The update represents the model�s first major freshening in a while, and the first since going on sale in the U.S. in 2005. The 5, which is known as the Premacy in Japan, takes on styling cues from the Mazda 3 on which it�s based, in particular the smiley-face grille and pronounced fenders. Moving aft of the A-pillars, Mazda says the new 5 is the first production model to fully adopt the wind-blown, swooping styling language the company has refined on several stunning concepts, starting with the Nagare in 2006 and including the Furai racer from 2008.
Inspired by the beauty of flowing elements in nature�nagare means �flow� in Japanese�the design language is most evident along the sides of the 5, where swooping creases between the beltline and rockers appear to be sculpted by the wind, lending a sense of motion. These particular elements can be found in all the previous concept vehicles and, according to Mazda, help the 5 achieve improved aerodynamic efficiency with less drag and more optimal lift characteristics. The result definitely is striking�think BMW�s flame surfacing on magic mushrooms. A more-sculpted rear fascia with revised taillights rounds out the major tweaks to the body.
We have yet to learn the extent of the interior changes, but the layout will remain a spacious and flexible place for six, complete with dual sliding doors for easy entry and exit. Improved materials and revised equipment are expected in order to keep the 5 on par with the updated-for-2010 CX-7 and CX-9.
The 2011 Mazda 5 will go on sale in Europe in the fall of this year with several powertrains, the most notable of which is a new, direct-injected 2.0-liter inline-four with the company�s �i-stop� stop/start technology. When equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, the new 5 is said to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, which are directly tied to fuel consumption, by 15 percent. A 1.8-liter four and a small-displacement turbo-diesel also will be available.
The current U.S.-market 5 sports a 153-hp, 2.3-liter four mated to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic gearbox. While we don�t expect performance to match that of, say, our Mazdaspeed 5 Boss Wagon, the fitment of the redesigned-for-2009 Mazda 3�s optional 2.5-liter mill, which makes 167 hp and is paired with either a six-speed manual or a five-speed auto, seems likely. As is par for the course these days, expect a slight bump in fuel economy over the current car�s city/highway ratings of 22/28 mpg with the manual and 21/27 with the automatic.
(BY MIKE SUTTON)