All-new Mazda5 provides unique ride, lots of zoom

Redesigned for the 2012 model year, the Mazda5 is the multi-activity vehicle for active families looking for a little zoom-zoom on the road.

In short, it’s a mini-minivan, only with a lot of Mazda flair.

With seating for six passengers, the Mazda5 is smaller than the traditional minivan, much more nimble, provides exceptional handling and is powered by a very impressive 2.5-liter I-4 engine that delivers 157 horsepower and 163 lbs.-ft. torque.

Mated to a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic transmission, the new front-wheel drive Mazda5 is rated as a Low Emissions Vehicle and has an EPA fuel economy rating of 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.

There’s a lot to like about the Mazda5.

For starters, it doesn’t look like your traditional minivan.

Using the new Nagare design, Hideki Matsuoka, the Mazda5 program manager, took the best of the previous generation and set out to evolve it into a new multi-activity vehicle.

Matsuoka’s team identified four key values in the development of the 2012 Mazda5:

• Smart and emotional design

• Rational, easy-to-use functionality

• Developed with the utmost quality

• Refined, dynamic driving performance.

In addition to the Nagare “flow” design concept based on the beauty of nature, Mazda added more horsepower under the hood to provide the trademark “Zoom-Zoom” experience.

I absolutely love the way the Mazda5 handles. With a super tight turning radius and outstanding suspension system, the Mazda5 is easy to get in and out of tight parking places — while also pretty fun on the curves (something I don’t think I’ve ever said about a minivan).

As far as functionality, the rear sliding doors make it very easy to gain access in and out of the rear seats — even when accessing the third-row seating positions.

Again, the Mazda5 is a six-passenger vehicle. And while Mazda is stressing its classification as a “Multi-Activity Vehicle” and not a minivan, it resonates with the functionality for consumers needed additional passenger space but without the stigma attached to the minivan label.

If you need more room for cargo, the third row seats can be tipped forward individually and folded flat for additional cargo room — for a total cargo area of 27.5 cubic feet behind the second row seats (44.4 cubic feet behind first row). Additionally, the second row captain chairs both slide and recline to avoid the “he touched me” arguments.

Standard safety features on all Mazda5 models include anti-lock brakes, dynamic stability control with traction control system, electric hydraulic power assist steering system, advanced dual front airbags, front seat side airbags, three-row side air curtains, LATCH child seat anchor system and tire pressure monitoring system.

For the 2012 model year, the Mazda5 is available in three trim levels — Sport, Touring and Grand Touring.

The Mazda5 Sport (base price starting at $19,195) includes 16-inch alloy wheels, power mirrors, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, audio auxiliary jack, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, remote keyless entry and steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise control.

I really like the new Mazda5 and highly recommend it for a test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

MODEL:

2012 Mazda Mazda5

6-seat multi-activity vehicle 

Front-wheel drive

Trim packages:

Sport, Touring, Grand Touring

PRICE RANGE:

$20,000-$26,000

ENGINE:

2.5-L I4 (157 hp/163 torque)

TRANSMISSION:

6-speed manual

5-speed automatic

EPA: 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

FUEL: Regular unleaded

TRACTION CONTROL:

Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control system

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 180.5 inches

WHEELBASE: 108.3 inches

WIDTH: 68.9 inches

HEIGHT: 63.6 inches

WEIGHT: 3417-3457 lbs.

TRACK: 60.2/59.8

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 15.9 gallons

TIRES: 16-, or 17-inch

CARGO: 5.58/27.5/44.4 cubic feet (behind 3rd/2nd/1st seating rows)