2014 Mazda Mazda5

Unlike many modern full-size people haulers, the compact Mazda5 lives up to its minivan billing with compact dimensions, a versatile interior and nimble driving dynamics. Though not spacious enough for larger families, it still offers a decent amount of room for people and gear and is essentially unmatched for its blend of fun and practicality.

Outside, the Mazda5 features Mazda's polarizing grinning grille along with unusual, swoopy surface detailing that spices up the flanks. Happily, things are much more conventional inside, with a simple dashboard adorned by user-friendly controls and oversized, driver-focused instrumentation.

Unlike larger vans, thereâ€tms seating for six instead of the normal seven- or â€" eight-passenger capacity, and the tiny 50/50 split-folding third row is essentially a kids-only space. Still, the second-row captainâ€tms chairs, which recline and slide rearward for extra legroom, are quite accommodating. A fold-out combination center table and storage net can be set up between the second row seats or tucked away to provide access to the rear seats.

At 5.9 cubic feet, storage capacity is essentially nonsexist with the third-row seats in place, but fold them down and a generous 44.4 cubic feet is available. When the time comes to carry larger items, 97.7 cubes can be unlocked by folding all but the first-row seats flat â€" thatâ€tms as much as some significantly larger crossover vehicles.

As an older design the Mazda5 isnâ€tmt available with some of the features that buyers have come to expect, with navigation and rear-seat entertainment screens being conspicuous only by their absence.

Powertrain and Handling
With just 157 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 163 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, the Mazda5 isnâ€tmt going to win many drag races. However, its enthusiast focus is revealed by the six-speed manual transmission that comes standard on entry-level models â€" thatâ€tms right, a minivan with a stickshift.

This sporty gearbox suits the Mazda5â€tms character perfectly - overall, the minivan is quick on its feet, with precise, communicative steering that helps the it feel not like a lumbering people-mover but like a well-sorted sedan.

Those looking for extra convenience can opt for a five-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is rated at 21/28 city/highway mpg for the stick, while auto is good for 22/28 mpg.

Trim Level Breakdown
Three trim packages are available, beginning with the entry-level Sport configuration. It includes automatic climate control, full power accessories, cruise control, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD player with USB and AUX inputs, keyless entry and 16-inch alloy wheels.

The Touring trim level adds a five-speed automatic transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, a body kit, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a trip computer. A moonroof, a six-CD changer Sirius satellite radio are available as options for this trim.

Topping the lineup is the Grand Touring trim level, which adds the aforementioned moonroof and CD changer, as well as HID headlamps, heated leather seats and rain-sensing wipers.

Occupant Safety
Following in the footsteps (tread marks?) of the previous generation Mazda5, the new Mazda5 further raises that safety level while never asking customers pay more money for more safety as all safety features are provided on all trim levels at no additional cost.

All Mazda5s include: anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control System (TCS), Electric Hydraulic Power Assist (EHPAS) steering system, "Triple H" body construction, side-impact door beams, crushable brake and accelerator pedal assembly, advanced dual front air bags, front seat side air bags, three-row side air curtains, engine immobilizer anti-theft system, second row LATCH child safety seat anchors and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).

Key Competitors
Due to its small size, the Mazda5 really doesn't have any direct competitors. The other "minivans" on the market are much larger vehicles like the Honda Odyssey and Dodge Grand Caravan. Buyers could conceivably cross-shop compact crossovers like the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, which offer more butch styling but less interior space.