2012 Mazda5: Gettin’ it just right

3 Jun 2011 | 2,366 views | One Comment
By Don Hammonds The hardest tightrope to master isn't the one under a circus tent, it's the one that carmakers have to manage once it's time for a changeover of a popular model. Does the company risk big styling changes? Do othey risk introducing new features that might turn off current customers? And what's everybody else doing in the particular market in which the model competes? This year, it was "that time" for the Mazda5,  Mazda's increasingly popular small minivan. In some parts of the country, l;ike Pittsbhurghj, Automobile Journal's home base, some dealers are asking currrent owners of  the first generation of Mazda5 minivans to trade in their cars so they can meet the demand for the car. When Automobile Journal learned that a new 2011 Mazda5 would be dropped off at our offices, we jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel so that we could see how the older and the new model compares.  We're happy to say that Mazda really managed that automotive tightrope act we spoke of earlier, very well. The most obvious change to the new generation of Mazda5 is the styling. Mazda has been pretty astute about bringing all of its models into a single kind of design philosophy, and that's what's happened with the Mazda5.  You'll notice some flowing character lines along the flanks of the car, and the "smiling" front end that graces all Mazda products has now been installed on the Mazda5.  The whole design, which comes across as flamboyant,  takes some getting used to  in contrast to the low key, crisp look that the previous generation used.      Mazda says, "In styling the new Mazda5, the design team viewed the overall image as a single bead of water with ripples intentionally left on the surface, such that the body’s lines express the flow of motion. The flow begins at the front grille and passes smoothly over the headlamps, hood and fenders. It then continues over the sides of the body, rear combination lamps and tailgate in a continuous stream. The various lines and motifs appear only to disappear again, creating a repeating theme of change and fusion that guides one’s eyes with its expression of beauty. The overall effect is a look of quality, emotional styling and elegance that intensifies the joy of ownership." Overall,  we think that it's a pretty cool minivan, and Mazda should be commended for trying to do something unique and reflective of its brand. If only everybody else would do that, huh? The 2012 Mazda5 is available in three trim levels - the entry-level Sport, Touring and top-grade Grand Touring. The Mazda5 Sport is powered by a 157 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and is available with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/55/R16 all-season tires, power mirrors, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, audio auxiliary jack, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry system, one-touch up/down driver’s window, 50/50 split fold-down third row seats and steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. The Mazda5 Touring is equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels with P205/50R17 all-season tires, sport side sill extensions, rear liftgate spoiler, fog lamps, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and trip computer. The top-of-the line Grand Touring model adds a power moonroof, xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, automatic on/off headlights, heated door mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, anti-theft alarm system, driver’s seat lumbar support adjustment, heated front seats, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, leather-trimmed seats and Sirius® satellite radio. The Touring model is available with a Moonroof and Audio Package which includes a power moonroof, in-dash 6-disc CD changer and Sirius satellite radio. Our test model as a 2012 Mazda5 Touring, with a base price of $21,195.  Adding a moonroof and audio package, and a few other things brought the price to $23,180. Fuel mileage is rated at 21/28, with estimated annual fuel costs of $1,876 based oon 15,000 miles at $3 a gallon. One of the few knocks against the existing model is that it needed more pep and acceleration.  Mazda has rectified that by equipping the Mazda5 with a more powerful  2.5 liter, 157 horsepower four, and the effect is obvious.  The Mazda5 now acclerates smartly and handles itself well in driving sityutions which require sudden speed for emergency manuevers or getting off or on expressways and highways. Handling has always been superb on the Mazda5 and that continues to be the case with the 2012 model. The second row has separate captain’s chairs, and they slide and recline and can be folded flat without removing their headrests. They also feature a one-touch lever that automatically tips the seatback forward and slides the cushion to its front-most position to allow access to the third row. The third row seats are split 50/50. They can be tipped forward individually and folded flat to create a flat load area, ideal for carrying mountain bikes or bulky sports equipment. With the rear-most seats folded flat, carrying capacity is 44.4 cubic feet. Even with all six seats in the “up” position, the luggage area is still large enough to carry a standard baby stroller and everything else that comes with Junior.      Mazda's also improved on providing cubbies and spots for holding and storing things-- though they did a pretty good job of doing that for the first generation, too. Interior storage space includes an abundance of compartments, including half-liter bottle holders in each front door pocket. Additionally, under-seat storage in the second row seats can be accessed by folding the cushions forwards. The right-middle seat also offers a tilt-out basket, to keep safe all the little “things” that a family collects. The Mazda5 features “theater-style” seating. The stepped floor referred to earlier means each row is mounted a little higher than the one in front to improve visibility for everybody. Problems? For us, the biggest one continues to be gas mileage. No it's not horrible at 21/28. It just seems that the gas tank empties out mighty quick, so the real p[roblem could be that the car needs a bigger gas tank. But considering it only seats six, there are small and even mid-sized SUVs that can beat that. Yes, they cost more, but consumers may decide to spend extra for a similarly sized small or mid-sized SUV instead.        A smaller issue for some consumers may be the lack of a lot of option choices that you can get on other minivans. Bu who needs all that extra stuff--particularly if you like to drive? The Mazda5 still is far and away the most fun to drive, and in this day of $40,000 and even $50,000 minivans, its $19,195 starting price sounds mighty fine to us--and we suspect, to a whole lot of other folks, too.

One Comment »

  • Audi A1 said:

    This is really beautiful car. Definitely the Japanese cars are faster and more powerful than the German ones and I think they are much more comfortable.

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