The Mazda 5 Tells Us Americans Don't Want Fun Minivans

Only 2.5% of the minivans sold in the United States in the first half of 2014 were Mazda 5s. And the Mazda 5 is really the only true minivan available, commercial-van-based Transit Connect Wagon aside.

(Ford doesn't separate sales figures for the unique Transit Connect variants. Ford sold 4573 Transit Connects in total in June 2014 compared with 11,790 E-Series vans, 490 new Transits... and 692 Mazda 5s.)

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The Mazda 5 is the only minivan available with a manual transmission, the only minivan under 3500 pounds, the only minivan remaining with a 4-cylinder engine. Many moons ago, Matt Hardigree named it the fourth-best minivan of all time. If there's an enthusiast-oriented product in the minivan category, it's not one of the many high-powered, V6-engined heavyweights: it's the 5.

But the 5 is an exceedingly rare purchase/lease in 2014. Even at its peak, very few people were buying the 5. 2008 U.S. sales rose to 22,021 units, the only year more than 20,000 were sold. Aside from the year the 5 debuted, 2005, 2013 was the 5's worst full calendar year, and year-over-year, sales are down 21% through the first half of 2014. It sells more often than the Nissan Quest and Kia Sedona (for now), and in the case of the Quest, not by much.

Meanwhile, for every 5 sold, Dodge and Chrysler sell 20 Grand Caravans and Town & Countrys. Then there are 17 Odysseys and Siennas per Mazda 5, as well.

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The grass is always greener on the other side, and so we believe the American car market has room for a Opel Zafira, Renault Grand Scenic, Citroën C4 Grand Picasso, or Volkswagen Touran. They can have them, we can't, and we therefore think we would want them if only we could have them. (And by we, we clearly mean parents with 1.5 children, a dog, and a bathroom to renovate.) It's not as though the 5, thoroughly face lifted but once in the last decade, is the freshest loaf of bread in the bakery. Perhaps new product lines are what this one-van subsegment needs in order to attract customers.

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Mazda's experience with the 5, and Kia's U.S. cancellation of the Rondo – a car which easily outsells the 5 and increasingly unpopular Chevrolet Orlando in Canada – surely causes other automakers to shy away from offering mini MPVs in the United States.

The minivan market as a whole, however, is once again growing at a healthy rate because of a Chrysler/Dodge surge, in spite of declines reported by the 5, Odyssey, Quest, and Sienna. GoodCarBadCar breaks down minivan sales on a monthly basis, a task which showcases the 5's consistently low American sales volume.

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Minivans accounted for 3.5% of all the new vehicles sold in the U.S. over the course of the last six months, up from 3.4% a year ago, down from 6.6% in calendar year 2004, when the number of available minivans was significant, and the number of available three-row crossovers was much lower. Tastes have changed.

America's appetite for the Mazda 5 was never voracious, yet the number of Americans ordering this menu item now is smaller than it's ever been.

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