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 Bob on Tuesday, February 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent value for your money. fun to drive"
Cons: "front seats could be better"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I have had the Mazda 5 for 4 months now and have put on 5000 miles and so far so good. First, my gripes. This car should get better gas mileage in this day in age. Slightly under powered when loaded up with the whole family and car top carrier. Stock tires are not that great, but have survived winter here in Wisconsin so far (is it over yet) We only have 2 children, if I had a third, which I will not, this car would not work. Now for the goods. Excellent handling for this type of car, actually fun to drive. Very versatile vehicle. Kid hauler, trips to the hardware store, moving furniture, etc. The GT model, which we bought has all the creature comforts, sans a rear camera and touch screen This is a niche vehicle and I knew this before purchasing. It is not for everyone but if you have only 2 kids to cart around, I think it is perfect. Roomy, decent on gas, fun to drive and versatile. Would I purchase this vehicle again, if the reliability holds true, heck yes!"
By Ian on Monday, November 11, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,500overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "love the rear sliding doors, drives nicely"
Cons: "no rear heat, no cargo space when all 6 seats used"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"I have 3 kids, 16, 13 and 2. The back row seating is difficult (but not impossible) for anyone older than 10 or so to get to. I'm 5'2", average sized, and it was not comfortable to get back there at all. Once I was back there it wasn't bad LOL! The cargo area when all seats are occupied is extremely small. We could not take anything more than overnight trips as a family; there's not enough room for suitcases and bags. Once you fold down the back seats, the cargo area is nice, though a little irritating if something slips between the bucket seats onto the floor. I do LOVE the sliding back doors. Makes getting the 2 year old in and out of the car much easier! The driver's seat is comfortable, but I personally don't like the headrest. I felt like it was pushing my head and neck into an unnatural and uncomfortable position. That problem solved by turning the headrest around. It looks silly, but it works. I don't care for the armrests in the front. They get in the way if you need access to drinks in the cup holders, so I never use my armrest. Add another adult to the front seat, and it's very awkward to get to your drinks. I'm not crazy about the center storage between the seats - it barely holds a couple CDs and a sewing kit. The radio and 6 disc CD changer are nice - the sound took some getting used to. I never really use the Bluetooth- usually I have the kids with me and don't really like them listening in on the conversations. I like that it gives me the estimated miles left before the gas tank is empty. The AC works nicely, as well as the heater. One of my biggest complaints with it is that there is NO rear heat. It has rear air, but not heat. It takes twice as long to warm up the back of the car, and by the time they get warm, who ever is in the front seat has started cooking. Very frustrating. I have the moonroof, but rarely use it. I had to replace the front tires before 20,000 miles, and the rear tires shortly after. Overall, I wish I had shopped around a little bit before we purchased this little car."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By dude on Friday, November 01, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good gas mileage"
Cons: "Wind noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Ruined 2 tires at 23000 miles account front end was not in alignment when purchased new even thou I rotated tire every 7500 miles. Mazda dealership informed me warranty would not cover new tires or alignment; was done on my dime. Dealership informed me I should have rotated every 5000 miles even thou owner's manual states every 7500 miles. Serious wind noise at highway speeds. Serious lack of power when 6 adults are on board."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By bill on Monday, July 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "flexible, meets lot of needs."
Cons: "wish the gas miliage was slightly better"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Meets our needs with third row. Easy to drive, easy to park. Not great on gas, but not bad. Very happy. No thrills, but I bought it new for great price."
8 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By Lowtonlyle on Saturday, June 22, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Been a good car overall. Great for two kids we did get the optional DVD system. Works well but obscures rear visibility when I'm use. Would recommend checking other aftermarket options. Ours is the 6 spd manual, makes the car feel much quicker and fun to drive, although we've had some issues with it. Dealership has already had to replace 1-2 nd gear synchro. Some concern there maybe ongoing issues hopefully Mazda will take care of us. Other than that I believe the poor snow performance is more a tire issue since the bridgestones that came on the car are awful tires replace ours after 30k because felt downright dangerous in the rain. Lots of tread left too. Great fun to drive family car. Just don't let my wife hear you call it a minivan! Oh yeah, get the windows tinted much better looking and cooler"
10 people out of 13 found this review helpful
By patsy on Thursday, February 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "nice to drive in daylight on major highways"
Cons: "Only one electrical port in front cabin."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Positive reviews: The Mazda 5 grand touring offers a lot of standard features and has plenty of power.The engine and transmission is smooth and the ability to shift it like a manual transmission is very useful if you have to descend a lot of hills. Very comfortable to drive on long trip. Negatives:Low beam headlights are terrible on country roads.You can't see 30-40 yards in front on a undulating road.The car is terrible in snow.The traction control kicks in on a hill and slow the car down to the point where you have to turn around and go back,turn the traction control off and hope you can make it. Don't buy it if you live in the country where it snows."
13 people out of 19 found this review helpful