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2012 Mazda5

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Mazda5 seems vaguely familiar because it’s a kickback to the original size of minivans. This extremely affordable, three-row, six-passenger hatchback with two sliding doors doesn’t have much competition, mainly due to its compact size. And the 2012 model is able to gather even more momentum with a flowing redesign that replaces its quirky styling cues with beefier front fascia.

I drove a 2012 Mazda5 that features one engine – a 157-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder with Variable Valve Timing. Available in three models, my Sport trim featured a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. Standard equipment included: cloth-trimmed seats; a six-speaker audio system; and steering-wheel mounted controls. With $300 fog lights and a $430 XM radio subscription, total vehicle price came to $19,975.

The Mazda5 now has some honest competition with the new Toyota Pruis v. The two share a like-minded shape and boast extensive cargo configurations for a compact car. But it’s to a point, as only the Mazda5 offers a third-row and room for six. It all depends what – or who – you want to tow.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Although the Sport is the more modest trim (with the Touring and Grand Touring following), it has a surprisingly nice interior finish for base level. Noticeable assets are the large climate control dials, front passenger arm rests, and the dashboard design that features a slight tilt for an impression of more space. The audio system does need sound clarification. There is still room for a few bags of groceries with the third row up. You’ll have to root around a little to adjust the rear rows flat for the 44.4 cubic feet of cargo space. The Mazda5 won’t spoil you and your passengers, as you’ll have to do without many popular minivan features, like a power liftgate, power sliding doors, a moonroof and rear DVD system.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2012 Mazda5 is not yet rated by the IIHS or NHTSA. But every trim is loaded with standard safety equipment like Dynamic Stability Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Traction Control System, an advanced airbag system, LATCH (child-safety-seat anchors and upper tether anchors), Triple H body construction.

Cost Issues: For families on a budget – and that include most of us – the Mazda5 can fit six for under $20k. Even the Grand Touring trim, with added amenities like heated front seats, an upgraded six-speaker audio system with Sirius radio and a moonroof, costs remain reasonable at $24,025.

Activity & Performance Ability: The six-speed manual transmission is extremely smooth, bringing a pleasure-filled experience as you work through the gears. Note a five-speed Sport with Adaptive Shift Logic and manual-shift mode is available for all trims as well. Road noise is pronounced. All in all, the Mazda5 is gusty and commanding, with a likable steering and braking feel, but the 24 miles-per-gallon is a troublesome number in a compact crossover (or hatchback) market where one can easily get more ponies for less fuel.

The Green Concern: At 21 miles-per-gallon city and 28 highway, a combined fuel economy of 24 comes a little short at what a 157-horsepower 2.5-liter engine is capable of conserving. For example, the 2012 Honda CR-V’s 185-horspower 2.4-liter now gets 23 miles-per-gallon city and 31 highway – and it offers more room.

Compact and modest, the three-row 2012 Mazda5 is not going to spoil your family of six with popular bigger-car upgrades, like a power liftgate, a rear DVD system or loads of space, but the price is right at under $20k and minivan functions are evident.

2012 Katrina Ramser