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2012 Mazda5 - The Only True MINIvan? - Review and Roadtest By Larry Nutson - VIDEO ENHANCED

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2012 Mazda5 MiniVan

2012 Mazda5 Specs, Comparisons, Prices and Reviews - Mazda Buyers Guide
Is the 2012 Mazda5 Your Perfect New Car Match?

2012 Mazda5 - Is this today's only true minivan?

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The question is: Is this today’s only true minivan? A number of auto analysts and writers are questioning what has happened to the minivan segment. Is it a case of age related size and weight gain?

In 1984 when the-then Chrysler Corporation introduced the Plymouth and Dodge minivans they were about 176 inches long. Shop around today and you’ll find a two foot length increase has taken place with popular so-called minivans now being about 200 inches long. Not very urban and big city driving friendly. Granted many minivans reside in the suburbs. However big city maneuvering also comes in to play for that occasional family or group city outing.

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I spent a week in the newly redesigned 2012 Mazda5, a Touring model with a base MSRP of $21,195. It’s Mazda’s first production vehicle to feature the Nagare “flow” design language. The Mazda5 is 180.5 inches long. It seats 6 in 3 rows of seats. It’s the only minivan to offer a manual transmission…a 6-speed. The automatic is a 5-speed and both transmission models are EPA rated at 21 city mpg and 28 highway mpg. The engine is a 2.5 liter, four cylinder with an output of 157HP. With the 15.9 gallon fuel tank you could drive 445 miles before refueling…that’s an all day road trip.

In the three-model range, below the Touring is the Sport model priced at $19,195 and the only model available with the 6-speed manual transmission. At the top is the Grand Touring model at $23,875. The shipping and processing charge for all adds $795. All very affordable.

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All the talk today is rear vision cameras, and I believe they are very necessary on many of the larger SUVs and minivans of today to enable safe backing-maneuvers. A rear vision camera is not necessary on the Mazda5. The exterior is so compact and with excellent visibility out of all the windows, particularly to the rear, maneuvering and parallel parking is safe and easy. Besides the city-friendly length of the Mazda5, the 36.7 foot turning radius is a big-city help.

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Cargo space with the third row seats folded is 27.5 cubic feet. Very adequate for grocery hauling with your two little helpers secured in the center seats. If you’re doing car pool duty and need all six seats, space for stuff is a bit under 6 cubic feet. More often than not in this people-mover mode of driving on the school field trip and such room for a lot of stuff is not needed.

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All Mazda5s include a long list of safety features, including: Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control System (TCS), Electric Hydraulic Power Assist (EHPAS) steering system, "Triple H" body construction, side-impact door beams, crushable brake and accelerator pedal assembly, advanced dual front air bags, front seat side air bags, three-row side air curtains, engine immobilizer anti-theft system, second row LATCH child safety seat anchors and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

The 2012 Mazda5 will also offer Mazda’s Brake Override System. This system always prioritizes the brake pedal over the accelerator pedal should both be engaged simultaneously, allowing the vehicle to be brought to a stop.

The Mazda5 Sport, available with either the manual or automatic transmission, is equipped with 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.

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Mazda5 Touring, available only with the five-speed automatic transmission, is equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels with P205/50R17 all-season tires, sport side still 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 has an optional Moonroof and Audio Package which includes a power moonroof, in-dash 6-disc CD changer and Sirius® satellite radio.

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My week of driving the Mazda5 in Chicagoland included a mixture of city streets with heavy traffic and also a few expressway drives into the suburbs. The “5” is very agile and ride and handling are quite good. Engine response is excellent and transmission upshifts and downshifts were smooth and quick. As I mentioned, visibility is unobstructed and city maneuvering especially in parking structures and parallel parking is very easy.

The Mazda5 has a 36-month/36,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty, a 60-month/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance. Mazda has about 900 dealers throughout North America.

By the way, before the Chrysler minivan back in 1979, Volkswagen had a good thing. But for today, the Mazda5 is “the” minivan.

© Larry Nutson