We’ve seen several concept vehicles with what Mazda calls its Nagare “flow” styling language, but the 2012 5 is the first production vehicle to use it. The Mazda 5 continues to be an uncommonly versatile vehicle, with three comfortable rows of seating despite its small size. The 5 seats six people and offers enough legroom for adults to fit in the third row for short trips. The second-row captain’s chairs slide and recline and can be folded flat, and the third-row seats have a fifty-fifty split so they can be tipped forward individually and folded to create a flat load area. There are plenty of interior storage binnacles, including compartments under the second-row seats. Sliding rear doors give the 5 the easy rear-seat access of a minivan and help prevent dings from overzealous door openers. A 157-hp four-cylinder is the only engine, and although it isn’t overly powerful, it’s lively enough to get the job done. The five-speed automatic transmission works fine, but young parents resisting the transition into adulthood might prefer the six-speed manual, as do we. It’s a unique offering in a unique segment, and it helps make the 5 extraordinarily enjoyable to drive.

Drive: Front-wheel

Trim levels: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring

Body style: Minivan, 6-passenger

Engine: 2.5L I-4, 157 hp, 163 lb-ft

Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 5-speed automatic

PASSENGER VOLUME: 97.7 cu ft

CARGO SPACE: (rear seats up/down) 5.6/27.5 cu ft

The 2012 Mazda 5 went on sale almost a year early, as there was no 2011 model. The 5 remains in a class of one, the only truly mini minivan in our market. It’s based on the compact Mazda 3, which donates its fun-to-drive DNA. New styling for the 2012 model gives the 5 a more sculpted look.

Standard features include front, side, and side curtain air bags, along with ABS, traction and stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

All: 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway

  • Fun to drive
  • Big inside, little outside
  • Fuel economy not better than full-size vans
  • Manual only in base trim

The only truly mini minivan.

  • Nissan Cube
  • Scion xD
  • Toyota Matrix

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