By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.2
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.
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.
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.
Driving Impressions 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.
The 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 Cubbies
The 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.
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.Exterior
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.
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.
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-cylinder
157 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
163 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 (manual), 21/28 (automatic)
By alexio on Tuesday, March 17, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Really good value for money. As far as minivans go, this one's the only one I would consider. Easy to forget that it's so big since it handles so smoothly."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Andrew on Saturday, March 07, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 49,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, gas mileage, functionality"
Cons: "safety, ride noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This really is an excellent vehicle - good on gas, no problems at all, nice ride, excellent handling in emergency situation and very functional with 3rd row seats. BUT, it failed the latest offset crash and side impact testing, so I must get a vehicle that has better safety."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By joyfulgirl3 on Sunday, October 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,500overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "seating for 6, quiet ride,"
Cons: "no storage w/all seats used, cheap cloth seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"This car is great if you have 2 kids and can leave the back seats folded down like a wagon for storage. It's good if you only carry additional children sometimes. If you are planning a 3rd child or 5 passengers, I would skip this car. With all seats up there is very little storage. A single Maclaren stroller can fit but forget any other type of stroller. I miss a trunk more than I thought I would. With 2 back seats, there is no 'middle' safer seat. My car has 33K miles on it and someplace after 20K started dropping gas mileage. Serviced regularly/tires inflated etc. Warranty conveniently expired now with no resolution. I haven't driven a big van but it is nice to drive forward and is easy to park between the huge cars/vans/SUVs most people have. It has a lot of windows and isn't much bigger than my old Honda Accord, but I feel like I can't see when backing up, especially with back seats up. Blind spots when switching lanes, especially to right,...even when doing shoulder checks. For the visibility reason, I wouldn't recommend this car. For 2 or 3 kids, I'd stick w/a regular car w/better gas mileage, more frills and probably the same or lesser cost. I've always had the lowest end model of cars...but this Sport version just feels 'cheap' inside. Cloth seats especially seem cheap and stain w/kids. Back rubber floor mats are nice!"
28 people out of 40 found this review helpful
By Kevin on Saturday, October 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 82,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Flexible seating, fun to drive, handles great"
Cons: "5 speed tranny, no power seat options,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I have owned my car for almost 3 years now and it has 82,500 miles. As a daily driver in mixed traffic situations I average between 23.5-25mpg. On a recent trip to Detroit mostly highway miles I averaged just over 30mpg @65mph. The car has plenty of storage and cubbies and my over 6 foot kids love to ride in the second row with the bucket seats and plenty of leg room. What drew me to the car was the value, interior flexibility between passengers and cargo and the size of the vehicle. The car is great to drive aggressively in curves and has plenty of pep to get your blood flowing if that is what you like to do. The interior cleans easily and getting into and out of the vehicle is easy with the dual sliding doors. The cons to this vehicle are the lack of power seats, front leg room, no power outlets for the second row and the 5 speed automatic transmission, an extra cog would improve gas mileage I believe."
9 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By stowevter on Tuesday, October 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 22,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "ease of access"
Cons: "poor paint adhesion"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"We have a 2013 Mazda5 Sport with 22,000 miles. The car has a serious paint adhesion problem. It has flaked off around the wheel wells to bare metal, and on both sides of the car from the rocker panels up about 18" on the doors. I have taken it to the dealer for warranty repair, and that was declined. I also called Mazda North America and requested warranty reaper, and they declined it too. We are very disappointed in the paint quality of this car and will not purchase another Mazda (we bought a CX-9 on the same day as the Mazda5 for about $60,000)."
7 people out of 12 found this review helpful
By rkryan on Saturday, September 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Handling, room, MPG, willing engine, great value"
Cons: "Options list a bit sparse, 3rd row seat is tight."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car is Mazda's best kept secret. I planned to buy a Mazda CX-5 until I drove the Mazda 5. It handles like my Audi wagon did and is just as easy to park, yet it's got room for 6 people or 97 cubic feet of cargo--that's full size SUV territory! I'm averaging 29 mpg and it's not even broken in yet. Oh, and you can easily buy one for well under $20k out the door. What's not to like? Sure it's not the sexiest car on the road, but if you can get past that superficial nonsense, you will quickly realize this is an astoundingly useful car at great price that is genuinely FUN to drive. I even got mine with slick-shifting 6 speed manual (don't worry, there's a fun "sport shift manual for you ninnies that can't handle a clutch) Listen, I'm a single guy and an avid driver, I don't have a baby-on-board sign and I love this car, that should tell you something. Don't punish yourself with an SUV or crossover with numb steering and a mashed potato suspension just because you need a roomy vehicle. If you're looking at SUV's because you need the room, but you don't NEED 4 wheel drive or off-road ability, do yourself a favor and take a serious look at the Mazda 5. Go for a test drive while you still can because Mazda is sadly discontinuing this model. A vigorous test drive of this car on a windy road WILL make you a believer in the Zoom-Zoom. You can chuck it into corners with near reckless abandon and it carves through them like a scalpel. You can take it down a 30 mph highway exit ramp at 55 mph with total confidence, no exaggeration. If you can find a car that does as many things as well as this one does for under $30-40K, then buy it. I promise you if you enjoy driving at all and you need a roomy car, you will NOT find a better value than this, period."
11 people out of 14 found this review helpful