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The 20-25k Euro Question – How Does One Replace a 2008 Mazda5?

Antti Kautonen December 12, 2013 Finnish Line, Road Test Reviews 48 Comments


Every now and then, it’s nice to be able to hand out advice. As in real, handy car-buying advice, which means I get to test-drive some of the stuff currently available in dealerships throughout the country. You see, I’ve been entrusted to find a credible replacement for my girlfriend’s mother’s Mazda5.

The Five has performed well for the five years it’s been in use, and it’s accumulated a respectable 209 000 km on its digital clock. Even if the new car won’t see just as much use, and needn’t to be quite as large, it will have to withstand the role of a work car. And if it rusts just a little slower than the Mazda, that’ll be fine.

So, the new car will have to be at least somewhat versatile, with a big boot. Despite turbodiesel no longer being necessary, fuel economy is appreciated, and the thing will have a tow hitch mounted on its backside. It’ll be stick shift, as the new owner has never driven an automatic in her life.

But what will it be?

Due to the lack of a suitable little wagon in Mazda’s lineup, the 5 most likely won’t be replaced with a Mazda product. Also, as the 5 has rusted quite a bit and the local dealership has been a bit heavy on the billing side, looking at other alternatives is encouraged. Otherwise, the 5 has stood the time quite well, still handling nicely and providing that turbodiesel push it does so fine.

The first car we checked out was the outgoing Nissan Qashqai, in FWD specification. The new 2014 model is here quite soon, but the initial cars that get here will be more expensive models than the budget allows for. In turn, the old car is available better specced for a better price.

Still, behind the wheel the 2008-introduced car feels its age. The interior and dashboard aren’t much to write home about, the steering feels detached especially on snowy back roads and the 1.6-litre engine feels coarse and outdated. While you get a glass-roofed “Style 360°” model a bit more affordably than before, the 23k base price is quickly inflated to 25k when you throw in some winter tires and block heaters. The car is immensely popular here, but it must have been the first and only thing the buyers have gone for. Of course, I pointed towards the Juke, but it is a little cramped in there and the looks are as polarizing as ever. I do love those.

We moved on inside the dealership, weighing the Opel Astra wagon against the Chevy Cruze. Chevrolet’s pulling their European operations, which does mean the already cheaper Cruze costs even less, but the local dealership didn’t give us the fire sale prices some others do. You could get the 1.6 wagon as cheaply as 19k somewhere.

Leaving the Cruze proposition to sit for awhile, we looked at a brown Astra ecoFLEX turbo wagon. With dynamic headlights and other goodies, it was advertised for 28k and priced at 24k – a nice cut off the top. The boot is a nice size, too. They didn’t have a wagon 1.4 turbo demo at hand, but threw us the keys to a similar sedan. But despite having quite enough punch and an enjoyably direct steering, the Astra suffered from a confusing dashboard control layout and the fact the A-pillars’ shape and position created enormous blind spots.

In the Astra sedan, you open the trunk by randomly mashing the control panel and hoping you hit the trunk release button hidden amongst everything you see here.

I had originally planned to entertain the thought of looking at Seats, but it turns out they aren’t available new in our town. Neither are Renaults, and to get a Dacia demo you need to pull some strings that are a hassle to pull. We took a quick look at the newly-introduced Golf Variant, but they escape beyond the 25k barrier quite quickly.

As the dealerships were closing on Saturday, we went to see the Kias as a last-minute option. It turned to be a good idea, as the Cee’d Sportswagon we test-drove revealed itself to be a good car at a nice price. The styling is a touch less wacky than Hyundais of late, the dashboard makes more sense, and the visibility is better than in the Astra. The 1.6-litre four gives out 135hp without any turbo gadgets, so it should be theoretically reliable as well. And it’s not a bad drive, either. They priced us a metallic red one with a tow hitch for 22k sharp – throwing in a set of winter tires and the block heater for free. Impressive, and the seven-year-warranty should cover at least something.

On Monday, we took a look at the Skodas. Initially, I had envisioned the Octavia to fit the bill perfectly, even if the 105hp engine could appear just a bit weedy in such a large car. A drawback was also found, as the only stick demo they had was a four-wheel-drive turbodiesel instead of the gasoline-engined small turbo we were after. The 4×4 wagon was a great, solid drive, providing a touch of enjoyability on the snowy roads, but it does feel enormous by now. It has matured a lot since the earlier model, though, feeling less work truck-like.

The other option was the recently introduced, Octavia-undercutting Rapid, which turned out to be just the right size, and somewhat cheaper. We drove the 85hp 1.2 TSI model, which had a surprisingly good amount of pulling power, even if its limits are quickly found. No problems overtaking, though, and compared to the Octavia it feels more of a right-sized, chuckable little thing that you can park between pillars without a hassle. And the boot is still enormous, a lot larger than in a more expensive Golf.

A 105hp model with the Ambition level instead of bog-standard Active would run the tab to 21k, dangerously close to the Kia wagon – but you can’t get the 105 hp engine in the base model, only the 85hp. An absolutely basic Rapid still has A/C and a stereo, and costs less than 18k out the door.

So, by now, the Kia and the Rapid are the strongest contenders. A 105hp Octavia hatch for just under 25k is still in the cards, too, but undercutting the budget by thousands is a major . Both the Kia and the Skoda were positive surprises for the customer-to-be, as she hadn’t driven anything from either make ever. And since the Mazda5 will be passed along in the family, there are no trade-in values to consider – it’s just “give me the best price you got, in red and with a tow bar thanks”.

Whatever she gets, I’ll be sure to report it here.

  • stigshift

    With two NA Miatas, of course. If the answer is not Miata, it must therefore be Miatas.

  • B-Max?

  • Number_Six

    Skoda Yeti !!!!!!!!

    <img src="; />

  • Number_Six

    GM is such a stupid company for many reasons, but here is the latest reason why. Buick in North America sells a surpisingly nice (and very fast in Turbo trim) version of the Astra, called the Verano. One of the least appealing features of the otherwise good Verano is the utterly shit interior – the feeling of which is exacerbated by the garbage green lighting on the dash and instrument panel. The whole thing is nearly identical to the Astra, except that the Astra dash looks reasonably cool (if slightly low-rent) because of its red lighting. Like green lighting was gonna make the Verano somehow more sophisticated than its European cousin?

  • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

    Whoa, what strings exactly do you need to pull, like you need to send Levis to someone's Romanian uncle or something? That's a shame, cause I would have appreciated a comparison to the Dacia Logan MCV.

    • Sjalabais

      It's odd that it's the Dacia that needs some old time connections to be test driven. One might think it was a GAZ or something else of importance.

      • bean digglesworth

        I'd rather drive a GAZ. At least the GAZ has some Russian character.

        • Sjalabais

          Oh, the Dacia has character for sure. They really go all in with the "we're cheap"-theme, you may even get to roll down your own windows. I like that, considering the industry's phony standards. That said, I'd rather pay the same money for an agricultural, well-chromed M24, too.

  • Devin

    As the driver of a Hyundai Elantra GT, also known as the i30 over there, which I believe shares some important oily bits with the cee'd, I would probably go for the Kia. I think my car is great.

    • mseoul

      The Ceed has IRS. The current model US Elantra GT is equipped with what seems to be an interchangeable beam axle from a Forte. Nonetheless, good cars and a really nice GDI 1.6 gas engine. I suspect its one reason they chose not to call the US car an i30 and likewise sell the new US beam axle Forte 5 as a K3 Euro in Korea and not the more expensively underpinned Ceed.

  • 993cc

    It's hard to tell from here what anything costs over there, so I'm just guessing about price ranges. Also, How much does she want to tow?

    So, Versatile, big boot, fuel efficient, stick shift, and since she liked the five, we'll just assume she likes a good chassis too.

    How about the Citroen C3 Picasso? …

    or Renault Captur …

    or Fiat Qubo? …

    • BobWellington

      I think she wants to get out of the dealer without it breaking down first. 😛

      But really, the Renault looks kinda funky (in a goodish way).

  • Sjalabais

    I think you have come to a sensible selection so far. The Kia is probably the best car you can buy in that price range. A neighbour of mine has her second Cee'd and she is very happy with it. Bonus: You get to slap the salesman everytime someone says that stupid name – Cee'd.

    Skoda is nice, but I'd be cautious to invest hard-earned money in any fresh VAG-product. How far is it to the next Dacia and Seat dealers? I'd guess 25k buy you a top of the line Dacia, whatever that means.

    The used car lot, an obvious answer to your challenge, is no solution?

  • andy

    As much as I'd love to give advice.. I haven't driven any of those cars and honestly neither want to! They are just too "appliance" rather than motor cars. I d go for a mini clubman (probably above given budget – but who knows they are to be replaced real soon – maybe discounts! And what about the fiat 500L? Volvo v40 your neighboors make them!(And I'm not sure if that's a + or-). Anyway going back to reality I got to say I like vw, they should be similar to the skoda, but I d be skeptical of the turbo with those cold start (unless there is a garage)

    • Sjalabais

      I think you save big in sticking to the appliance cars. The phony "premium" cars are good for sure, and the new V40 is a huge hit up north, but it's not necessarily a sensible investment. Nominell depreciation over 5-7 years might even be the same, but you don't bury as much capital into it.

      Personally, I have been reduced to appliances the last couple of years, due to new priorities. I sure complain a lot, but the $$$ invested gets my cheaply from A to B. If I am really honest, cheap plastics and uninspired ergonomics don't do me much harm, and my wife does hardly notice. So won't our writer's girl-friend's mother.

      • Andy

        i cannot i agree more.. "premium" seems to be a thing of last decade like displacement was in the 60-70's (i guess) than actaul power… now practicality seems to be on the rise..
        this really seems like a case of lowest offer wins! btw when Dacia was mentioned; what it a reference to the sandero? i was thinking duster – cheap + simple with a little more character than the smaller sibling

        • Sjalabais

          Oh, I really hope the pendulum swings towards practicality. The people crave bigger windows, smaller wheels, better space utilization.

  • TurboBrick

    Stick shift, versatile and a big boot? Here you go:

    Signal röt, tow bar and comes with a set of Virgos.

    • bean digglesworth

      A GLT 240 with Virgos? Yes, please. B230F? even better.

      • TurboBrick

        "Big block", yessir. I know gasoline is sold in small vials at boutique stores over there due to it's price, so that may be a problem.

        • sean gigglesworth

          Gasoline is literally on "kortilla " here. Well figurativel kortill anyway. 1.70€ or somethig a litre. Though I prefer to drink beer instead of worrying about beer</striike> gas prces.

          • TurboBrick

            On the bright side the whole new vehicle taxation discussion will be moot as no one can afford to keep one!

            Beer? At this hour? Isn't it time to dig up the Kossu and pass out quicker?

            • bean digglesworth

              I almost feel like kossu right now, won't go into details but it involves an extremely pretty Austiran exchange student. A have the next five days off work but it feels moot TBH.

              • TurboBrick

                Oh, one of those deals. Yeah, time to lock up the old "Altia part# 0132" along with your cell phone and keyboard and wait for the morning before this happens…

                Five days off? I'm technically working round the clock until Monday, so it could be worse.

                • sean gigglesworth

                  Oh yes. I was technically working around the clock the whole damn last week… Thhankfully it's about a month till i'm on call again. being on call 24/7 sucks donkeydick.

                  [youtube 7l03IeVL-Jw youtube]

        • sean gigglesworth

          Also my currently not running 740 get's a botu 18 MPG on a goo day.

          • TurboBrick

            You got a vacuum leak or sensor going bad there somewhere. My 760 got 15 when I first bought it, after I tightened up all the leaks and replaced most of the ignition bits it's been steady at 22 MPG.

            • sean gigglesworth

              Sticky brakes are probably to blame. the inspection man-dude shat on the bloody brakes so they actaully stuck on and it smelled burned brakes when i tried to drive it afterwards. Haven't driven the 740 for over a year now; trying to get the Focus fixed.

              • TurboBrick

                Oh oh, sticky caliper pins. Damn, that's why I stuck my 945 in the garage last Christmas and after many difficulties I'm thinking I'll finally get it going this year… so the 760 can sit there for a while and get some new parts.

                • sean gigglesworth

                  The 740 is standing in my parents yard for the time being.. Also thanks for getting me to listen to Leevi gain.. 'tis the music i listened to as a kid with my best friend and talking about girls. The Austrian i met a few weeks ago at a concert and again today is driving me nuts.

                  [youtube 7l03IeVL-Jw youtube]

                  • TurboBrick

                    If the rest of the world spoke Finnish, Leevi and the Leavings would be the most popular band in the universe. Gösta was a great writer and with a catalogue as wide as his, it's almost impossible not to find something that's relevant to you.

                • sean gigglesworth

                  Shitfuck, i posted the same video twice and I can't edit.

                  Well, this was my favourite…

                  [youtube gcMsEGPOvmc youtube]

  • BobWellington

    "It’ll be stick shift, as the new owner has never driven an automatic in her life."

    That's awesome. You'd probably never hear that here in the US.

    Anyway, the Kia seems pretty nice.

    • Maymar

      Actually, a friend of mine was once working at one of those test drive events you see around (I happen to frequent them whenever possible), and met quite possibly the only woman in Canada who had never driven an automatic. She was perplexed by the thing, but for the sake of not burning out a clutch, they didn't have a stick (Fiesta? I think he was working a Ford event) available. Apparently she'd run up the revs, and leap off the throttle anticipating a gear change, assuming this was necessary. Whiplash-inducing, but said friend still heavily approved.

      • BobWellington

        That's pretty funny. I wonder if the percentage of manuals is higher in Canada than in the US? It wouldn't surprise me. I feel like Canadians are more into their cars on average (my mom and her family are Canadian and we go up there twice a year most years), but that's just some weird speculation on my part.

        • Sjalabais

          I'm under that impression, too. My relatives in Canada do have some manuals in their family, and during my 5000km trip in a rented Ford I encountered some random manual driving people.

          Last night I took out my wife's Camry. It's an automatic, and that's why I hardly drive it ever. Man, as nice as I thought the car was when we just bought it, it's such a valium ride. The steering is numb, the transmission is working on its own. I tried to motor brake down a steeeeep hill in '2', only to forget to put it back in 'd' afterwards. Crazy figures on the gas consumption display. It is still a very nice car, but the auto trans is it's biggest fun killer among a few.

        • Maymar

          I wouldn't be shocked if the percentage was slightly higher, maybe 10% to the US's 5%, although that's at least in part Quebec screwing with the numbers. If you look at Canadian sales in general, they're like a low-budget version of the US market – stuff like the F-150, Civic, and Grand Caravan pretty consistently round out the top 10. But in Quebec, it's all cheap Asian compacts with manual transmissions (you're pretty much falling over Mazda3's, which are admittedly rather popular across the country).

          • quattrovalvole

            I noticed this too. I won't be surprised if Quebec has the highest rate of manual hatchback penetration in Canada (if not Canada + US).

            On the other hand, my Civic must be one of the few compacts bought with Auto in Quebec (it was a lease return from Quebec).

          • BobWellington

            The Ranger is a lot more popular in at least Ontario as well (makes me sad every time I see one since they don't make them anymore). I also notice a lot more Flexes (though they are made in Ontario).

      • mseoul

        I had a Polish friend, new to the US, jam on the power brake in my automatic equipped company car once when he first drove it. Wound out what seemed like a gear then, wham, on the "clutch". Just about caused whiplash.

        • Perc

          I grew up around manuals, like everyone else around here. The Ford MT-75 transmission in my Sierra more or less killed my desire to swap cogs manually so I bought an automatic car at the age of 23. Haven't looked back since. The car was invented to make life easier for mankind, and using manual labor to move cogs back and forth doesn't really rhyme well with that. Automatic is a desirable luxury to me. And yes, I'm a car person. I like cars, and driving. I make my living off of cars. But a manual gearbox interests me about as much as a manual choke.

          But I digress. The point I'm trying to get is that I accidentally stomped the brake a couple of times when my left leg tried to press the clutch. The last time it happened was some 2-3 years after I got my first automatic car. It takes a while for your brain to un-wire itself.

          • "But a manual gearbox interests me about as much as a manual choke."

            Same here!

            • BobWellington

              Haha, it took me a day and another reading of your comment to get what you were getting at. Bravo. 😛

              • Thanks! All of my gasoline-powered vehicles have manual chokes.

          • Maymar

            I dunno, maybe I've never experienced a truly horrendous manual, but even a Dodge Caliber with a shockingly heavy clutch in stop-and-go traffic would be preferable to the awful 4-speed/tiny engine combination I've suffered through in a few cars. There's nothing easy about timing any accelerative action you take on trusting an obstinate slushbox to shift down promptly to maximize what meagre power you have.

  • Dutch guy

    If I were you, i'd visit the Toyota dealership, to test drive te Auris stationwagon (here in the Netherlands, it is named the Auris Touring Sports), with the 1.6 liter engine and manual six speed, really a very smooth driving automobile, plenty of interior space and, despite the price maybe being just over 25k, low cost of ownership (good resale value, great fuel economy, excellent reliability). The pedal work (clutch-, brake- and gaspedal) is very easy to get accustomed to, and if the wheels are 16 inch or smaller, it provides you with a very comfortable ride. It wil completely make you forget about the Kia, with its strange clutch pedal feel, interior with all those different, shiny materials, and the greatest annoynance of them all in this Kia: the air vent on top of the dashboard (the one that disperses air onto the inside of the windshield) is always reflecting in the windshield, direct sunlight or not. As a car enthusiast, you should know about VAG-reliability (VW, Skoda, SEAT, Audi). If the Toyota doens't suit you / her (remember, even if there are people who wouldn't buy one themselves, it still is the most RECOMMENDED car brand in the world), maybe the Ford Focus or Honda Civic (or upcoming Civic Stationwagon)?

  • duurtlang_

    I'd advise giving the brand new Peugeot 308 a look. I drove one back to back with an Astra of the current generation (admittedly the car was a few years old) and the Peugeot was superior to vastly superior in just about everything. The only problem I had was with the edge of the huge moon roof ending just over my head on the back seat, thus limiting head room in the back. But I'm sure that moon roof thing is optional, and I'm not that short either.

    The exterior is a bit conservative, but it's very fun to drive and the interior is top notch for the price. The strange steering layout with the tiny wheel and the dials above the wheel is something I grew accustomed to after about 5-15 minutes.

    <img src="; width="600">

    <img src="; width="600">

  • Xehpuk

    Pick the car that has a heated steering wheel. I guess that means Astra or Cee'd in the required price range. I've recently driven all of the cars mentioned in the post and I was very impressed with Kia Cee'd. Maybe some of it has something to do with low expectations, who knows. Anyway, the test drive made me think of buying a turbo version.


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