First Look: 2011 Mazda Mazda5

Although it was originally a segment-buster when it first arrived in the U.S., the Mazda 5 isn’t playing by itself any longer. Kia’s Rondo now serves as a competitor, as will the forthcoming Ford Grand C-Max and the Chevrolet Orlando. It’s timely, then, that Mazda is overhauling its mini-minivan for the 2011 model year.

Scheduled to debut during March’s Geneva motor show, the new 5 isn’t a huge departure from the current model, but it may be the most literal implementation of Mazda’s “nagare” (flow) design language yet. The large headlamps and large grille apertures copy those on the Mazda 3, but the 5 sports unique wave-like character lines around its beltline. Designers also incorporated the taillights -- previously mounted in the D-pillars --into the rear fenders, allowing the 5 to bear some resemblance to other Mazda products.

Inside, the 5 is treated an updated dashboard that cribs heavily from the current 3. The twin-gauge instrument cluster, along with the upper half of the instrument panel, is patterned (if not borrowed) from its little sibling. The 5 will continue to be offered in both 6- and 7-passenger forms, but as was the case with the last model, it’s unlikely the latter will be sold in North America.

Thus far, Mazda’s only released specifications for the European-spec model, which also receives a new direct-injection 2.0-liter I-4. We’ve yet to see the final specifications for the North American 5, but we hope something a little more powerful than the current 2.3-liter I-4 -- perhaps the 2.5-liter mill from the Mazda 3 -- makes its way underhood.

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