2012 Mazda5 GS
2012 Mazda5 GS. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site
Mazda Canada

Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony

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2012 Mazda5

When the Dodge Caravan ushered in the modern minivan era almost 20 years ago, it was 4,468 mm long. Now available exclusively in Grand Caravan trim it measures 5,144 mm long and has given up any pretense or claim to being a true “mini”van. While many consumers are moving into the trendy crossover segment, we still believe that there is no more practical family vehicle than a minivan with sliding doors.

Consumers have also shown that they are not interested in AWD in the family vehicle segment by the take rates of AWD minivans in the past, and the popularity of FWD crossovers without any claim to the ruggedness that their SUV progenitors once offered. Nope, as with any other segment, family vehicle shoppers simply tend to follow the styling trends of the masses. However, a minority still shops by its budget, and in Canada that minority is not insignificant, with Canadians in 2011 consistently choosing economical compact six- or seven-seaters like the Journey (53,406), Rondo (6,154), and Mazda5 (6,084), with untold others choosing seven-seat options of the Toyota RAV4 and Mitsubishi Outlander.

Of them all, the Mazda5 is the only true minivan, offering the same qualities as that original Magic Wagon that won over North Americans with its compact footprint (at 4,585 mm, still longer than the original Caravan), more ergonomic higher seating positions, efficient FWD drivetrain, seating for more than five, and flexible configurations. Well, Americans have moved on, but Canadians are still in the market enough that Chevrolet brought over its Cruze-based Orlando MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) for 2012. However, in a recent comparison test of the Mazda5, Dodge Journey, Chevrolet Orlando and Toyota Prius V, the Mazda5 showed that it had the best all-round flexibility, efficiency, and value of the assembled vehicles, so we brought it back for a more in-depth look in this Long-Term Test.

2012 Mazda5 GS
2012 Mazda5 GS
2012 Mazda5 GS. Click image to enlarge

The vehicle we requested was a very ordinary GS model, though we opted for the six-speed manual transmission (only 14 percent of Mazda5 sales are equipped with manuals, although that is almost three times the industry average of 5–6 percent) in order to further increase value, efficiency, and Mazda’s patented driving pleasure.

The $21,895 base GS comes with 16-inch alloys, ABS, brake force distribution and brake assist, traction control, dynamic stability control, power doors, mirrors, and windows, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry, anti-theft, auxiliary audio jack, steering wheel–mounted audio controls, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, air conditioning, dual front air bags, side air bags, and side air curtains and lots and lots of cupholders. The only options on tester are the Bluetooth hands-free phone system, cruise control (with steering wheel–mounted controls), trip computer, and leather-wrapped steering wheel, all of which are part of the $845 Convenience Package. We would have found it hard to live without the Bluetooth phone and audio and a trip computer to document all our consumption.

Our tester stickers for $22,740, plus $1,795 for Freight and PDI and the $100 A/C tax puts the Mazda5 GS convenience at $24,635 before factoring in taxes.

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