By the end of the year or early next, Mazda Canada will introduce the production version of the Mazda5 wagon/minivan shown at the Geneva auto show in March.
The 5 is the first production vehicle to adopt Mazda's Nagare design philosophy. Nagare, the Japanese word for "flow," is a style developed under former Mazda design director Laurens van den Acker and continued by new design chief Ikuo Maeda.
While Mazda hopes the swoopy styling will take the sting out of buying a family-hauler, vans still need to be functional first, slick-looking second. Therefore, the interior will have multiple seat arrangements and a second-row centre seat that can be converted into storage space.
Mazda takes dead aim at the heart of the bargain runabout marketplace
The seven-passenger Mazda5 is an illustration of smart, cost-saving engineering. Although the vehicle looks new inside and out, many of the underpinnings are carried over from the current model - borrowed or re-engineered, not completely redesigned. For instance, the centre console's information display is pulled straight from the Mazda3 and CX-7.
It will also be greener than the current model. In Geneva, Mazda said the new 5 will reduce carbon dioxide emissions 15 per cent thanks to a direct-injection gasoline engine and the introduction of Mazda's "i-stop" start-stop technology. The direct injection power train is definitely coming to Canada, but it's not clear when Mazda will bring start-stop in North America.
For power, Mazda will replace the former 153-horsepower, 2.3-litre four-cylinder with a more powerful, 167-hp 2.5-litre borrowed from the Mazda3. The bigger jump is in torque, which leaps from 148 pounds-feet to an estimated 168.
Canadian buyers will get a choice of a five-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.
Robert Davis, Mazda senior vice-president of product development and quality, says his team performed substantial suspension retuning for better ride and handling. That will set the 5 apart from other minivans.
A little further down the road, Mazda will bring its Sky-D direct-injection diesel engines to North America in 2012. And a new hybrid-technology alliance with Toyota could result in Mazda hybrids being sold here, too.
At the New York Auto Show this spring, Takashi Yamanouchi, CEO of Mazda Motor Corp., told Automotive News that the first Mazda diesel coming to North America will be a mid-sized vehicle. He did not say whether it would be the redesigned Mazda6 or a crossover such as the CX-9.
The diesels are part of Mazda's overall plan to boost fleet-wide fuel economy by 15 per cent in the next few years. Central to that cause are Mazda's direct-injection Sky-G gasoline engines coming in 2011.
Mazda is also expected to redesign the MX-5 roadster in 2011, as well as bring a new compact crossover to market to replace the current Tribute. The new crossover will not be a shared platform with the Ford Escape, which has been the case up to now.
Searching for a new vehicle? Our Globe Drive car search makes it easy to track down the best vehicle for you