2012 Mazda5 GS
2012 Mazda5 GS. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Haney Louka

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2012 Mazda5

Let’s call this the second instalment in my quest to find a worthy replacement for our 2004 Mazda6 Sport Wagon. I previously entertained the idea that the Toyota Venza might possess that magical combination of cargo utility with car-like handling and efficiency. While the Venza is efficient for its size and can handle about the same cargo volume as our Mazda, it falls short on its ability to satisfy my craving for responsive handling and a sporty demeanour going down the road. It also lost points for a few quirks that I would consider deal-killers.

So, on to the next applicant….

There are two choices that ostensibly fit the bill within the Mazda family; unfortunately neither of these is a wagon. The first is the CX-7, which could be a contender in naturally-aspirated form (the turbo-four is thirstier than many V6s in similarly-sized vehicles).

But this time we’re looking at the more frugal end of the Mazda people-hauler line-up: the new-for-2012 Mazda5. A vehicle that could best be described as a mini-minivan, it’s based on the Mazda3. Compared to the 3, the 5’s wheelbase is stretched 110 mm but overall length is increased by a mere 80 mm. More significantly, the 5 stands 145 mm taller than the 3.

2012 Mazda5 GS
2012 Mazda5 GS. Click image to enlarge

I’ve driven a couple of 5s in the past several years, but this second generation model brings with it several changes; chief among them is styling. Those who either love or hate the 3’s front end will instantly recognize it on the new 5. Taillights are now lower down and horizontal rather than the high-mounted vertical arrangement of the previous generation. But perhaps the most significant – and controversial – styling feature of the new 5 is its creased bodywork, which Mazda says is the first production application of its “Nagare” design language. I won’t regurgitate the verbose description of how wind and water and harmonious coexistence with nature shaped the car you see photographed here, but suffice it to say that Mazda’s press kit goes on for more than a few paragraphs about this.

What matters, though, is how it all comes together. And while a styling judgment is best left to the eye of the beholder, I can say that the 5 is still instantly recognizable and the various modifications are actually more decorative than substantive; not doing anything to really change the 5’s visual character. And for me, the 5’s styling is probably the one thing holding me back from embracing it as the next resident of the Louka garage. But the car has so much going for it that it might still earn a spot.

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