Although in North America popular conscious the term ‘minivan’ has come to denote a class of lumbering, box-liked cargo containers featuring the same level of driver engagement as a humpback whale, the same cannot be said for people movers found overseas. In both Europe and Japan, where high capacity passenger vehicles or ‘MPVs’ are well-accepted alongside wagons as a practical part of a family’s lifestyle, van-like automobiles can be purchased at a range of performance levels and carry none of the stigma of their U.S. brethren.
Very few car companies, however, have seen fit to import any of their more dynamically interesting vans to America. The 2012 Mazda MAZDA5 is one such exception to the rule that minivans have to be boring, and it is no surprise that this capacious compact hauler wears the badge of the same brand that brought us outside-the-box thinking like rotary engines. Mazda is an automaker that has consistently refused to budge on its stance that even the most affordable, purpose-built vehicle can be fun to drive, and in a market where a compact six-seater like the MAZDA5 finds itself facing larger, bulkier contenders such as the Dodge Journey and proper, much more expensive minivans like the Nissan Quest, the vehicle stands out even more starkly as proof positive that affordable utility doesn’t have to come in a boring package.