There is no doubt about it. Mazda makes fun-to-drive, sporty and eye-catching vehicles. And then there is the one ride from the Japanese carmaker that defies a category: the Mazda5, coined a "microvan" for being smaller and cheaper than regular minivans.
Sharing its basic design with the compact Mazda3, the 2012 midsize Mazda5 acquires a fresh makeover inside and out. The base Sport, mid-level Touring and up-level Grand Touring share a common power train: 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder (up from the previous 2.3 liters). Also, horsepower inches up by 4 to 157 at 6000 rpm and pounds-feet of torque head north from 148 to 163 at 4000 rpm. Stick-shift fans would be wise to pick the Sport version for its 6-speed manual transmission, but the 5-speed auto on our Grand Touring trim was up to the job.
It's truly for flexible and practical purposes that the Mazda5 has an edge over the competition. Take the minivan-like, rear-sliding doors for easy entry and exit to the cabin. The second-row seat reclines and slides fore and aft so children can slip into the 50/50 third-row seat, which when flat, nets you 44.4 cubic feet of cargo space. Storage areas are plentiful such as hidden trays under the second-row seat and cargo hold, flip-and-fold-out tray table, glove box, front center console and coin holder.
Launched as a 2006 model, the Mazda5 has been reasonably priced at $19,195 for Sport and creeps up to $23,875 for Grand Touring. Couple that with generous cargo and passenger capacity, decent fuel mileage, an agile and spirited character, and you end up with an exceptionally useful package. So what if your ride is a "microvan"?
Mazda5 Grand Touring
Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
Length: 180.5 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, E-type multilink rear
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
City: 21 mpg
Highway: 28 mpg