You Like Wavy Sheetmetal? Here’s the 2012 Mazda5 Minivan

Mazda5

This car is really a mini-minivan but still has three rows of seats. It’s a redesign of the previous Mazda5 and will come in at a nice price—$19,990 for the base (“Sport”) version, which has everything you need and nothing you don’t, as the saying goes.

It’s a good deal—if you can live with that widemouth grille and the wavy sheetmetal curves on the side that make absolutely no design sense. I simply do not understand Japanese car designers and their need for decoration, which may be Nagare or “organic” to them but has nothing to do with automotive form or function.

Well, anyhow, the Mazda5 has a good basic shape and is a real alternative to larger, lots-pricier minivans. In all three trim levels, you get a reworked 2.5-liter, 157-hp, 163-lb-ft/torque engine. The Sport version gets a standard six-speed manual.

For an extra grand, the Touring gives you 17-inch alloys, power this-and-that, Bluetooth and blah-blah, and a five-speed automatic. This version, I imagine, is the one most people will buy. The more-accessorized Grand Touring will start at $24,670 and includes a powered moonroof.

Compact minivans like this are called MPVs in Europe and “space wagons” in Japan. One wonders whether such cars will begin to catch on in the U.S. You see lots of them in Mexico and Latin America, and they make sense as efficient, reasonably sized people movers.

Vehicles like Honda’s Odyssey have grown over time in size and price, and gotten uglier into the bargain. The Kia Sedona has a good safety record, is larger than the Mazda5, and costs $24,595 to start. It’s also being phased out next year.

It seems logical that mini-minivans like the Mazda5 could find a market in the U.S. There isn’t much competition, and the price of this car is definitely right. It comes to dealers in January 2011.

If you were in the market for such a car, what would be the most important factor in your making the decision to buy one?

—jgoods

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Used Mazda5
Used Honda Odyssey
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2 Comments

  1. I believe that the US could use cars like these; simpler, less-costly, and more compact than a traditional minivan, yet without compromising the utility aspect. Bermuda has plenty of French and Japanese MPVs that we don’t get in the US, even though it’s so close to the mainland. I recently saw a VW Touran on diplomat tags (foreign, non-USDM cars are a fairly frequent sight when you live near the nation’s capital). I couldn’t help thinking that if I were going to start a family, that would be the kind of practical car I’d want to buy.

    If I were in the market, I think price and utility would be the most important factors. I also wouldn’t want something pretentious; the simpler the better.

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