2012 Mazda MAZDA5 Minivan - FROM $19,625
The sporty 2012 Mazda 5 should be just right for folks who don't need all the size or space of a full-size minivan.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Mazda 5 has been completely redesigned.
There's a reason the minivan is considered the quintessential vehicle for parents. You see, it's the perfect vehicle for schlepping around the kids and the stuff that comes along with them. No other vehicle can match the minivan's huge interior space, three rows of seating, sliding rear doors and low ride height. Yet as great as a minivan is, it can be overkill for families with just one or two little ones. That's where the 2012 Mazda 5 comes in.
Completely redesigned for 2012, the latest Mazda 5 is an evolution of the previous model. Highlights include a bit more power, more comfortable seating and swoopier styling. At its core, however, the 5 remains a mini-minivan for those with modest family transportation needs. With two seats in each of its three rows, it only seats six compared to the seven- or eight-passenger seating of a big minivan (now that's an oxymoron). But if occasions to haul multiple passengers are few and far between, the Mazda 5's design has a sizable (size being the operative word here) practical advantage over compact crossover SUVs.
There's another advantage the Mazda 5 has over its quasi-family mobile competitors -- it's fun to drive. Like the Mazda 3, it goes around corners with control and poise. Some automakers may boast that their minivans or SUVs "handle like a car," but the Mazda 5 actually does. In fact, it handles like a really good car. Because of its smaller size, it's also much easier to maneuver through tighter spaces, and you won't have to think twice about squeezing into compact parking spots.
That said, the 2012 Mazda 5 certainly isn't for everyone. Some folks really do need commodious space, and there's something to be said for V6 power on hilly terrain or with a full load of people aboard. The Mazda 5 also isn't available with certain features common to regular minivans, like power-operated sliding doors, sunshades or factory-installed navigation and entertainment systems. In contrast, the all-new 2012 Ford C-Max -- also a mini minivan built on a platform shared with the Mazda 5 ? has all sorts of electronics features. Still, the Mazda 5 has everything you need and enough passenger and cargo space for most young families. Essentially a design hybrid between a minivan and a wagon, the Mazda 5 is a great alternative choice and definitely worth a look in these lean economic times.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mazda 5 is a three-row, six-passenger compact minivan available in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The base Sport comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, automatic climate control (with rear vents and fan controls), a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 5 Touring adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a trip computer and Bluetooth. For the Touring, the optional Moonroof & Audio package adds a sunroof, satellite radio and a six-CD changer. This package is standard on the 5 Grand Touring, which also gets automatic xenon headlights, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, driver lumbar adjustment, heated front seats and leather upholstery.
There are a number of dealer-installed extras that will be available later in the model year, including remote ignition, an iPod interface, a Garmin portable navigation system and a DVD entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2012 Mazda 5 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard on the Sport, while a five-speed automatic is optional on the Sport and standard on everything else. In Edmunds performance testing, a 5 Grand Touring went from zero to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds -- slower than most typical minivans and many compact SUVs. With either transmission, fuel economy is estimated at 21 mpg city/28 highway.
Every Mazda 5 comes with standard stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the 5 came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet -- a few feet longer than average.
Interior Design and Special Features
While the 5 is obviously smaller than the typical minivan, it still packs plenty of interior versatility. The comfortable second-row captain's chairs slide and recline, and the passenger-side seat features a nifty pop-up center table and storage space that can be fitted between the chairs (and later stowed away, creating a walk-through channel to the third row). The third row is big enough for kids and is easier to get into than every crossover third row we can think of. At the same time, the sliding rear doors mean easy access, particularly in parking lots.
Up front, the new 5's dash layout has remained largely the same, and the overall look is sleeker now. All of the controls are easy to reach and use, and that helps the 5 feel much more like a regular car from behind the wheel. The front seats provide respectable comfort, though taller folks may wish for more rearward seat travel.
If you want some added utility but don't want to give up the agility and urban maneuverability of car, the 2012 Mazda 5 is an excellent choice. Acceleration is slightly pokey (especially on hilly terrain), but the 5's handling is excellent. On winding roads, the 5 rewards the driver with precise steering and controlled body motions. Passengers riding with an enthusiastic driver will also appreciate a retuned suspension that helps keep them from sliding and swaying in their seats. On the Edmunds test track, the 5 nearly matched the handling numbers of the much smaller Mazda 2. Quite simply, the 5 is fun to drive, something we can't say about any other regular minivan.