For minivan shoppers who don't need or want to park a behemoth in their driveway (most new vans are "mini" in name-only), the 2012 Mazda5 is both smaller and more affordable. Priced far below full-size minivan competitors like the 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan, the Mazda5 is hailed as a spunky and manageable alternative. While the portly competition can easily crest the $40,000 mark, Autoblog.com editors sum up the Mazda5 as being "small, efficient and, perhaps most important of all, inexpensive."
The Mazda5 has been completely redesigned for the 2012 model year (available now), and it shows. Autoblog says it's "flat-out better inside and out than it's ever been," and calls it "the best family hauler for under 20-large." Edmunds.com thinks the relatively affordable Mazda5 is a good choice, because a full-size minivan "can be overkill for families with just one or two little ones." Motor Trend also thinks it's a better choice, saying the Mazda5 is a "unique and more sensible way to transport people and goods."
Mazda is famous for its "Zoom-Zoom" ad campaign, and editors say the new Mazda5 lives up to the slogan. WindingRoad.com says it's a good compromise between space and "Zoom-Zoom." Mazda5's handling is praised by Edmunds.com editors who say the Mazda5 offers utility with added agility.
Though reviewers find much to like about the Mazda5, they point out some specific drawbacks. Motor Trend says the biggest disappointment is the lack of an integrated navigation system option. Instead, Mazda dealers will sell customers a portable Garmin GPS unit. Many critics are dismayed by the Mazda5's lack of other common minivan mechanisms and options, including power sliding doors and rear-window sunshades. Also notable is that the small, inline-four engine powering the 2012 Mazda5 is somewhat underpowered, which many reviewers think hinders fuel economy. Autoblog.com estimates the Mazda5's fuel economy is on par with the much bigger, heavier and more powerful 2011 Honda Odyssey.
Reviews we found didn't necessarily complain about the 2012 Mazda5's new styling, but the new sheetmetal definitely polarizes reviewers. Undulating lines in the Mazda5's bodywork -- styling Edmunds editors call "swoopier" than previous generations -- give way to an unusually shaped front grille that Autoblog refers to as a "Prozac-infused happy face."
The swoopiness continues inside, creating a curvy cockpit that wraps around the driver, according to Autoblog. Though it is integrated well into the dashboard design, the basic vehicle information console is not located very close to the driver, making it somewhat difficult to keep an eye on.
Critics also find that the six-passenger Mazda5 simply doesn't have enough seating, and what it does have lacks proper legroom for anyone larger than a child. In addition, the two interior storage bins behind the second row of seats are "shallow and mostly ineffective," says Autoblog. The available panoramic moonroof, however, garners praise from WindingRoad.com, which calls it massive.
The 2012 Mazda5 is available in three trim levels, all of which are configured with six bucket seats. Most basic is the Sport, which includes 16-inch wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry and cruise control. Touring models get 17-inch wheels, fog lights, Bluetooth connectivity and the Moonroof and Audio package, which includes the large moonroof, satellite radio and a six-disc CD changer to complement the six-speaker stereo. Top-end Mazda5 Grand Touring models add automatic windshield wipers and xenon headlights, heated front seats with lumbar adjustment, and leather upholstery. Options are limited to an iPod adapter, Garmin portable GPS unit and a DVD entertainment system.
The Mazda5's value proposition is best put into perspective my Car and Driver magazine's Michael Austin, who says, "The fully loaded Grand Touring model we tested -- sunroof, automatic xenon headlights, heated power mirrors, Sirius satellite radio, leather seats (heated in front) -- comes in under the magic $25,000 limbo stick, at $24,670."
The only engine available in the 2012 Mazda5 is a 2.5-liter, 157-horsepower inline-four mated to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Most reviewers say this engine is underpowered for the task at hand, but the Mazda5's suspension tuning and steering dynamics make it fun to put through the paces. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2012 Mazda5 at 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined regardless of which transmission is chosen.
Standard safety equipment includes electronic stability control, traction control and antilock brakes, as well as front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags. Unfortunately, as of this update, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has crash tested the 2012 Mazda5 minivan.
AOL Autos is a terrific source for pricing, available equipment and specification information. Autoblog provides insightful road tests that offer a practical perspective; WindingRoad.com is similar in those repects and offers subscription options. Edmunds.com is always one of the most reliable sources for succinct but complete rundowns of trim levels, new features and driving impressions. Both Car and Driver and Motor Trend post complete critiques of the vehicles they test and speak to competition.
1. AOL Autos
AOL Auto's easy-to-navigate interface is a handy tool for shoppers who want to compare one vehicle's multiple trim levels and/or two or more vehicles side by side.
Review: 2012 Mazda Mazda5, Editors of AOL Autos
Autoblog.com is an excellent resource for auto enthusiasts. It provides current reporting on the auto industry and thorough vehicle reviews that offer honest criticism and praise.
Review: Review: 2012 Mazda5, Chris Shunk, Feb. 15, 2011
Reviews from Edmunds.com are consistently helpful and fair. Articles run through everything from trim levels to powertrain and performance details.
Review: 2012 Mazda Madza5, Editors of Edmunds.com, Not dated
4. Car and Driver
This review may be called a short take, but it is in no way lacking in detail. Buyers will appreciate Michael Austin's appraisal of the Mazda5's performance and livability as well as his in-class comparisons.
Review: 2010 Mazda5 Grand Touring -- Short Take Road Test, Michael Austin, Jan. 2011
5. Motor Trend
Similar in form to the Car and Driver article, Motor Trend divulges a great deal of information in its brief introduction to the Mazda5's driving dynamics, quality and livability.
Review: First Test: 2010 Mazda5, Editors of Motor Trend, Not dated
WindingRoad.com delivers its reporting with beautiful images and honest impressions. This article agrees with many others in pointing out the Mazda5's faults, but it offers a great deal of praise as well.
Review: Driven: 2010 Mazda5, John Beltz Snyder, March 8, 2011