2012 Mazda5 Grand Touring ReviewMarch 27, 2012
- Smart storage ideas.
- Comfy second row seats.
- Solid city driver.
- Third-row seats are for kids only.
- Front-wheel drive has traction issues on ice.
- Cargo capacity limited by second-row seats.
A valid alternative to the giant minivan or too-small wagon for suburbanites in warm climates.
After a week in the Mazda5, I came to love its relatively sporty handling—it takes corners like a wagon, not a minivan. My kids loved having captain’s chairs in the second row. And while the 157-hp, 4-cyl. engine is no screamer up mountain roads at altitude, the surprising 168-lb ft of torque shot the vanagon out of corners faster than I expected. The fuel economy did better than the EPA sticker. I averaged 25.3 mpg over 157 miles of testing.
With its high roofline, interior headroom is fantastic, yet because of the Mazda5’s low ground clearance (5.5 inches), the roof isn’t that high when viewed from the outside. It’s an ideal height for access to a roof rack loaded with bikes, boats, or surfboards. In fact with its sliding second doors, this Mazda struck me as the absolute perfect support vehicle for bike racing. I had a vision of a soigner handing water bottles out the vast second row window to a domestique, or sliding the door open to work on a rear derailleur while cruising down the road at 25 mph.
Underneath each second row seat is a hidden tray that can hold a messenger bag or other valuables that you want to keep out of sight. It’s a clever use of space that’s normally wasted. One downside to the sweet captain’s chair setup is that there’s no way to make the seats fold flat to create a vast even surface that stretches from the rear liftgate to the back of the front seats. And there’s no easy way to remove the seats without unbolting them from the floor. This makes stuffing bikes or other large cumbersome objects inside problematic. I could do it, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to chance ripping the seats or smearing grease on them. I’d advise saving a large sheet of cardboard or a moving blanket and draping it over those seats for protect protection whenever you dump something on top of them.
The third row seats fold flat into the floor to create a space big enough for a full-size dog’s crate or four hockey equipment bags. As for passengers, the third row can’t seat even one adult comfortably. Two pre-teens or younger should be fine. One nice feature: even with the third-row seats up, there’s room behind them for 5-6 grocery bags or a small cooler.
All Weather Performance
On dry, flat roads the Mazda5 is a spry ride. However, the week I had it my street was still covered in ice, and I managed to get stuck trying to get up my own driveway. The combination of street, not snow, tires and the Mazda’s relatively svelte weight and strong torque had me spinning my tires and going nowhere. This is the second time I’ve been unable to get a Mazda5 moving on an icy driveway. As a result, I can’t recommend it for snowy climes (even though there are tons of these vehicles driven throughout Colorado) without investing in studded snow tires for the winter.
On interstate climbs up into the mountains, the engine held its own, although it was working hard and didn’t have quite enough oomph available to make me want to pass anyone. But when traveling on twisting two-lane country roads, the Mazda5’s relatively wide stance and feel for the road make for a fun drive—definitely more fun than anyone should expect from a minivan.
For the money, Mazda packs a ton of goodies into the Mazda5: 17-inch wheels, heated seats, leather trimmed seats, Xenon headlights, fog lights, stability control and traction control, and a tire pressure monitoring system. And don’t forget the solid fuel economy, 21mpg city/28mpg hwy.