Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The Mazda5 is a mini minivan, a vehicle type that is popular overseas but hasn’t really caught on in the U.S. It seats up to six, has sliding rear doors like a conventional minivan, but its third-row seats are minimalistic and a 4-cylinder engine is the only powertrain choice.
You'll Like The 2012 Mazda Mazda5 If...
If you need seating for six with easier third-row entry than an SUV and a smaller price tag than a minivan, the Mazda5 can fill your need. Starting under $20,000, the Mazda5 features sliding rear doors and a center aisle, making access to the third-row seats relatively easy.
You May Not Like The 2012 Mazda Mazda5 If...
If you’re looking for seating for six but also want the kinds of features offered by the Chrysler Town and Country (table and swivel seats), Toyota Sienna (reclining seats with footrests) or Honda Odyssey (rear entertainment system), then you are better off moving up to a full-sized minivan, which will also offer more cargo space behind the third row.
The Mazda5 gets a new look for 2012 that gives it more style than most minivans on the market but doesn’t completely disguise its wagon/minivan heritage. That may turn off some buyers who might seek a more traditional wagon shape.
The Mazda 5’s interior can be summed up in one word: Functional. With seating for six, flat-folding seats and plenty of cubbies for gadgets and storage, the 2012 Mazda5 is a "mini-minivan" without the higher price tag. Granted, to keep costs low there is no navigation option, rear DVD system or a lot of gimmicky features for the kids, but the Mazda5 gets the job done as a family hauler that can easily be converted to move a lot of cargo. Cloth seats are offered on the Sport. Touring models get a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob and the Grand Touring version has heated leather seats. All seating positions can comfortably hold adults, although the third row doesn’t offer the bolstering and support that the second-row captain’s chairs do. Overall, the fit and finish of the Mazda5’s interior is pretty nice, featuring high-grade plastics and soft touches throughout the cabin.
The Mazda5 looks like a small minivan. It might not be everyone’s idea of a great-looking ride, but the stylish molded side swipes and the way the car handles can easily sway many anti-minivan types. The front of the Mazda5 resembles that of the Mazda3, while the flanks are unlike anything else you will find on the market today. Molded ridges sweep back across the car like ripples in a pond, and the effect looks very nice in all colors. Highly functional sliding rear doors and a rounded rear hatch complete the tasteful if small exterior package that disguises the spacious interior.
It may seem like an oxymoron to refer to a wagon/minivan as fun to drive, but the Mazda5 offers a sportier driving experience than a minivan or other "people-hauler." Considering its size and utility, the Mazda5 is surprisingly spry on the road and hugs tight to the curves during spirited driving. It’s easy to forget that you’re in a minivan-type vehicle because the Mazda5 drives so much like a sedan. But, for all its athletic prowess on the road, the Mazda5 has also been refined for 2012, with a more compliant suspension that allows for a little more roll on the curves but makes the ride smoother for passengers who once got jostled around by the previous model’s somewhat stiffer arrangement.
A 2012 Mazda5 Sport (the entry-level model) with a manual transmission has a starting Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) under $20,000. Opting for the automatic transmission adds about $1,000. The higher Touring trim level starts at about $22,000 and a fully-loaded Grand Touring can reach $26,000. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what consumers are typically paying for the Mazda5 in your area. The Mazda5 doesn’t have any direct competitors in the U.S. market, but consumers might cross-shop it with both full-size minivans and three-row crossovers and, of course, compact station wagons. As for resale value, we expect the Mazda5 to hold its value well over a five-year period, surpassing the Nissan Quest and Mitsubishi Outlander, but falling short of the projected value of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Rav4.
The 2012 Mazda MAZDA5’s base Sport trim comes with a choice of a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, power accessories, cruise control and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system with an auxiliary input jack (no USB port is offered). Safety features include six airbags, dynamic stability and traction control systems and anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist.
Opting for the mid-level Touring trim gives you fog lamps, spoiler, Bluetooth connectivity, trip computer and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Moving to the up-level Grand Touring trim adds HID headlights, power moonroof, driver’s-seat adjustable lumbar support, heated leather seats and a six-disc in-dash AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with satellite radio and auxiliary input jack. Available packages include the CD changer for the Sport and Touring trims, a Moonroof and Audio Package for the Touring trim and Mazda’s HomeLink system.
Exterior StyleThe Mazda5’s exterior style is influenced by Mazda’s Nagare design philosophy that has appeared in the company’s line-up for the last few years. Notably, the side body panels feature striking molded swoops that give the Mazda5 a definitive style that turns heads in the parking lot and on the road.Nooks and CubbiesThe Mazda5 features many inventive places to stow items. The second-row bucket-seat bottoms can be lifted up to reveal storage boxes for safely stashing valuables out of view of prying eyes. There is also a surprisingly large and deep glovebox with a molded ledge above that can hold electronic devices, and a convenient cubby just above the power and auxiliary outlets is the perfect size for a cell phone or MP3 player.
Under the Hood
The 2012 Mazda5 comes equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. It can be matched with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode. The Mazda5 is the only minivan-like vehicle that can be equipped with a manual transmission, giving those who want to shift for themselves an appealing option in the family-hauler arena. 2.5-liter in-line four-cylinder157 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm163 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 (manual), 21/28 (automatic)
The Mazda5 is in a class all its own. Too small to be a minivan (by today’s standards), and too large to be a wagon, the 2012 Mazda5 is built on a platform that’s about the size of the first 1986 Dodge minivan. For a short time the Kia Rondo was considered a competitor, and Ford had planned to market a similar vehicle called the C-Max, but both vehicles have been cut from their respective line-ups, leaving the Mazda5 as the lone "C-Wagon" (as this size class is sometimes described) in the U.S. market. Essentially a small minivan, the 2012 Mazda5 can accommodate six adults, has sliding rear doors for easy access to the second and third rows and a center aisle to aid access to the rear when children’s car seats are being used in the second row. Combine all of these features with creditable driving dynamics and a starting price under $20,000, and the Mazda5 could fill a niche. It’s not an obvious choice to be compared to a Honda Odyssey, Toyota Rav4 or Volvo XC70, but you might be surprised how well it would fare on the price-value continuum based on seating, versatility and overall performance.