Chevrolet Orlando, Mazda5, Dodge Journey, Toyota Prius V
Chevrolet Orlando, Mazda5, Dodge Journey, Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge

By Jonathan Yarkony; Photos by Jonathan Yarkony and Michael Schlee

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2012 Compact Family Hauler comparo

The small family hauler category welcomes a few new entries this year, as automakers seek to introduce vehicles with better fuel consumption and value than minivans, which have grown larger and pricier than many growing families can afford. Today, we look at the Chevrolet Orlando, Mazda5, Dodge Journey and the Prius V to see what they offer customers looking for economical and practical vehicles that will serve all their family needs.

2012 Mazda5

The second-generation Mazda5, freshly redesigned for 2012, is the grandfather of this bunch, yet it is the still the most athletic of the MPVs (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) we tested, and well-represents Mazda’s philosophy of a sporty, engaging driving experience. Okay, the Mazda5 is no Miata when it comes to cornering or that visceral connection to the road, but its low weight and firm, responsive and direct steering occasionally allowed a spirited run through twisting roads.

Of course, success in this segment doesn’t hinge on steering feel or vehicle dynamics, and the Mazda5 holds its own on the practicality front, offering luxurious seating for four adults, thanks to two widely-spaced seats in the second row, and a couple of child-only chairs in the third row. Despite the generous space for second row seating, cargo space with all seats up is minimal, and maximum cargo volume with all seats down is comparable to the Chevrolet Orlando (Mazda puts itself at a disadvantage in the specs by measuring cargo volume up to the window (belt) line, whereas most manufacturers measure to the roof).

2012 Mazda5
2012 Mazda5. Click image to enlarge

The Mazda5’s sleek shape and spacious interior packaging, with flat-folding rear seats and the usual abundance of pockets and compartments was largely ignored by Americans but embraced by Canadians. I guess we appreciate the 9.7/6.8 L/100 km city highway fuel consumption ratings enough to squeeze the kids into compact, front-wheel drive packages. However, the mileage wins come at the expense of get-up-and-go, as the Mazda5 would never be accused of being fast. Then again, neither would a Miata, but Mazda has no problems moving those in the roadster segment, and it hasn’t hurt the Mazda5 here in Canada.

Pricing: 2012 Mazda5 GT

  • Base price: $24,395
  • Options: $1,990 (Luxury Package $1,790); 5-speed automatic transmission $1,200)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,595
  • Price as tested: $29,080
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