Meet Millie and Bernie Jones, they’ve been married for 12 years and have two glowing children, Tanner and Xavier. Millie also has another bun in the oven – Porsche is due in the spring. They are a vibrant, suburban family who enjoy giving their kids exciting names. Bernie works at the head office of a large retail company and Millie runs a small business from home which has absolutely nothing to do with her Masters degree – that Millie’s father and Bernie had equal share in financing a decade ago. Tanner – aged six, despite the name, is a reserved, well mannered boy. Xavier – aged four, has developed a fierier demeanor in response to the subtle disappointment that he was not the baby daughter Millie had hoped for second time round. Despite this, he has a heart of gold and a carefree attitude that provides the ying to Tanner’s yang… they are the opposite sides of the same coin.
Those are the Jones’s now here’s the catch: They are in need of a new set of wheels in light of Porsche’s imminent arrival. A people carrier of some sort – perish the thought they say, thinking of themselves as a family not trammeled by the suburban status quos. Bernie has been running a (mostly reliable) Korean sedan for a few years now, although he’s quick to glance over unscheduled visits to the family mechanic because it didn’t quite fit with his well-practiced story of Korean reliability and cheap service costs. Millie’s old beater has become acquainted with the shopping mall parking lot pillars far too often to count and is a rusty, safety hazard even when it’s sitting still in the driveway. So let’s meet some new car contenders.
The R260, 300 – 1.2-litre TSI, Volkswagen Touran and the R249, 140 – 2.0-litre, Mazda 5. Both are entry level models, in keeping with the needs of a family budgeting for a little one on the way. Those of you with a keen eye for figures, like Bernie, will realise the Mazda is a bit cheaper than the VW and yet it appears to offer much more stuff. 106kW & 180Nm from its big, 2.0-litre; curtain airbags for each individual seat, of which there are six and not seven as Mazda claim. Sure there’s a seat belt for the middle seat in the middle row but an amoeba would struggle to stay perched there for any period of time. Arm rests for each seat, tray tables in the back and the Mazda has sliding rear doors, making life easier in car parks, although they aren’t electrically operated in ‘Original’ spec.
The VW appears, on paper anyway, to make a far less compelling case for the Jones’s attention. The entry level ‘Trendline’ model we have here only makes 77kW & 175Nm from its turbo charged, 1.2-litre motor. It doesn’t come with alloy wheels as standard; it also only has five seats, although you can comfortably fit someone in the centre seat because the VW is wider across then the Mazda. You can option the ‘seven seat package’ for the price of R7, 900, but rather annoyingly according to the Jones’s, not on the ‘Trendline’ model. That would provide an uncharacteristic value-for-money loop hole for a VW now wouldn’t it? Yes, no, you’ll need to go for the more expensive diesel ‘Comfortline’ and even then – it’s still only an option. And crucially, unlike the Mazda that last row of seats won’t have airbags. The Touran wasn’t designed for a third row of seats.
In Bernie’s mind the matter has already been resolved: Mazda 5 all the way. But then Millie’s persuasive voice begins to make itself heard. She says she likes the VW’s driving position and supportive cloth seats. She likes the smooth leather steering wheel with audio controls, the typically chunky VW gear knob and light clutch; the comforting ride, the hill start assist which would have saved her old car from several perilous scrapes, and the VW’s overall proficiency. For instance, the doors that hinge sturdily when you’re climbing in or out and the huge access to the boot.
If Bernie’s honest, these things resonate with him too, but admitting that to Millie would mean surrendering yet another battle to her in the long running Bernie vs Millie war. He won’t back down even though he rather bizarrely loves the VW’s exhaust note and was able to note it kept up with the Mazda up until about 80kph before the Mazda’s power won the day; an admirable performance he thought considering the VW is 15% more fuel efficient.
When the Jones’s returned to the Mazda 5 after experiencing the classy VW, it became harder to glance over some of the faults. The alloy wheeled, body kitted look of it, the hard touch steering wheel, loose gear knob and all around less enjoyable driving character. The Mazda is faster no doubt, but it feels heavier and harder to manage and jiggles over road imperfections and is less bright and airy than the VW. It also, in ‘Original’ spec, doesn’t have AC vents for anyone in the rear… quite an oversight both the Jones’s thought. It however does have the superior seating layout, each one fully adjustable and with its own armrest.
At the end of the day, the Jones’s final conclusion was this: The VW Touran and Mazda 5 are like takeaway chicken. One being a bucket of KFC, as in not that great for you but good value / quantity none the less; and the other being Nando’s – better taste, better flavour but not viable on a day-to-day budget.
The Jones’s have always been a KFC kind of family, so they’ll go for the Mazda 5.
VW Touran, 1.2TSI Trendline Mazda 5, 2.0l – Original
R263, 300 R249, 100
77kW & 175Nm 106kW & 180Nm
12sec (0-100kph) & 185kph (top speed) 10.5sec (0-100kph) & 195kph (top speed)
6.4-litres per 100km & 149 g/km (CO2) 8.1-litres per 100km & 175 g/km (CO2)
3yr / 120K warranty 4yr / 120K warranty