2012 Mazda5 GT
2012 Mazda5 GT. Click image to enlarge

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Mazda Canada

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2012 Mazda5

When Mazda brought its four-cylinder Mazda5 mini minivan to the North American market for 2006, Canadians were all over it like gravy on French fries. Here was a compact, fuel efficient, fun-to-drive and stylish six-seater with a price that played to our pragmatic sensibilities. And with an available manual transmission, there was nothing like it on the road.

It did well, becoming the second biggest nameplate for Mazda Canada (the Mazda3 being number one) with over 50,000 sold to date.

Arriving in showrooms now is a significantly revised Mazda5, which for reasons only marketing types can explain, is billed as a 2012 model. There was no 2011 Mazda5.

For those who hold the 5’s core values near and dear to their hearts, fear not, for the 2012 rides on the same platform, is dimensionally unchanged and still responds to driver inputs with an enthusiasm that belies its domestic mandate.

Some of the shortcomings, however, have been addressed. Key enhancements include a revised interior and a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that puts out 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, versus the old 2.3-litre unit with 153 horses and 148 pound-feet. The standard manual transmission is up one cog to six, while the optional five-speed manumatic carries on. Air conditioning with automatic climate control, side curtain airbags, brake assist, stability control and traction control are now standard.

2012 Mazda5 GT
2012 Mazda5 GT
2012 Mazda5 GT. Click image to enlarge

The 2012 Mazda5 starts at $21,795 for the nicely-equipped GS model featuring 16-inch alloys, auto lights, auto wipers, cruise and tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Mazda tells us it costs about $320 less than a comparably equipped 2010 model.

I tested a Clear Water Blue Mica (new colour) $24,395 GT with optional $1,200 auto and $1,790 Luxury Package (power moonroof, leather-trimmed seats and a second row fold-out table/cargo bin). At $27,385, this is the most you can spend on a 2012 Mazda5.

The original Mazda5 certainly could have used more power. When loaded up with humans and cargo, it was a slug. While not a huge jump in numbers, this 2.5-litre engine breathes new life into the 5. It feels more lively and highway passing is less of a chore. At 120 km/h the engine spins at a relaxed 2,500 r.p.m. The taller sixth gear in the manual should help in this regard too, as the previous five-speed car was frenetic at highway speeds.

Mazda claims a marginal improvement in highway fuel economy. Over a week of mixed motoring my GT returned 10.2 L/100km. I couldn’t help but think how cool this car would be with the fuel-sipping 2.0-litre diesel engine available in other markets.

While the 2012 Mazda5 continues with front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspension, spring rates have been increased to fix some stability issues and the front control arm bushings have been revised. Having owned a 2006 Mazda5, I can attest the suspension was that car’s Achilles heel – well, four heels if you count each corner. It appears these issues have been addressed.

The Mazda5 was always fun to drive, however, and unchanged are its fine steering feel and accurate cornering that won me over in the first place. Indeed, the 2012 underpinnings feel less flinty, and road imperfections are absorbed in a more refined fashion.

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