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First Look: 2012 Ford B-Max

To B or not to B…

by on Feb.28, 2011

Ford European designer Stefan Lamm shows off the maker's new B-Max multi-purpose vehicle.

If Ford was hoping to make a splash with its newest microvan, the 2012 B-Max, it couldn’t have lucked into a better time to pull off the covers.

With the Mideast in turmoil and the Libyan crisis, in particular, pushing oil prices back up towards record levels, small cars are poised to become big business.  The question is just how far buyers are willing to downsize.

The new model, officials dubbed a Multi-Purpose Vehicle, or MPV, in Europe, will make its formal debut at the Geneva Motor Show, tomorrow, though Ford gave a handful of media a preview of the 2012 B-Max a day ahead of schedule.

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For those unfamiliar with industry logic, the “B-“ refers to the size of the van’s underlying platform.  It also reveals that the Ford B-Max shares its “architecture” with the subcompact Ford Fiesta, which made its return to the U.S. market last year.

But there’s a double-meaning, in that the B-Max doesn’t have the normal B-pillar.  More on that in a moment.

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First Drive: 2012 Mazda5

Mini to the max.

by on Feb.28, 2011

For 2012, the Mazda5 gets its most complete makeover since its '05 introduction.

American waistlines aren’t the only things getting bigger and bigger by the year.  Perhaps fittingly, our automobiles have steadily grown in size, so many models that once fit comfortably into the compact category are now classified midsize – or even larger.

That’s especially true when it comes to minivans, today’s models having grown to such massive proportions that the modifier, mini, no longer accurately applies.

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Parked side-by-side, Mazda’s newly redesigned Mazda5 seems downright puny compared to industry mainstays like the Honda Odyssey or Dodge Grand Caravan.  But, in reality, the 2012 Mazda5 remake is a full four inches longer than the original 1984 Caravan and just one inch narrower.  And like those early minivans, Mazda’s offering makes surprisingly good use of its seemingly limited space.

Packing in three rows of seats, and plenty of cargo – including some trick storage beneath the sliding center row seats – the Mazda5 puts a premium on flexibility.  But it also emphasizes styling in a segment where form usually takes a back seat to functionality.

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First Look: 2012 Mazda5

Updating the microvan

by on Nov.22, 2010

Mazda aims to hold its lock on the microvan market with next year's launch of the new 2012 Mazda5.

L.A. Auto Show-goers are getting a first look at Mazda’s next-generation people-move, which is sharing the stage with the Japanese maker’s future Shinari concept vehicle.

With the Shinari providing a longer look at Mazda’s design direction, the Mazda5 gives a more immediate sense of where the maker believes the market is going – and how it plans to keep building on its momentum.  So far this year, noted Jim O’Sullivan, the maker’s senior American executive, Mazda sales have risen 10%, while residual values have also been rising rapidly.

In approaching the development of the all-new 2012 Mazda5, program manager Hideki Matsuoka said he combined the best features from the current model and set out to further evolve it.  The goal was to create a new multi-activity vehicle combining superior environmental performance with a new expression of stylish design.

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“This expresses our goal to build a new family mover for the global market that offers a smart solution to the user’s every need by establishing a balance between diverse functionality and outstanding performance,” said Matsuoka.

Five key values drove the development of the 2012, which is due in showrooms during the first half of next year, including smart and emotional design, easy to use functionality — particularly in the interior — great quality and a refined, dynamic driving performance coupled with excellent fuel economy.

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