Mazda designers may be moving on to Kodo, but the firm's previous Nagare design language still lives, thanks in no small part to the new U.S.-spec 2012 Mazda5, which was unwrapped at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.
The Nagare touches, which have been incorporated into vehicles like the second-generation Mazda6, Mazda3, and the new Mazda2, are blatantly evident on the 2012 Mazda5. Apart from the long headlamps and wide grille -- both of which bear a close resemblance to those on the current Mazda3 -- the 5 also receives wild, sculpted waves that run the length of the car. Those character curves allow Mazda to partially hide the sliding door tracks while integrating the new tail lamps, which have moved to a position below the D-pillars.
Inside, designers worked to spruce up the 5's seven-seat cabin, which was reportedly a frequent request from current owners. As a result, the 5 receives a new instrument panel with a Mazda3-like sweep, along with a cleanly organized center stack. New fabric selections, along with improved trim materials and attractive accents, do quite a bit to add some pizzazz within.
Drivers, however, will likely appreciate the revisions underhood. After listening to owners (and critics) plead for more power, Mazda replaced the 2.3-liter I-4 from the last van with the larger 2.5-liter I-4 used in the likes of the Mazda3 and Mazda6. In the 2012 Mazda5, it's tuned to crank out 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque, marking a 4 horsepower and 15 pound-feet improvement over the 2010 model. Most buyers will opt for the five-speed automatic, but officials proudly boast the 5 still offers a six-speed manual (albeit only in lower trim levels).
These refinements undoubtedly make a good mini-minivan even better, but we wonder if they'll be enough to catch buyers' attention. Mazda has been happy enough with sales of the previous-generation model (even more remarkable, when you consider the company rarely pays to market the 5), but with Ford's Grand C-Max arriving shortly, the niche-carving segment buster may soon have its first true competitor in the U.S.