2012 Mazda5
 2012 Mazda5
 2012 Mazda5
 2012 Mazda5
 2012 Mazda5

Balance, specifically the balance between a comfortable ride and confident handling; some vehicles have it and some don’t. The 2012 Mazda5 has it. It’s really that balance that makes the Mazda5 so compelling. Well, that plus the $20,000 price tag and six passenger seating.

The challenge with the all new Mazda5 is to keep the entertaining handling some buyers like while also making it more comfortable and efficient, something young families will appreciate. Mazda’s mini-minivan has grown in overall size yet still retains urban friendly dimensions. Further improvements have been made to the interior, exterior and the engine.

There’s something refreshing about Mazda’s approach with the Mazda5. Company officials aren’t trying to sell it or portray it as something it’s not. Tetsu Nakazawa, Vehicle Line Manager for the Mazda5, admits Mazda5 buyers are not primarily interested in paying for tons of high-end features. “We know exactly why Mazda5 buyers pick it. They choose the Mazda5 because it’s versatile, affordable, dependable and gets good fuel economy, and in that order.” That’s very telling when you consider what the Mazda5 does not offer – power side doors, a power rear liftgate, all-wheel drive and factory installed navigation are features you won’t find on the 2012 Mazda5.

What the 2012 Mazda5 does offer is a long list of thoughtful features that aren’t exactly high tech but seem as if they’ve been developed by actual parents – you know, the kind of people that use minivans versus engineers who think every vehicle should ride like a race car. The lack of power sliding doors on a minivan will cause some to skip the Mazda5 altogether, but the simplicity and ease of use Mazda has built into the 5’s side doors is equally desirable. The doors are so light, any 7 year old can operate them. Also, the Mazda5’s low step in height means installing and removing child seats is less of a back breaking chore. Second row seats that recline are also a big plus for families that still use forward facing child seats or booster seats on long trips. The third row seats fold up and down easily and in a 50/50 split that makes hauling different combinations of people and cargo effortless.

Other family friendly features include numerous storage bins placed throughout the cabin and a fold down third row of seating. Mazda’s redesigned minivan also has a fresh new exterior look that sets it apart from large “box on wheels” minivans.

Power for the new Mazda5 comes from a 2.5 liter four cylinder engine that delivers more than adequate giddy-up and is remarkably smooth as well. It makes its 157 hp at a lower engine speed than the 2.3 liter engine it replaces. Mazda says they worked on getting the engine quieter too – it’s another high point for the little minivan, you can hear the engine working under hard acceleration but the sound is more like a distant conversation rather than someone yelling in your face.

That engine comes with either a five speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. The automatic is the transmission type most buyers will pick and it complements the new, larger engine nicely with well timed up-shifts and almost imperceptible downshifts. There’s also a shift-it-yourself feature on the automatic that adds a little fun when you’re driving alone.

Finally, the 2012 Mazda5 gets a new look that’s bound to win a few new customers. The exterior design sort of mimics the looks of ripples in a pond and as far as minivans go, it does come off as a bit more stylish than other family vans. And, love it or hate it, the Mazda5 now shares the big grin grille with other Mazda vehicles.

In a way, the Mazda5 is sort of the anti-minivan. It combines a sporty disposition with a level of flexibility other vans can’t match. Of course other vans are bigger and therefore are even more versatile but those who actually enjoy driving, or who want to enjoy driving will instantly recognize that something is lost with the added size. The 2012 Mazda5 is a lot like the previous Mazda5, only a little more grown up. The Mazda5’s ability to effectively balance the needs of grown up buyers with the desires of younger drivers is precisely what makes it so different and so compelling.

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Brian Moody has been an automotive writer and presenter for more than 10 years. He has contributed to such media outlets as CNBC, Fox Business, the Today show, Speed TV, Edmunds.com and KTLA in Los Angeles. He currently covers the automotive industry and reviews new cars for the nationally syndicated Car Concerns radio show.

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