Yes
Airbag Passenger Yes Yes
Navigation System Optional No
Park Assistance Optional No
Side Impact Protection Bars Yes Yes
Sunroof Optional No
Fog Lamps Front Yes Yes
Fog Lamps Rear Yes Yes
Headlight Type Halogen Halogen
Towbar Optional No
Payload - -
Bull Bar - -