For most buyers, the decision to have a third row of seats – to seat six or more when needed – is a decision that will involve some sacrifice, both in terms of the family budget and in terms of driving pleasure. . First, there’s the initial bang, as most three-row vehicles typically cost thousands more than a compact crossover or sedan. Then you will be hit again when it’s time to refuel, as most vehicles with seating for six or seven also don’t offer the mileage of smaller two-row vehicles. When it comes to driving pleasure, third-row vehicles tend to be stout and anything but floaty, so the jump from a compact car can be downright shocking.
But among the three-row vehicles, there is one model in the US market that stands out by not requiring these compromises: the 2012 Mazda5. As we pointed out in our full review pages as well as in our first drive. from the Mazda5, this little “7/8 scale van” drives with an athletic, agile feel and an ever-present sense of “zoom.” zoom ‘that the brand has imbued in almost all of its models.
On a recent follow-up ride with the 2012 Mazda5, we found this upbeat wagon to not only enjoy the corners, but also very comfortable for long highway trips. Mazda has significantly reduced road noise in this generation, compared to the previous one, and that made all the difference on the very rough road surfaces of Oregon.
Our 2012 Mazda5 Sport equipped with a manual gearbox is self-adhesive at only $ 20,470, including the destination and optional satellite radio. That’s less than most of the compact cars we’ve driven recently. And the manual transmission was a perfect companion on a weekend that took us along many twisty two-lane roads and over two mountain passes, helping to make the most of the excellent body control of the 5, similar to a sedan. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder “MZR” engine developing 157 hp had to be kept above the 3,500 rpm mark in order to gain momentum in the high altitude areas, but crossing the big one. sixth gear, engine noise was minimized and left only enough torque on tap at 70 mph to facilitate gear comfortably. The Mazda5’s electro-hydraulic steering, combining the energy-saving benefits of electric power steering with the enhanced feel of hydraulic supercharging, is far better than that of any minivan or crossover we can think of, and better. than the units of most compact cars.
The real surprise came when we returned to refuel. Carefully filling the tank at the same pump after the weekend trip (and 420 miles of varied driving), we observed an average of almost 30 mpg, clearly beating the Mazda5’s 21 mpg in the city, 28 highway and exceeding our own expectations. of about 5 mpg. About half of the reservoir was on smoother roads, with cruising, but considering the miles of the suburbs and the mountain driving, it’s amazing.
The results also match a trend we’ve noticed as the EPA’s new drive cycles are phased in over the past two model years: we’re barely able to meet ratings for automations.
Even smart shopping has its downsides, and the 5 is no exception. We were disappointed to find that there was neither Bluetooth nor USB in our test vehicle and in the audio system. Bluetooth is offered in the higher Touring and Grand Touring trims, but it cannot be combined with the manual gearbox. The audio systems would have been redesigned, but the displays are difficult, the number of display characters for satellite radio being very limited. And as we pointed out on our first ride, the dashboard and door trim really feel the price – they’re dull, hard, and hollow and tend to accumulate fingerprints. That said, the base padding is grippy and comfortable.
Overall, the Mazda5’s price, value, gas mileage, and driving fun factor is a package that’s hard to resist. If you test it in some corners and see how sliding doors make family chores easier, you might find that this most ‘zoom’ van makes a lot of sense.