Versatile seating; easy sliding doors; sharp handling; easier to turn and park than conventional minivan.
Underpowered engine; seats only six; missing some popular minivan features.
You have to hand it to Mazda. The 2012 Mazda 5 extends the gamble that the automaker took more than five years ago when it introduced this model in the U.S. Back then American buyers still worshipped at the altar of the SUV and had little predisposition to something that was half van, half wagon. But Mazda has history on its side.
It turns out that the Mazda 5 shares similar measurements with the 1984 Dodge Caravan, the minivan that launched an industry. Indeed, the Mazda 5's wheelbase is less than 5 inches shorter than that of the original Caravan, and its roof is just slightly closer to the ground. By comparison, a current Toyota Sienna is nearly a foot wider, 6 inches taller and 2 feet longer.
When the Mazda 5 first came to the U.S. in 2006, the idea of a spacious wagon-style vehicle had come and gone many times, yet remained so unfashionable that Mazda was careful not to describe the Mazda 5 as a "van." But now that gasoline prices are zooming upward, the newly revised Mazda 5 seems like a more compelling proposition. In fact, the Mazda 5 shares space with the forthcoming Ford Grand C-Max, a seven-seater built on the same global platform as the Mazda 5. Toyota will also dance around the segment with the Prius V, a taller, longer version of its stalwart hybrid, although limited to two rows of seats and five passengers.
With the revised and improved 2012 Mazda 5, more engine displacement unlocks more torque from the 5's inline-4 engine, although horsepower remains unchanged. Generating 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers enough power to make the 5 feel alert. Still, this 3,487-pound, front-wheel-drive wagonette gets under way without much urgency. In Edmunds performance testing, a Mazda 5 Grand Touring with an automatic transmission dashes from a standstill to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds, an average result for vehicles like this.
You can't help but want more power, especially when you have a full load of passengers. Choosing your own shift points with the six-speed manual transmission available in the Sport trim level addresses the acceleration issue, but it's more likely that you'll choose the five-speed automatic. You'll rarely find power inadequate, but in moments like these the 5 reminds you that it's a true minivan — a simple hauler of people and things and not the V6-powered luxury express vehicle that passes for a minivan these days. One benefit of this difference? Impressive fuel economy for the Mazda 5, rated at 21 city/28 highway mpg whether you pick the manual or the automatic.
The new Mazda 5 also shares a change of attitude from its predecessor. Mazda engineers noted that kids and moms didn't always share dad's affinity for hot cornering speeds. While they can't stop Dad from racing around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in his mind, they did revisit spring and damping rates, sway bar settings and other gravitational voodoo and dialed in a little more civility for the passengers. The Mazda 5 still responds quickly enough for those open-road, empty-nest moments after you've dropped off the kids at soccer practice/piano lessons. But if you like your minivan a little raw (who doesn't?), the previous Mazda 5 is a better fit.
While there's nothing amiss in the Mazda 5's braking ability on the road or in traffic, it's only an average stopper when full force is applied. In Edmunds brake testing, a Mazda 5 Grand Touring stops from 60 mph in 130 feet, a few feet longer than average.
Sitting in the driver seat, the first preconception the 2012 Mazda 5 lays to rest is that it's small. Legroom is generous, and only the tallest drivers will wish for a little more rear-seat travel. The 5 simply feels like a roomy sedan with an open floor plan.
We tested a Sport model with cloth upholstery and a Grand Touring with leather, and both offer a high standard of materials quality and craftsmanship in stitching, trim and firm bolstering. These are not your average minivan seats with wide, undefined boundaries, but rather sport seats that encourage you to saw at the small-diameter steering wheel.
For a "van" of its size, the Mazda 5's third row is, surprisingly, not for emergency use only. Kids will fit just fine, and all but the tallest adult friends can manage short trips.
What the 2012 Mazda 5 sacrifices in passenger capacity to its portlier competitors, it gains in versatility. Two captain's chairs in the second row recline for tired adults, and also slide forward for loose-limbed parents in the front seats to draw their progeny close. The lack of a second-row middle seat might bother some, but its absence creates a convenient walk-through channel to the third row. A center table and storage net also pop out from under the second-row passenger seat, the perfect thing for when your weary backseat travelers need to rest their juice boxes (or lattes).
The Mazda 5 doesn't offer power sliding doors like conventional minivans, but its lightweight panels open and track with a light-effort fluidity that even growing children will be able to manage. Once inside, the 5 offers impressive cargo space. Leaving all three rows upright creates 5.6 cubic feet of luggage space behind the rearmost row. When the second- and third-row seats are folded down (no need to remove the headrests), you'll have 55.4 cubic feet to practice your packing. For a family of four, a folded third row allows 27 cubes — room enough for pets, umbrellas and beach chairs.
Design/Fit and Finish
Even more than its predecessor, the 2012 Mazda 5 seamlessly blends function and form. All manner of waves, dips and drops in the sheet metal accent what would otherwise be a bland wagon/van profile.
Mazda designers say they drew inspiration from the movement of water, most clearly illustrated by the scalloped channels that flow from the front doors to the taillights. It's such a handsome design element that you can almost hear the Mazda 5 shout: "I am not like the others!" The smiling Nemo-style grille, however, is an acquired taste. Darkened headlamp centers creepily resemble pupils, and you'd like a little more mischief in its wide-mouth grin.
The fluid design language carries over into the interior, which but for some minor tucks remains largely unchanged. Dial-type controls handle most primary functions, and the clean center stack looks very carlike and keeps its controls within easy arm's reach.
Who should consider this vehicle
Not quite a wagon, not quite a van — and yet both of these things — the 2012 Mazda 5 really suits a small family that can be honest about its needs. For most, the Mazda 5 offers plenty: room, features, storage and comfort. About the only thing it lacks is power to close the gap between the superb handling and tepid acceleration, although fuel economy might be more important here. For families hesitant to commit to a full-size van and its equally full-size sticker price, the Mazda 5 is a great call — the right car to drop off the kids at soccer and then take a winding path to attend other matters of the day.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Is the 2012 Mazda 5 a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2012 Mazda 5 and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2012 5 featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
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How do people like the 2012 Mazda 5? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2012 Mazda 5 and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2012 5 4.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2012 5.
Review i did so much research on the perfect family hauler without breaking the bank&also not looking like i 'gave up'&was so happy to find the new 5!it has everything i was looking for to transport my family of 4,we chose the upgraded 'touring model which adds fogs,spoiler side skirts 17' rims nicer grill &leather wheel,power is surprisingly good w/ smooth tranny & good mpg!turning radius is great!the seats are really comfy,the dual slide doors are light and easy to use for wifey w kiddies!pass/cargo room is also more then adequate,this mpv is a hot seller in Europe and only car in its class that got rave reviews..much better ad easier then suv w 3rd row,i highly recommend,we love our 2012 5!
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What options are available on the 2012 Mazda 5?
Available Mazda 5 2012 Submodel Types: Minivan
Available Trims: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring
Exterior Colors: Liquid Silver Metallic, Clear Water Blue, Meteor Gray, Crystal White Pearl, Crystal White Pearl Mica, Zeal Red Mica , Galaxy Gray Mica, Brilliant Black Clearcoat, Copper Red Mica, Metropolitan Gray, Deep Crystal Blue, Jet Black Mica, Stormy Blue Mica, Strato Blue Mica, Sunlight Silver, Brilliant Black, Copper Red, Galaxy Gray, Phantom Blue Mica, Platinum Silver Metallic, Stormy Blue, Sunlight Silver Metallic, True Silver Metallic, Whitewater Pearl Mica
Interior Colors: Black cloth, Sand cloth, Black leather, Sand leather, Espresso Brown leather
Popular Features: 2nd Row Bucket Seats, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Rear Bench Seats, Third-row seating, Auto Climate Control, Aux Audio Inputs, Tire Pressure Warning, Stability Control, Bluetooth, Sunroof/Moonroof, USB Inputs, Trip Computer, Heated seats, Leather Seats, Upgraded Headlights, Alarm, Parking sensors, Navigation, Rear Entertainment System, Remote Start