2012 Mazda 5 Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jan 19, 2011

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2012 Mazda 5 Buying Advice

The 2012 Mazda 5 is the best vehicle for you if want a fuel-efficient six-passenger minivan that fits in a compact car-sized parking space.

The 2012 Mazda 5 is redesigned with freshened styling inside and out and a new four-cylinder engine, though it remains similar in size, shape and functionality to the previous-generation version that debuted for model-year 2006. The 2012 Mazda 5 remains a compact-sized minivan with sliding rear passenger doors, a rear hatchback, and six-passenger seating on three rows. While it’s nowhere near as roomy as a standard-sized minivan – the third-row seat is inhospitable to all but limber tikes – the 2012 Mazda 5 is an affordable, fuel-efficient alternative for small families or urban environments.

Should you wait for the 2012 Mazda 5 or buy the 2011 Mazda 5? You have no choice other than to buy the 2012 Mazda 5: there was no 2011 version. Mazda skipped the 2011 model year and brought out the revamped 2012 Mazda 5 in early 2011.

2012 Mazda 5 Changes back to top

Styling: Though the 2012 Mazda 5’s basic size and shape hasn’t changed much from the 2006-2010 generation it does have new styling that incorporates elements from the Japanese automaker’s Nagare “flow” design language. Mazda says this blends elements of nature, particularly the forces of wind and water, “to lend an intuitive sense of motion” to the vehicle. Marketing mumbo-jumbo aside, this means the 2012 Mazda 5 swaps the previous generation’s scowling front end for the happier, smiling look found on the automaker’s small cars. The minivan’s side lines sweep gracefully rearward and culminate in a curvier back end that eschews the prior version’s abrupt vertical combination lamps in favor of more organically shaped horizontal taillights.

As before, the 2012 Mazda 5’s defining functional feature is its dual sliding rear passenger doors, which are a convenience in crowded parking lots. As in other minivans, the Mazda 5’s sliding rear doors make getting the kids buckled into their car seats easier, too. Unlike in other minivans, the Mazda 5’s sliding rear door’s aren’t power-operated, but Mazda says their balance and modest weight means they can be opened or closed with just one finger, assuming the other nine are occupied with kids or grocery bags.

In contrast to the conservative, compact-carlike flavor of the previous-generation’s interior, the 2012 Mazda 5’s cabin is fairly radical. The new dashboard curves into the doors and blends with a center console that seems to wrap around the driver and front passenger. The instrument panel is a lively collection of tunneled gauges, round and rectangular air vents, buttons and rotary controls, and just a touch of shiny trim.

The 2012 Mazda 5 again comes with three rows of seats, with the second and third rows mounted progressively higher to allow better outward visibility for young passengers. The second row is comprised of dual captain’s chairs – a big help in keeping cantankerous kids apart on long trips. The captain’s chairs recline, slide fore and aft, and tip forward to provide access to the third row. The second row also features seatbacks that can fold flat to accommodate cargo without first having to remove the headrests.

The third row is a small 50/50 split-folding bench with only limited legroom -- think carpooling youngsters short distances to or from soccer games. With the third-row seatbacks folded flat the 2012 Mazda 5 offers 44.4 cubic feet of cargo room and with the second and third rows folded there’s 89 cubic feet, which is more than in most midsize SUVs but still some 50 cubic feet short of a full-size minivan. Still, even with all seats in their upright position, Mazda says there’s enough cargo space behind the third row to carry a baby stroller, diaper bag, and other assorted parenting gear.

The 2012 Mazda 5 is offered in three models: base Sport, better-equipped Touring, and top-of-the-line Grand Touring.

Mechanical: The 2012 Mazda 5 has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that develops an adequate 157 horsepower with a lively 163 pounds-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that gets you moving and horsepower as the energy that keeps you going.) At some 3,450 pounds, the 2012 Mazda 5 is a relative lightweight among six-passenger vehicles and doesn’t weight appreciably more than the 2006-2010 Mazda 5. That makes the new powertrain feel even livelier compared to the one it replaces, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder with 153 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. The 2012 Mazda 5’s 2.5 liter also sees duty, with minor modifications in the Mazda 3 compact sedan/hatchback, Mazda 6 midsize sedan, and Mazda CX-7 five-passenger crossover SUV.

The 2012 Mazda 5 is the only “minivan” to offer a manual transmission. A six-speed manual is standard in the Sport model. Optional on the Sport and standard on the Touring and Grand Touring models is a five-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control. This transmission borrows Mazda’s Active Adaptive Shift function from Mazda’s RX-8 sports car; it’s designed to furnish quicker upshifts and more responsive downshifts.

The 2012 Mazda 5 retains a front-wheel drive layout, which helps maximize interior room by placing the engine and transmission at the front of the vehicle. Since it packs the entire powertrain directly over the tires that also drive the vehicle, this configuration also tends to provide inherently more traction on wet or snowy roads than rear-drive drive. Traction control is standard to help the front tires maintain grip in low-speed situations, and antiskid stability control is included to help prevent sideways slides.

As in the previous generation, the 2012 Mazda 5 rides on a four-wheel independent suspension tuned for response and control. The Sport model has 16-inch alloy wheels, Touring and Grand Touring get 17-inch alloys. It’s no sports sedan, but the 2012 Mazda 5 should continue to deliver relatively energetic handling and remain more amenable to drive – and parallel park – in crowded urban environments than a full-size minivan.

Features: The 2012 Mazda 5 offers a sufficient array of features without the gadget-laden excess of some larger competitors.

The 2012 Mazda 5 Sport comes with all the basics: air conditioning, power windows, mirrors, and locks, keyless entry, tilt-telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, and a CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack for connecting iPods and other portable devices.

The Touring edition adds fog lamps, trip computer, Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone interface, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and specific trim items. The Grand Touring model adds amenities like a power moonroof, automatic xenon headlamps, heated mirrors and front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, an alarm system, a CD changer, and Sirius satellite radio.

There’s but one major option package: the Moonroof and Audio package for the Touring model. It bundles the moonroof, CD changer, and Sirius satellite radio.

Noticeably absent from the equipment list are minivan stalwarts such as power sliding rear doors, a power liftgate, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

Front-, front-side, and head-protecting side-curtain airbags that extend across all three rows of seats are standard.

2012 Mazda 5 Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Mazda 5 is $19,990-$24,670. That’s roughly a $1,200 increase over the outgoing version represented by the 2010 model, though it keeps the 2012 Mazda 5 a more affordable alternative to a conventional minivan. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination charge; Mazda’s fee for the 2011 Mazda 5 is $795, or $840 in Alaska.)

The 2012 Mazda 5 Sport model has a base price of $19,990 with manual transmission and $20,990 with automatic transmission. That’s thousands of dollars less than the starting price of any other minivan and is on par with many five-passenger compact crossover SUVs.

The 2012 Mazda 5 Touring model is priced from $21,990. Choosing the aforementioned Moonroof and Audio Package adds $1,140 to the cost.

The 2012 Mazda 5 Grand Touring model is priced at $24,670. Specifying a pearl-coat paint treatment to any of the three versions is a $200 charge.

In addition, Mazda offers a selection of factory-designed, dealer-installed options. Among these is a six-disc in-dash CD changer for Sport and Touring models ($525), fog lights for the Sport ($300), and an automatic-dimming inside mirror that includes a compass and Homelink garage-and-gate transceiver ($295). 

2012 Mazda 5 Fuel Economy back to top

Fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Mazda 5 are 21/28-mpg city/highway with either the manual or automatic transmission.

That rating is roughly mid-pack compared to four-cylinder, five-passenger compact crossover SUVs. The Mazda 5’s fuel economy, however, tops that of any conventional minivan; the closest would be the 2011 Toyota Sienna with the 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine, which is rated 19/26 mpg. Among V-6-powered conventional minivans, the top-rated model is the 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring at 19/28 mpg; it starts around $44,000.  

2012 Mazda 5 Release Date back to top

The 2012 Mazda 5 went on sale in early 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Mazda 5 back to top

Having just received a major redesign for the 2012 edition, don’t expect any substantive changes for the Mazda 5 until late in the decade.

2012 Mazda 5 Competition back to top

Ford C-Max: Debuting in the U.S. for 2012, the C-Max is a compact minivan similar in size and substance to the Mazda 5, including sliding rear side doors. The C-Max shares its underpinnings with the 2012 Ford Focus compact sedan and hatchback and will offer four-cylinder engines of 168 horsepower or, in EcoBoost turbocharged and direct-injected form, 180. The line will also include a C-Max Hybrid promising more than 40 mpg, as well as the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid model. The C-Max will technically seat up to seven passengers but the third-row seat is too tiny for all but the smallest kids (it can be left out as a “delete” option). This mini-minivan also will offer all the latest Ford technology, including a unique hands-free power liftgate. Expect the gas-only C-Max to start at around $20,000, with the Energi and Hybrid topping $30,000.

Dodge Grand Caravan Express: The base version of the long-running Grand Caravan may be costlier than either the Mazda 5 or C-Max but it’s far roomier and more powerful than either of them – and it third-row seat is actually useable by adults. Grand Caravan received significant upgrades in a model-year 2011 revision. These included a standard 283-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6, six-speed automatic transmission, and a substantially updated interior treatment. It continues with Dodge’s Stow ‘n Go seats for the second and third rows that fold completely into the floor for unrivaled cargo-carrying versatility. Expect the 2012 Grand Cherokee Express to start around $26,000 and continue rated at 17/25 mpg.

Kia Sedona: One of the industry’s most affordable minivans isn’t as stylish or available with as many clever features as some of the competition but it delivers solid overall value. Sedona is roomy and offers reasonable comfort for up to seven passengers. Its 3.5-liter V-6 engine is among the strongest in its class -- for model-year 2011 it was rated at 271 horsepower – and it drives the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission that includes something rarely found among minivans -- a manual-shift function. A long list of safety features is included. The Sedona may be dropped from the lineup after model-year 2013, however. Base prices for 2012 should run from around $25,500-$30,000.

2012 Mazda 5 Next Steps