UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Our household should be the poster family for the minivan, except for one thing: I hate minivans!
There is one, however, that does things a little bit differently—and falls outside my prejudice against minivans: the Mazda5.
Originally launched as a 2006 model, the Mazda5 isn’t like the other kids on the block. A bit smaller than most, the 5 holds 6 passengers, rather than the usual 7. That’s OK though, because most families rarely use all 7 seats anyway.
Its lower roof line and smaller footprint makes the 5 more maneuverable than any of its competitors. The original Mazda5 was even offered with a manual transmission, and get this: it was FUN to drive!
Rather than risk messing with a good idea, Mazda’s design team stayed with the same 6 passenger layout this time and worked on evolution, rather than recreation. The result is an unbelievably sexy-looking little van that offers an equally unbelievable amount of versatility.
Even better, it’s still available with a manual transmission! Zoom-zoom, indeed!
More photos and in-depth Mazda press release after the break.
Mazda Press Release:
The popular MAZDA5 multi-activity vehicle surprises with new Nagare design, exceptional versatility, class-leading performance and outstanding fuel efficiency.
Offering unexpected levels of design, functionality, packaging and performance simply not found in any other vehicle sold in North America today, the MAZDA5 is beloved by its owners. With a unique combination of flexible seat arrangements, sliding doors, stylish design, outstanding handling, fuel efficiency and high level of safety, MAZDA5 has made a strong impact in the North American market since it launched as a 2006 model. The MAZDA5 is unique: it doesn’t fit into a mold, and neither do its owners; it can’t be defined by a segment; it suits a family, but thrives in an active lifestyle setting. One could say it’s a vehicle right where everything else isn’t.
In approaching the development of the all-new 2012 MAZDA5, Hideki Matsuoka, MAZDA5 program manager, took the best of the current model and set out to further evolve it. The team aimed to create a new multi-activity vehicle (MAV) that combines superior environmental performance with a new expression of stylish design. Matsuoka’s concept for the new MAZDA5 was to bring to the market a “contemporary smart choice.”
“This concept expresses our goal to build a new family mover for the global market that offers a smart solution to the user’s every need by establishing a balance between diverse functionality and outstanding performance,” said Matsuoka.
Matsuoka and team identified five 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 without compromising environmental performance.
The 2012 MAZDA5 incorporates motifs from Mazda’s Nagare “flow” design language which, inspired by the beauty of nature, presents an elegant look not found in any existing vehicle today. It’s an appealing look that captures the eye upon first glance.
Changes to the 2012 MAZDA5 continue under the skin, too, as the vehicle is powered by a 2.5-liter MZR I4 engine, which also sees use in the MAZDA3, MAZDA6 and CX-7, and can be paired with either a manual or automatic transmission. “We have further evolved Mazda’s trademark Zoom-Zoom driving experience by working to deliver an overall balance of linear feeling and response that creates a unique bond between the driver and car, as well as a stronger sense of trust in the vehicle,” said Matsuoka.
SMART, EMOTIONAL DESIGN THAT CAPTIVATES
Adopting the expression “Seductive Smartness” as the design concept, the new MAZDA5’s design is aimed to achieve a higher balance of functionality and design, while at the same time giving it a stylish new look that is immediately distinguishable from the box-like designs found on conventional offerings in the market.
Application of the Nagare “flow” design language brings an elegant and stylish new look to the MAZDA5. Mazda has only featured Nagare design on concept cars; this is the first time the design language has been used in a production vehicle. 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. Nagare design, as it applies to the new MAZDA5, not only expresses the essence of dynamic performance and the elegance inspired by the beauty of nature, but also the care taken in developing and manufacturing the MAZDA5 to coexist harmoniously with the environment. In addition, its elegantly flowing design also contributes to aerodynamic performance and a quiet ride.
In styling the new MAZDA5, the design team viewed the overall image as a single bead of water with ripples intentionally left on the surface, such that the body’s lines express the flow of motion. The flow begins at the front grille and passes smoothly over the headlamps, hood and fenders. It then continues over the sides of the body, rear combination lamps and tailgate in a continuous stream. The various lines and motifs appear only to disappear again, creating a repeating theme of change and fusion that guides one’s eyes with its expression of beauty. The overall effect is a look of quality, emotional styling and elegance that intensifies the joy of ownership.
The five-point front grille shares the unique design of the family face that is found on every Mazda. This makes it immediately distinguishable as a Mazda product, and lends it a dynamic and sporty expression that is true to its DNA. The ‘flowing’ lines of the hood and headlamps gather in the center of the grille to create a powerful sense of motion. And the curved lines that form the mesh pattern adopted for the grille lend the impression that the mesh flows out from the center to the sides, which expresses the essence of Nagare design.
The fog lamp bezels were designed to form a continuous line with the side shoulders and wheel arches to present a wide, dynamic image. This blends beautifully with the gentle S-shaped contour established by the flowing lines off the sides of the front grille and up toward the headlamps. In addition, the mesh pattern surrounding the fog lamps creates a design that flows back toward the rear of the vehicle. The deeply sculpted form of the area around the hood and fog lamps gives the front a firm countenance that emphasizes its aggressive-looking styling. The hood is laid out taller than the previous generation MAZDA5, which presents a greater presence.
The Nagare design motif applied to the sides of the body gracefully continues the dynamic flow of the lines from the headlamps and front fenders, and then carries that flow to the rear fenders and rear combination lamps in beautiful fashion. In the same spirit, the rails for the sliding door are blended skillfully with the character lines.
By connecting the flow from the front and sides through to the rear fenders, rear combination lamps and all the way to the tailgate, MAZDA5’s design creates an exquisite and consistent body line. Adding further appeal and lending the rear end a wider, more stable look, is the powerful line cut by the prominent rear fender shoulders combined with the placement of the rear combination lamps, which are laid out lower than on the previous generation vehicle. The finishing touch is the extended rear quarter and rear window glass panels that completely cover the D-pillar to emphasize the fresh, flowing design.
The headlamps on the new MAZDA5 play a prominent role in the overall design of the vehicle. The headlamp design starts with the stretched look that distinguishes Mazda headlamps; Nagare is introduced in the form of a supple S-shape design. This line blends with those on the front grille, hood and fender arches to heighten the individualistic character of the vehicle. Direct electrodeposition coating is used to enhance the contrast of textures within the lamp housing. The overall effect is that of an original and extremely stylish new design.
The rear combination lamps pick up the flow from the character lines on the sides of the body and the sliding door rails, and continue it on to the tailgate to form a beautiful design. In creating this look, the MAZDA5 blends the trailing end of the sliding door rails smoothly into the rear combination lamps to create a simple, stylish expression.
PREMIUM INTERIOR WITH NAGARE FLARE
Motifs adopted from the Nagare design language can also be found throughout the interior, from the lines above the dials and along the instrument panel to the stitch pattern in the seats and the design of the seat fabric. The overall ambience established is that of a sporty, high-quality cabin.
The driver-oriented design of the interior positions the peak of the meter hood as the tall point, with all lines flowing from there to comfortably wrap around the driver. The instrument panel flows from the cockpit to the center panel and on to the passenger-side dashboard in a rippling effect that suggests a liquid sensation to the design. The same flow continues on through the lines of the seat pattern, connecting seamlessly with the second and third row seats to create a strong sense of unity throughout the interior.
The cockpit presents a sporty look that hints at what the MAZDA5 will be like to drive, from the look of its twin deep-set gauges to the genuine leather that wraps the steering wheel and gear shift knob. The center panel is fitted with chrome plating and silver-trimmed control knobs that creates a look of top quality, all the while emphasizing the stylish design of the new MAZDA5’s cabin.
Based on an innovative packaging concept, the first-generation MAZDA5 offered value that far outclassed other vehicles in the marketplace. The fine balance it struck between sporty, dynamic styling, versatility and outstanding practicality earned the MAZDA5 high praise from media and consumers alike.
“The MAZDA5 is part of a class of vehicle that is tremendously popular in Europe and Japan, where space and utility must be maximized and driving performance is held at a premium,” says Matsuoka. “We set out to make sure this vehicle was fun to drive while also being versatile and practical. The attractive looks and good performance in no way compromise packaging and versatility.”
With an overall length of 180.5 inches, width of 68.9 inches, height of 63.6 inches, and sitting on a 108.3-inch wheelbase, the MAZDA5 delivers roomy comfort while being surprisingly compact. The long wheelbase helps give it extraordinary passenger space for its modest external dimensions, and the short front and rear overhangs enable better handling and parking ease. Despite the long wheelbase, MAZDA5 features an impressive tight turning circle of 36.7 feet, making it remarkably easy to maneuver in tight situations. With a low drag coefficient of 0.30, it is aerodynamically efficient, cleaving the air quietly and maximizing fuel economy.
A very popular feature of the previous generation that is carried over is the superbly practical manually operated sliding rear side doors that can be operated with one finger. The doors hug the sides of the vehicle when open, and create a wide opening for easy entry and exit to the rear seats – even for the third row of passengers. This not only provides far superior access compared with conventional front-hinged doors, it also is a benefit in tight parking spaces because they require little side clearance when open.
Despite its compact makeup, the MAZDA5 features a spacious cabin. Three features contribute to its roomy interior: a low profile fuel tank, a compact multi-link rear suspension, and a stepped floor. The latter permits excellent legroom for all – especially those sitting in the second and third rows. The ingeniously flexible interior takes convenience and versatility to a whole new level, and can be configured for two, three, four, five or six passengers, plus commensurate amounts of cargo.
The second row has separate captain’s chairs for added levels of comfort (and to minimize the “he’s touching me” joy when little ones share a bench seat). They slide and recline and can be folded flat without removing their headrests. They also feature a one-touch lever that automatically tips the seatback forward and slides the cushion to its front-most position to allow access to the third row.
The third row seats are split 50/50. They can be tipped forward individually and folded flat to create a flat load area, ideal for carrying mountain bikes or bulky sports equipment. With the rear-most seats folded flat, carrying capacity is a spacious 44.4 cubic feet. Even with all six seats in the “up” position, the luggage area is still large enough to carry a standard baby stroller and baby’s accoutrements behind the third row.
Interior storage space includes an abundance of compartments, including a vast, illuminated glovebox and half-liter bottle holders in each front door pocket. Additionally, under-seat storage in the second row seats can be accessed by folding the cushions forwards. The right-middle seat also offers a tilt-out basket, to keep safe all the little “things” that a family collects.
The MAZDA5 features “theater-style” seating. The stepped floor referred to earlier means each row is mounted a little higher than the one in front to improve visibility for all. The driver, too, benefits from excellent visibility, improving primary safety as well as making driving more enjoyable.
ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE MATCHED WITH ZOOM-ZOOM DYNAMICS
MAZDA5 customers will benefit from a healthier injection of Zoom-Zoom for 2012, attributable to an increase in displacement from 2.3 to 2.5-liters. This new engine is similar in most details to those found in the MAZDA3, MAZDA6 and CX-7. Mazda’s MZR engine family is widely regarded as one of the world’s most advanced forms of fuel-efficient, high-energy propulsion. The MZR 2.5-liter featured in the new MAZDA5 is a light, compact design that offers higher performance yet better fuel efficiency than the previous generation.
The MZR 2.5-liter produces its maximum output of 157 hp at a lower rpm than the previous 2.3-liter (6,000 rpm), and also delivers more torque (163 ft-lb at 4,000 rpm) throughout its operating range for a more satisfying and relaxing driving experience. In addition, a tall sixth gear allows quiet and comfortable cruising.
The MZR 2.5-liter uses a cast aluminum cylinder block and high-strength, thin-walled sleeves, as well as compact, light-weight pistons. The result is a design that weighs in about as light as the outgoing 2.3-liter motor. Improvement was also made to the flow within the intake valves and reduced exhaust resistance, while using Sequential Valve Timing (S-VT) to deliver optimum intake valve timing whether dawdling in traffic or carving around an on-ramp. Mazda’s Variable Induction System (VIS) is also utilized to improve low to mid range torque. The MZR 2.5-liter engine gives a linear feel to acceleration, accurate response and a light, relaxing driving performance.
MAZDA5 can be equipped with either a six-speed manual transmission (Sport models only) or a five-speed electronically controlled automatic with manual shift control. Despite an increase in power and displacement, fuel efficiency ratings show no loss over the previous generation’s 2.3-liter engine.
A uniquely Mazda Active Adaptive Shift protocol, which has earned high acclaim on the RX-8 sports car, provides the new five-speed automatic transmission with the performance and response that MAZDA5 customers expect. Part-throttle downshifts are delivered in sync with the nudge of the accelerator during passing. When the car is braked aggressively in anticipation of cornering, the transmission also downshifts to add engine braking and to prepare for an expedient exit from the bend. A wider overall ratio spread assists acceleration from rest while also providing quieter and more efficient highway cruising.
MAZDA5’s steering system delivers a precise, linear feel thanks in part to Mazda’s electronic hydraulic power assist steering (EHPAS) system. Adopting an electric pump for the new MAZDA5, the system also contributes to improved fuel mileage. Rubber couplings added to the steering shaft joints help realize an even smoother, more linear feel to steering actions. The steering system also includes tilt and telescopic adjustment that lets any member of the family find the right driving position, regardless of height and build.
Suspension layout for the previous MAZDA5 used MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link suspension in the rear that employed separate coils and dampers as part of its input separated system. The dampers used were a twin tube type and the rear dampers included integrated rebound springs. The inherent functions of these components earned the suspension high acclaim for delivering superior handling stability.
While the new MAZDA5 continues to use this suspension system, the spring rates have been increased to realize a new level of linear roll and to improve straight-line stability when driving at highway speeds. Stiffness is increased in the lower arm mount bushings for the front suspension for a more direct, linear feel to steering.
SAFETY FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
The previous generation MAZDA5 achieved outstanding safety ratings. While carrying over this high level of safety performance, the new MAZDA5 further raises that safety level, and never makes customers pay more money for more safety – all features are provided on all vehicles at no additional cost. All MAZDA5s include a long and impressive list of safety features, including: Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control System (TCS), Electric Hydraulic Power Assist (EHPAS) steering system, “Triple H” body construction, side-impact door beams, crushable brake and accelerator pedal assembly, advanced dual front air bags, front seat side air bags, three-row side air curtains, engine immobilizer anti-theft system, second row LATCH child safety seat anchors and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).
The 2012 MAZDA5 will also offer Mazda’s Brake Override System. This system always prioritizes the brake pedal over the accelerator pedal should both be engaged simultaneously, allowing the vehicle to be brought to a safe stop.
THREE WELL-EQUIPPED MODELS
The 2012 MAZDA5 is available in three trim levels – the entry-level Sport, Touring and top-grade Grand Touring. All three trim levels offer the versatility, features and style consumers in the market for a multi-activity vehicle want, at a price they can afford.
The well-equipped MAZDA5 Sport is powered by a 157 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and is available with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/55/R16 all-season tires, 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 system, one-touch up/down driver’s window, 50/50 split fold-down third row seats and steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls.
The MAZDA5 Touring takes everything on the MAZDA5 Sport and pumps it up a notch. MAZDA5 Touring is equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels with P205/50R17 all-season tires, sport side still extensions, rear liftgate spoiler, fog lamps, Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and trip computer.
The top-of-the line Grand Touring model adds a power moonroof, xenon high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, automatic on/off headlights, heated door mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, anti-theft alarm system, driver’s seat lumbar support adjustment, heated front seats, in-dash 6-disc CD changer, leather-trimmed seats and Sirius® satellite radio.
The Touring model is available with a Moonroof and Audio Package which includes a power moonroof, in-dash 6-disc CD changer and Sirius® satellite radio.