Farewell Long-Term 2012 Mazda 5
The Mazda 5 has been around since model-year 2006, but it went on hiatus for 2011 pending a redesign. The 2012 Mazda 5, with its freshened styling and additional power, joined the Consumer Guide test car fleet in the spring of 2011. Editors drove it for 12 months and fell in love with its practicality.
Like a minivan, the Mazda 5 has sliding rear-side doors and 3 rows of seating. But because of its small size, we slot it in the midsize-car class. This little people mover is 180 inches long and 69 inches wide, compared to approximately 200 and 77 for the typical minivan.
Engine: 157-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Total Miles Driven: 14,738 miles
CG Observed Fuel Economy: 25.1 mpg
Base Price: $ 21,195
Major Options: Rear bumper guard, Moonroof and Audio Package (power moonroof, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio w/ 4-month subscription)
Price as Tested: $ 23,180
Problems During Test: None
For many minivan shoppers, the 5 is too small. The 3rd row can accommodate only tykes, not teens, and its cargo capacity is only 55 cubic feet–not the 140-plus that the traditional minivans provide. But the 5 trumps the minivans in some very significant ways. It starts under $ 20,000, can get more than 25 mpg, handles like a sedan, and doesn’t feel like you’re driving the team bus.
We had driven the previous-generation 5 before, but never for an extended period of time. We were anxious to see if this mini family hauler had staying power–or if we would become increasingly annoyed by its shortcomings. Over the course of 12 months, we drove the 5 on several road trips (hello, Smoky Mountains!) and through a variety of weather conditions, amassing 14,717 miles. The result? We liked the 5 so much that we granted it a Best Buy Award and rated it a perfect 10 for “Value within Class.” Heck, one editor was so enamored with the 5 that he went out and bought one.
The 2012 Mazda 5 comes with one engine, a 157-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. The 5 can be paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, which is rarely selected but makes for an enticing starting price at $ 19,195. Our test vehicle came with a 5-speed automatic transmission, a $ 1,000 option.
Our tester was the Touring model. Though it’s one step up from the base Sport, Touring lacks some minivan creature comforts. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is the most “luxurious” item it adds to the base. Our car came with one standalone option (a rear bumper guard) as well as the Moonroof and Audio Package (power moonroof, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, satellite radio). The retail price for our tester was $ 23,180.
The 5’s engine may seem small for a 3-row vehicle, but it got the job done. Though the car was not especially quick, it was responsive from a stop and in around-town driving. It was reasonably peppy on the highway too, though passing maneuvers required plenty of throttle input. The automatic shifted smoothly and provided timely downshifts.
The EPA rates the 5 at 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined. We averaged 25.2 mpg overall, 5-7 mpg better than what we got with three current-generation V6 minivans (and 2.5 mpg better than the 4-cylinder Toyota Sienna minivan).
Test drivers were impressed with the 5’s ride/handling balance. Ride: “Supple suspension gives a well-modulated ride that’s at once comfortable and communicative,” stated one editor. Handling: “The steering is wonderful, and the car is about as light on its feet as you can expect from something that resembles a minivan,” reported another.
“Sporty simplicity” summed up the cabin’s décor. Front-seat passengers were generally comfortable, but they had some issues: not enough legroom for our 6-foot-6 driver; a high dashtop that might bother short drivers. Power seat adjustment is not offered on the 5.
The comfort level worsened as you moved toward the rear. Second-row seats were too low and “uncomfortably upright,” while the 3rd row was “strictly kiddieland.” However, one tester was amazed at what he could squeeze into the 5 after folding down the 2nd- and 3rd-row seats: “I was able to fit a full set of 1970s-vintage Corvette tires and a separate pair of 14 × 7 mag wheels with some room to spare.”
Almost all of our test drivers commended the 5’s practical merits. One editor summed it up: “There’s nothing else on the market that matches the Mazda 5’s cargo/passenger capability, nimble handling, decent fuel economy, and affordability.” A family of five on a tight budget should consider this Mazda over the pricier minivans–especially if the youngest child can fit comfortably in kiddieland.
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