Minivan sales might not be that strong right now, but Mazda is hoping that its new 2011 Mazda MAZDA5 will see a sharp spike in sales when it goes on sale for the 2011 model year. After selling just 18,488 of the compact minivans in 2009 in the United States (a decrease of 16 percent compared to 2008), Mazda has set an initial sales target of up to 30,000 units for the all new MAZDA5 when it goes on sale here in January 2011 according to Automotive News
Since being introduced in North America in 2005, the best year of sales was the 2008 model year with 22,021 units sold which pales in comparison to the mainstream minivans like the Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country and the Toyota Sienna. While these larger minivans continue to grow in size offering nifty storage and seating options, the MAZDA5 has more of a European feel with its compact size. When it comes to minivans, the Mazda MAZDA5 is probably one of the more unique offerings available in North America, but its small stature still allows for plenty of interior space with a three-row seating layout that seats six passengers comfortably (MAZDA5 models sold outside the U.S. will offer a seven-passenger layout which is pictured at left).
While an increase of almost 50 percent in sales may seem difficult as the minivan market continues to decline, one thing working in the new 5's favor is the completely updated styling that adds the smiley front end design as well as swoopy body lines inspired by numerous recent concept vehicles. Starting with the redesigned 2010 Mazda MAZDA3, the new smiley look has been applied to just about all of Mazda's current lineup, but this design element is probably best executed on the all-new MAZDA5. In addition to the smiley new front end, Mazda also gave the new MAZDA5 some very stylish body creases inspired by the 2007 Mazda Taiki Concept while the taillights extend further into the rear quarter panels to help disguise the channel for the dual rear sliding doors. Compared to the current MAZDA5, the low, horizontal taillights also help to give the new third-generation 5 a styling more in line with conventional minivans. Aside from the stylish new design, it would seem that Mazda carried over the same architecture of the current model which is obvious by the roofline and greenhouse that are almost untouched.
Fans of the new MAZDA3 will love the cabin design of the MAZDA5 with its many design elements inspired from the sporty hatchback. The biggest improvements were made to the instrument panel where the center stack was better incorporated into the dash and topped with a small digital display screen. It isn't clear as to whether or not Mazda plans to offer a compact navigation screen in this display as it does on the 3. As for the seating arrangement, the U.S.-spec models will get three rows that each seat two occupants, while models sold outside the U.S. will add an extra seat in the middle row. Both second- and third-row seats will fold flat into the floor to give the 5 an impressive cargo volume.
For its European launch, the 2011 MAZDA5 will come with a choice of two four-cylinder engines with displacements of either 1.8 or 2.0 liters with the larger of these two offering the advantage of direct injection and Mazda's i-stop (start/stop) technology. Both engines are mated to efficiently geared six-speed manual transmissions, and the total package helps reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent according to Mazda. Unfortunately, don't expect these advanced engines to make it over to the U.S., but since it shares its platform with the equally loveable MAZDA3, the all-new U.S.-spec MAZDA5 is likely to share the 3's peppy and efficient 2.5-liter DOHC inline-4.
The 2011 Mazda MAZDA5 (also known as the Mazda Premacy) made its official debut back in March at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, but Mazda's updated compact minivan is likely to make its North American debut at the 2010 Los Angeles International Auto Show. With the current MAZDA5 coming with a starting MSRP of $17,995, it is likely that the third-generation model will also be available in base form for under $20,000.