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Six Goes into 5: The 2012 Mazda 5

The 2012 Mazda 5

How the automotive times have changed. Back in 1995, when our kids were around four and two years old, we did the American thing and bought a minivan. Nothing fancy mind you: a new Dodge Caravan, short wheelbase, three rows of seats, air-conditioning (our first!). Why, it even had crank-operated windows! And we paid all of $14,000 for it, brand new. It even fit in our one-car garage.

Nowadays minivans are anything but mini. These days you can fit a whole caravan in a Dodge Caravan, and carry enough belongings in a Honda Odyssey to go on an odyssey. Like everything else in America (including many Americans), they’ve gotten bigger by the year, to the point where calling them minivans is like calling Gilbert Gottfried tactful.

So here, for your perusal, is the 2012 Mazda5. Is it a minivan? Technically, no. Mazda refers to it as a “multi-activity vehicle”—which, by the way, is one of the hottest vehicular categories across the pond, where roads (and most of the population) are narrower and fuel is costlier. While my old Caravan had seating for seven, we rarely had that many in it; the Mazda5 seats six in three rows. Interestingly, the Mazda5 is 180.5 inches long, whereas the 1995 Caravan measured in at 178.1 inches. I think, in time, vehicles like the Mazda5 (and the upcoming Ford C-MAX) will displace the gargantuan minivans of today—which, although larger than they used to be, still only hold seven people—especially when you look at both pricing (the current issue of Automobile magazine features a Toyota Sienna which lists for $40,642!) and escalating gas prices (Sienna, 18/24 miles per gallon; Mazda5 21/28). It’s obvious the direction things need to go in.

And the Mazda5 isn’t a bad way to get there. From where I sit, its looks are head and shoulders above any of the minivans. Although I’m still not buying into that silly-looking “smiley-face” grille which adorns too many Mazdas these days. Not to be different, Mazda’s styling theme has a name, which I’ll let them explain (it sounds silly when I say it, especially out loud): “The 2012 MAZDA5 incorporates motifs from Mazda’s Nagare ‘flow’ design language which, inspired by the beauty of nature…Nagare incorporates the beauty of nature, in particular the forces of wind and water, to lend an intuitive sense of motion to the respective designs.”

Well then. Nagare, if you’re wondering, is the name of a Mazda concept car seen at auto shows a few years back. The “flow,” if you haven’t figured it out, is the swoopy side styling. Silly names or not, I think it works well.

All Mazda5s are powered by a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 157 horsepower, and is mated to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Electronic hydraulic power assist steering helps at the helm, while an anti-lock braking system helps it stop in a straight line. There are three models of the Mazda5: Sport (the base model), Touring, and Grand Touring. The Sport is far from being a stripper. Alloy wheels (16 inch), tilt/telescoping wheel, air-conditioning, remote keyless entry, 50/50 split fold-down third row seats, and steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls are just part of the equipment. Touring upgrades to 17 inch wheels, automatic transmission, fog lamps, spoiler, and side sill extensions among other things. The Grand Touring also adds a power moonroof, xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, automatic on/off headlights, heated door mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, anti-thief alarm system, driver’s seat lumbar support adjustment, heated front seats, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, leather-trimmed seats and Sirius® satellite radio.

Pricing starts at $19,195 for the Sport, and moves on up to $23,875 for the Grand Touring. Compared to today’s minivans, the Mazda5 is a bargain. It may not be a huge barge, but it still seats six comfortably. And probably fits in my garage.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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