Patrick McIntyre: Everyone knows one vehicle can't do it all. But the 2012 Mazda5 minivan comes pretty close.
Amanda Salas: Patrick, the challenge with the all-new Mazda5 is to retain that sporty handling that previous Mazda5 owners enjoyed while giving that practicality, refinement and convenience features that minivan buyers come to expect.
Patrick: I think they were able to achieve that with improvements to the interior, the engine and a sleek new exterior design that Mazda is calling in-motion styling.
Amanda: There are three trims: the base Sport model like we have today, the mid-level Touring and the top-of the line Grand Touring. They all come with a 157-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and a five-speed automatic in the Touring and Grand Touring, or a six-speed manual transmission in the Sport model.
Patrick: To keep the 5 affordable, the Mazda5 lacks a few options that many buyers might expect such as power sliding doors, power liftgate, all-wheel drive and factory-installed navigation just aren't available.
Amanda: On the other hand, the manual side doors are so light and simple to use, most price-conscious buyers will be more than happy with the tradeoff.
Patrick: The Mazda5's cabin is strong on function, with front reclining bucket seats, a second row that reclines and a third row that splits 50/50 and makes hauling different combinations of people and cargo a breeze. But remember, it is a relatively short minivan, so it might not have as much cargo space as some of its competitors.
Amanda: Family-friendly features include numerous cup holders and storage bins placed throughout the cabin. And although the 5's priced on the low side, even the base model has creature comforts like air conditioning, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control and remote keyless entry.
Patrick: Speaking of price, you can get the base model for just under $20,000. The Touring model starts at a little over $21,000 and adds a rear spoiler, foglamps and a Bluetooth hands-free interface.
Amanda: And for just over $24,000, the top-of-the-line Grand Touring adds leather-trimmed seats, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats and Sirius satellite radio.
Patrick: Acceleration's good, and the ride is smooth and stable. Now we recommend the automatic transmission, because it has incredibly quick upshifts and really smooth downshifts as well.
Amanda: Head and shoulder room are both good, and the seats are reasonably comfortable, too.
Patrick: Yeah, I like the way the gauges are laid out. Makes it real easy to see everything.
Amanda: Overall, Patrick, I would say that the Mazda5 is a solid, cost-conscious family hauler that's perfect for young couples and mature buyers, too.
Patrick: Yeah. It also offers that kind of sharp handling that's just not going to be found in another minivan. So if you are in the market for an affordable family vehicle with three rows of seats, the Mazda5 is worth taking a look at! It may be the one car that truly can do it all.