Toyota Wish is a popular model. However, there are still some out there who wish to seek an alternative mid-sized multi-purpose van (MPV). One of these models is the Honda Stream, but the new Wish’s larger dimensions and engine means a MPV like the Mazda5  which is also known as Mazda Premacy is closer in competition.

The Wish’s popularity is undoubted so let’s see how the underdog Mazda fares against the Toyota in this David versus Goliath twin test.

The new Wish is dimensionally larger than its predecessor- it is up to 30mm longer than previously. In terms of styling, the Wish features softer and more rounded lines that gives it a slightly less boxy and chiseled look.

The previous model’s vertical head and tail lamps have given way to more horizontal ones that mimic the larger Previa’s while the accentuated wheel arches add some sportiness. The standard aerodynamic kit gives it a purposeful or dare I say, sporty stance, if only the alloy wheels could be larger to fill the enormous gaps under the wheel arches.


Compared to the ubiquitous Wish, the Mazda5 looks more compact and dynamic even though it has an upright, boxy profile. The Mazda5 was updated a couple of years back to keep it showroom fresh.

The updated model can be differentiated from earlier examples by a different radiator grille, sportier front bumper, new alloy wheels and LED tail lamps. The Mazda5 isn’t the prettiest or most handsome compact MPV (in my opinion, the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso is currently the prettiest) out there but we deem the 5 to have very well proportioned and purposeful looks for a people carrier.

Performance

Powering the Wish’s front wheels is a new 1987cc VVT-i four-cylinder unit that replaces the familiar 1.8-litre four-pot in the old model. With the help of DOHC and 16 valves, the engine pumps out 142bhp at 5600rpm, an increase of 10 horses over the old 1.8 unit. With peak torque of 189Nm delivered at 4400rpm, the engine is a rather peaky unit.

On the road, you need to use at least some revs to extract the performance potential of the engine. Unlike Honda’s smooth revving i-VTEC four-cylinder units though, the Wish’s engine will sound gruff and loud as you pile on the revs. It is better to drive the Wish in a relaxed manner rather than in a hurried fashion.

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The  Mazda5’s SVT (Sequential Valve Timing) equipped 2-litre four-cylinder engine  produces a maximum power output of 145bhp at 6500rpm with maximum torque quoted at 182Nm, 3bhp up and 7Nm down on the Wish’s figures. The engine is pretty tractable at low to mid revs which is an essential feature for a people carrier.

Rev the Mazda engine past 4000rpm though and just like the Wish’s four-pot, it’ll start to get vocal and trashy – this and the Wish’s unit are definitely not the most refined motors in the MPV class.

As often the case for Japanese makes, Toyota doesn’t quote any performance numbers for the Wish, but we reckon roughly 11 and a half seconds for its century sprint time is just about spot on. The slightly more portly Mazda doesn’t feel any slower off the line than the Toyota – this pair is pretty much neck and neck when it comes to straight line performance.

Surprisingly, the Toyota’s automatic gearbox offers a ‘+/-‘ manual mode despite its lack of sporting pretensions. With just four forward ratios though, there’s little to play with in manual mode. The lack of a fifth or sixth ratio will also ultimately affect outright performance and economy. Parallel imported cars use a different box though – a CVT instead of a four-speeder. Toyota chose the latter for export models as CVTs are more apt for Japanese driving conditions only.

The Mazda goes one better over the Toyota in the gearbox department thanks to an additional forward ratio.  The Mazda’s five-speed auto transmission offers smooth and incise shifts and is responsive to the driver’s throttle inputs too. Like he Toyota, it also offers a ‘+/-‘ manual mode for the keen driver but steering wheel mounted shift paddles are not provided.

The 5 is another model out of Mazda’s ‘zoom zoom’ product philosophy. Handling is remarkably competent for an MPV with such a tall and upright stance. The steering is OK in terms of feel and feedback but body control is really good – it hardly leans into corners despite its height. The ride is also comfortable – the suspension soaks up bumps and humps with aplomb without any hint of firmness.

The Wish has the less sophisticated suspension layout of the pair here. At the front, there’s a MacPherson strut layout while the rear is a relatively simple torsion beam set up – the Mazda5’s 3-based platform has a multi-link design at the rear. As a result, the Wish doesn’t ride as well as the 5, the ride is not firm or rock hard but it just feels a little more choppy and busier, especially over continuous bumps. It can feel rather unsettled at higher speeds as well.

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The Wish loses out to the 5 when it comes to outright handling. The steering is its Achilles’’ heel – the helm is not only short of any form of feel and feedback but feels artificially weighted as well, thus not giving the driver much confidence to hustle it quickly and in the bends. The Toyota rolls a tad in the corners, this is a family car after all, but it never feels disconcerting to the point that you’ll be put off going around any form of corners.

Interior

Up front in the Mazda5, there’s a dashboard that is put together from reasonable quality switchgear and materials. The driving position is easily adjustable for comfort and the view out from the driver’s seat is excellent.

The 5 features what Mazda calls a 6+1 seating configuration. The ‘+1’ basically refers to the foldable bench that is in the centre of the second row. This bench seat can easily be stowed aside to allow walk through access through the second row to the rear. The centre row seats can also slide fore and aft to adjust legroom as required. With the centre row positioned slightly forward, there’s actually decent legroom in the third row despite the 5’s relatively compact exterior dimensions. Rear passengers will welcome the addition of air-con vents – they can even adjust the fan speed at the rear.


Access to the third row is a breeze as well thanks to the low floor and the wide opening sliding doors. The latter get full electrical operation on both sides and can be operated either by the master button on the dash or via the key fob.

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The 5, being an MPV offers flexibility in the form of easily foldable seats to convert it into a load carrier if required.

The new Wish’s more generous exterior dimensions mean a noticeably more spacious interior than its predecessor and the Mazda. There’s a tad more legroom in the third row with reasonably good rear headroom despite the Toyota’s less upright rear.

As in the Mazda5, the Wish’s rearmost seats have to be folded down for any decent amount of cargo space. There’s only space for a couple of shopping bags at the rear if all seven seats are in place. Both the Mazda and the Wish offer an under floor compartment at the rear for storing smaller items and odds and ends.

Up front, the Wish’s dashboard has an interesting arrangement for its air vents. Instead of having a pair of vents in the middle of the dash, the Wish has an additional vent located at the top of the dash and placed at an angle for cold air to better reach rear passengers. In theory, this reduces the need for rear air-con vents but the Mazda’s rear mounted vents are still more effective in cooling rear passengers.

The Wish offers reasonable quality switchgear but the plastic surfaces on the dashboard look too shiny and feel too hard and brittle to the touch, making the cabin feel cheaply made in the process. The driving position in the Wish isn’t as comfortable as in the Mazda, the Toyota’s seats are too flat and lack any form of support.

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