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One thing I always look for on my junkyard expeditions is a manual transmission in an unexpected vehicle. Say, a Mercury Mystique or a V6 Camry with three pedals. In the early days of the minivan boom, a few manual-transmission Dodge Caravans and Plymouth Voyagers were sold (not to mention Toyota Vans and even Previas), but by the end of the 20th century, the Forces of Slushboxification essentially took over the American-market minivan world. . century. Then Mazda decided it made sense to make an Americanized version of the Premacy to sell here, AND that this minivan would have a five-speed manual transmission (and, shortly after, a six– manual speed) as basic equipment. This was the Mazda5, and some of them rolled out of Mazda’s American showrooms without automatics. Here’s one of those extremely rare vans, found in a self-service car yard in the Denver area.
This Mazda5 was based on the first generation Mazda3 (and thus is a cousin platform of the first generation Ford Focus), and quite a few Americans bought those cars with the idea of moving by themselves.
A few years ago I decided to buy a 5 with a manual transmission. This has proved nearly impossible, partly because they are extremely rare and partly because looking for one online is maddening (many car dealers and private sellers believe that an automatic with a +/- next to the gearbox is the same thing as an manual transmission, so filtering by transmission type is useless with these cars). How it worked, I bought a small Japanese van with double sliding doors and a CVT…and the steering wheel on the right side.
American minivan drivers have enough to do while driving that they don’t want to add the stress of gear selection to the load, it seems.
The Mazda5 had room for six people, and the sliding doors on both sides proved extremely useful when doing minivan-type things. On paper, it should have sold very well here, but across two generations, its best year was 2008 and only about 22,000 sold. In 2015, Mazda killed it in the US (although Canadian sales continued for another couple of years).
The problem was that it was quite small by US market minivan standards with much less interior space. Also, with the captain’s chairs pictured above, it could only seat six people.
There was also the problem that most American families this century want to drive trucks, or at least minivans and hatchbacks with truck-like shapes. These were good vehicles, but designed with the Japanese market in mind.
Perhaps the lowered resale value due to an undesirable transmission type was enough to doom this car when something broke.
At home, this van could be purchased with all-wheel drive. Zoom Zoom!
Such a futurist!
Never lose your cool.