How to best think through/address Mazda 5 safety concerns
September 6, 2016 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Our family is in need of a new car, and based on many recommendations here, a late-model used Mazda 5 seems like it would be a very good fit. However, I'm nervous because recent safety tests give the Mazda 5 a "poor" rating in the front small overlap test and a "marginal" rating in side impact tests. How much should these impact my thinking? If we do go with the Mazda 5, what's the best way to spend a bit of money (up to 1K) to increase safety?

The Mazda5 checks all the boxes for our family (six seats for occasional use, small footprint, sliding doors, decent gas mileage), it's within our price range, and MeFites love it. So I was really bummed to read about these crash ratings. I'm having trouble figuring out how much they should worry me. Currently, we drive very little as a family, usually city driving for short distances, but we may move in a year or so to locales unknown so we can't predict how this will change. (We can't wait to buy the car since our old one, a 2006 Mazda 3, was just totaled in an accident when a friend was borrowing it.) We've got two kids in carseats plus a third (not in carseat) who is with us in the summers.

• Should I just relax? It's hard for me to know how to think about how a car performs in a crash versus how likely it is to be in one. The Mazda 5 has Electronic Stability Control, which our old car did not.

• We could throw some money at the problem with aftermarket products, but I'm not sure what's the best bang for the buck safety-wise. Things I am considering: $ backup camera, $ a bluetooth audio system for hands-free calling, $$$ a forward collision detection/warning and lane departure system, ???

• Or perhaps the money would best be spent on a defensive driving course for me? My husband is a very confident driver, but I never feel quite sure where I am in relation to the rest of the cars around me, changing lanes scares me, etc.

Thanks for your thoughts!
posted by wyzewoman to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The Mazda 5 gets 21 city / 28 highway. That doesn't seem exceptional.

If you move, are you taking the car or selling it?

It feels like you are creating a set of artificial constraints based possibly on the price of the car and mileage, because money is tight. I have been there. I am still there.

I would personally get something safer and older and pay a little more for gas each month. I dislike the poor mileage our Ford Econline (2005) gets, but it is rock solid reliable and we have learned to drive an uncool, ugly, larger vehicle.

The 2007 Kia Sedona minivan has very good crash ratings and has comparable mileage.
posted by mecran01 at 6:47 AM on September 6, 2016


That report is terrifying and I would not consider the 5 at all. There are sooooo maaaaany cars that will seat 5 or 6 and get across-the-board "good" ratings that there's just no good reason to consider ones that don't, and certainly no good reason to consider cars that get a "poor" rating.

I mean, if God forbid you got t-boned it would suck badly enough to be in the hospital in serious pain with a busted leg or two and a fractured pelvis and your hubs scrambling around trying to take care of the kids while not getting fired for being absent to do that and also needing extra hours to cover the co-pays and stuff insurance just doesn't. But to layer on top of that the absolutely terminal embarrassment of knowing that you thought about the car's safety record and decided to get it anyway? And to layer on top of *that* the rest-of-your-life of what-ifs every time your hip hurts when it's cold?

Nope. nope.gif Nopenopenopenuhuhnopenopeseeyouspacecowboynope.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:49 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Your suggestions for updating the car for safety all revolve around making you and your husband better drivers. But the scary fact is, you have more to worry about from other people driving badly around you, which all the camera/lane departure technology in the world can't fully protect you from. I'd keep looking for a car with better crash ratings and put the $1000 toward that.
posted by cecic at 6:54 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


We have also been considering proper minivans, and we could definitely make that work if need be, although we'd have to go older than a Mazda. The main appeals of the Mazda vs a real minivan had been size, for city parking, and just a sense of not wanting more car than we really need. But I recognize that aesthetic sensibilities should take second seat to safety!
posted by wyzewoman at 7:15 AM on September 6, 2016


The number one equipment related thing you can do for safety is keep your tires seasonally appropriate and in good shape. That applies to every car, but it's discouraging how many people skip over it to save money.
posted by mattamatic at 7:23 AM on September 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


If your allatime kids are towards the end of carseat time and about to start doing lots of activities and carrying their little friends, then I would just suck it up and get the real minivan. Worrying about looking like a busy parent when you are in fact a busy parent seems kinda silly to me. Full disclosure: we recently picked up a Kia Sedona that we like a lot because we needed a bigger dog hauler.

If they're just wee tots and the lifetime of this car is only going to take you until that kind of room is only just starting to be useful, you could just get an Accord. Or a Camry. Or a Legacy. Or an Outback. Or a 6. Or a Sonata. Or an Optima. Or a Fusion. Or a Maxima. Or a Prius. Or any of many small suvs like the CRV or RAV4. Or any of many mid-size suvs like the Sorento or Pilot. There are lots of cars that will hold 5 people.

I get that the 5 offers / offered a mix of traits that nothing else in the American market really offered. But.. jeeeee-zus, that report. There's just so many vehicles out there that ace their crash tests. Get one of those.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:56 AM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


With regard to the crash safety remise:
• We could throw some money at the problem with aftermarket products, but I'm not sure what's the best bang for the buck safety-wise. Things I am considering: $ backup camera, $ a bluetooth audio system for hands-free calling, $$$ a forward collision detection/warning and lane departure system, ???

These are all a total waste of money for your given aim. There is simply nothing at all you can add to a car to make it 'safer' in a crash, as that is the fundamental structure of the car that is being tested - crumple zones, airbags etc.

A defensive or high performance driving course would be an excellent option for you (and your husband - 'confident' doesn't equate to 'good', necessarily, and I say this as a professional performance/race car driving coach), no matter what car you drive, because nothing at all in any US driving test/lessons does a damn thing to teach you how to actually drive in terms of how to control the vehicle in a situation where a crash is a possible outcome. The US driving license is at best an 'operator's' test, not a control test.

High performance/advanced driving tests and defensive driving courses are the single best way to make whatever car you buy safer in an accident, because it very much increases the chances of you not being involved in one. The vast majority of accidents are foreseeable and avoidable, even if you are not the one causing it. Seeing behaviour that is dangerous in other cars is a very useful skill in allowing you to give them the space to have their accident and dragging your car into it.
posted by Brockles at 9:40 AM on September 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


but I never feel quite sure where I am in relation to the rest of the cars around me, changing lanes scares me, etc.

I just read this again, and frankly it's scary as an admission. Tentative and hesitant drivers cause a LOT of accidents in the cars around them. Yes, the cars around them are usually going too fast and/or too close, but you can't control that. You CAN control your own behaviour and confidence. Almost all of the times I have been close to an accident have been with someone a few cars ahead of me doing something unpredictable through lack of awareness of lack of competence. I completed a 320 mile journey just last night and the three times I had to moderate my speed by more than knocking the cruise control off (two of which necessitated a relatively sharp brake and a mirror check to make sure the people behind me were paying attention) were all from people not aware of what was around them and being clueless.

Educate yourself. It can be fun, and your driving will be a LOT more relaxing and safe with training.
posted by Brockles at 9:49 AM on September 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


The driver death rate for the 2006–’08 Mazda5 was 67 per million vehicle-years, which was higher than other minivans of the same age, though within the typical range for midsize cars. Unfortunately I can’t find comparable stats for models from 2010 or later, which included electronic stability control. More than half the deaths in the 2008 stats were from rollover crashes, and ESC has been very effective at preventing fatal rollovers, so it seems likely that later models do offer better protection.

I wouldn't switch to a significantly older vehicle for safety reasons, since safety standards overall have gone up substantially in just the past few years. Models that were rated before 2012 were never subjected to the small overlap test. Many small cars that previously had good safety ratings (like the Honda Fit, an IIHS Top Safety Pick in 2012) failed the new test until they were redesigned in later years. The 2008 Mazda5 is below average compared to contemporary cars, but it still has a better record than the average vehicle from 2004.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:52 PM on September 6, 2016


The 2008 Mazda5 is below average compared to contemporary cars, but it still has a better record than the average vehicle from 2004.
Repeated for emphasis. Model years are no big deal in terms of improved quality, but generation changes are huge. A new generation of a car (ie different shape, not just a new grille or facelift) is designed for significantly newer and more stringent crash regulations. So keep in mind that a car that was introduced in 2004 (or earlier) will be unlikely to be safer than a car designed and released in 2008, and those 2004 cars never got subjected to the same crash tests that the 2008 cars did. When comparing models, make sure crash tests themselves (rather than just the particular ratings) are the same. So the IIHS test in 2004 means nothing when comparing to a 2008 IIHS test unless it states the test is identical.
posted by Brockles at 9:32 PM on September 6, 2016


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