2012 Mazda5 Grand Touring

The thing about the 2012 Mazda5 Grand Touring: It’s where sense meets some sportiness.

The thing about the 2012 Mazda5 Grand Touring: It’s where sense meets some sportiness.

One of the interesting aspects of many crossover vehicles, especially those of a comparatively compact size, is that while they are the ostensible progeny of sport utility vehicles, there isn’t a heck of a lot of utility associated with them because they are, in effect, sedans on short stilts. And as for sportiness, well, it’s like trying to be lithe while on said stilts.

The bottom line is that the real advantage of these compact SUVs is the short stilts, the higher H-point.

Don’t kid yourself otherwise.

Let’s say that you’re looking for some utility, as in the means by which you can transport some people and some stuff. And that you’re not planning on operating a small business out of the back of your vehicle. And that despite the fact that you can’t have that sporty car any more due to (probably) familial obligations, you still like to drive and so don’t want to be the pilot of something that might win an award for excellence in numbness.

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Which brings me to the Mazda5.

This is the second generation of the vehicle that is, well, I don’t know what to call it. The Mazda term is “multi-activity vehicle.” It is sort of like a small minivan, at least from the point of basic architectural shape and the fact that it has sliding rear doors, one of the best design configurations going for those who are interested in ease of ingress and egress. And inside it can seat up to six people in its three rows (2-2-2), which is a heck of a lot more sensible than trying to describe it as being an eight-passenger vehicle (2-3-3). The seats are configured such that the second row captain’s chairs are a little higher than the front seats and the 50/50 third row bench a bit higher than the second, so there is improved visibility of and for the folks in the Mazda5. If you have the max people capacity, know that there is a bit of space behind for cargo: 5.58-cu. ft., so you could have minimalist Costco run with a full complement of passengers.

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However, as you are likely to have that third row down, know that you get a bump up to 27.5-cu. ft. of cargo space. Then, if you take down the second row, too, you get up to 44.4-cu. ft., so you can have a maximalist Costco run.

But this vehicle isn’t of interest just because it has cargo capacity. It is a vehicle that provides driving satisfaction. It has a 2.5-liter engine under the hood that puts out 157 hp. Which is not going to cause any need for a Simpson six- or seven-point restraint, but is certainly enough to provide a bit of more than ordinary performance when you’re on your commute. And for those who are so inclined, it is remarkable—no, make that REMARKABLE—that you can get the Mazda5 with a six-speed manual transmission. Think about it: nowadays, there is a decreasing number of “performance” models being offered with a manual, but here it is in what is ostensibly a “family” vehicle.

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More likely will be the five-speed automatic. But even it offers manual shift control.

The suspension has MacPherson struts in the front and a multi-link rear suspension, setup for handling and straight-line stability (let’s face it: you’re more often driving in straight lines than you are on something akin to Mulholland Drive).

I’ve not talked about the body work of this vehicle—which is based on the Nagare design language—because those sweeps in the bodyside speak for themselves. And for those of you who are thinking: “Yeah, it looks nice when it is bright and shiny-new, but what’s going to happen if I get smacked in the side?” know that the designers actually worked with collision repair shops when developing these swoops, and actually found that the repairs can be effected without insurance companies going ballistic.

So it is function and fun, space and sportiness. Certainly not to the max, but appropriate in many cases. While the small sport ute or the minivan may be the default choices for people, those people ought to rethink things and consider the Mazda5.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC in-line four with VVT

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 157 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 163 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed automatic with manual shift control

Wheelbase: 108.3 in.

Length: 180.5 in.

Width: 68.9 in.

Height: 63.6 in.

Base curb weight: 3,457 lb.

EPA: 19/27 mpg city/hwy