One can sit at the beach outside Loews Coronado Bay Resort and watch the ocean and the sand meet. You can feel the flow of the wind on your face, a coolness from the heat of the sun. You can feel the bubbles on your toes as the ocean flows over the sand, onto your feet and seeps in between your toes. The ocean and the wind recede back, leaving only the sand, the imprint of your foot in the sand, and the hot sun on your face.
But how do you put those feelings into steel? How do you design a car with that intention? And why would you bring it out in a minivan?
When you think of minivans you think of the Dodge Caravan, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey. Those are vans, but the nomenclature Minivan goes to the Mazda5. Only the Nissan Quest has a 2.7-liter and comes near the starting price of the Mazda5. Even on the road, the Mazda5 is a lilliputian.
Ken Saward , Design Manager, chief designer, talked about the Nagare design. The Mazda5 is the first iteration of the Nagare design. The word Nagare means flow in Japanese, "we wanted to capture the natural shapes in nature. We wanted to bring it out in this unique minivan for the non-typical minivan owner."
Mazda says their competitors are the Kia Rondo, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV. Those CUVs are almost as old as the Mazda minivan, which came onto the market in 2004. The new 2012 Mazda5 is better looking than any of those crossovers, and certainly better looking than any of the other traditional minivans.
The Mazda5 is based on the chassis of the sporty Mazda3 compact. Minivans are family vehicles. Families that are looking for comfort on the interior also want comfort in their driving. The Mazda3 has passed the test of comfort and sportiness. And did I mention design?
To get that same braking, steering and cornering in a minivan as you do in a sports car just adds to the value. When you drive the minivan you appreciate the amount of tuning that has gone into the little 4-banger.
Both the Mazda3 and Mazda6 was kissed with some Nagare styling on their exterior design. The Mazdaspeed 3 on the front grille, while the Mazda6 got some Nagare styling on the headlights and taillights.
The Mazda5 isn't perfect on the interior. There's more plastic than seems necessary, but that is the way the economy is headed. Many of us journalists had the same complaint about the new Volkswagen Jetta, but the people that are watching their pennies are looking at the bottom line. Mazda is doing the same. Their audience is interested in the bottom line and they are listening to their audience. VW did the same and their sales have jumped. We will have to wait to see if consumers are still as satisfied after 3-4 years, but right now, for the customer buying the car, it's the bottomline.
Instead Mazda has focused on the exterior design, giving the minivan the status as the first ever production vehicle to feature the Nagare design. There are three rows in the Mazda5 with enough room to hold six passengers. Of course, you get all the cup holders for all the rows.
The driver will be happy with the amenities: standard tilt and telescopic steering wheel, steering-wheel mounted audio and cruise controls, bluetooth hands-free phone operation, auto up-down driver's window and an instrument panel that includes a trip computer.
The instrument panel is easy and intuitive. None of the i-drive complexity, just simple to see and simple to understand push button. Practically analog! There is a certain pleasure in being able to just drive the vehicle without working the entire machine. Especially if you've got four kids and two adults in the car.
That's when you would want the optional DVD entertainment system, known as the ultimate babysitter. The little kiddies could pull out their 2nd row fold-out tray tables, eat their happy meals and watch movies all the way to Grandma's house. If, by chance, the kids get tired of watching movies you can take some of the toys out of the compartments beneath the second-row seat cushions and let them play. Just like at home, when they are through with their toys they put them back in their chest, the second-row seats being their personal toy chest.
Like all vehicles produced in Japan there may be a slowing after the Japanese earthquake, Tsunami, nuclear challenge, parts shortage and power shortage. All Japanese companies are getting up and running as quickly as possible.
The Mazda5 was crafted by hand, not by a computer generated CAD-design. If you feel like you want to touch it, to run your hand over it, you understand why. You are feeling nature. Driving it will be just as organic.
2012 Mazda Mazda5 minivan on sale now
Cost: $19,990 to $24,670
Competitors: Kia Rondo, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and all minivans.
Powertrains: 2.5-liter inline four: 157 hp, 163 lb-ft; six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. This replaces the 2.3-liter.
EPA Fuel Economy: 21 city/28 highway miles per gallon using regular gasoline -
holds 15.9 gallons
Turning circle diameter, 36.7 feet.