THE RIDE: Four-door, six-passenger 2009 Mazda5 Grand Touring minivan.
DOWN THE ROAD: Available in three trims, the front-wheel-drive vehicle boasts a lively drive with abundant space to carry passengers and cargo. Based on the small Mazda3 sedan, the wagon boasts outstanding handling capabilities.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.3-liter DOHC inline-4 cylinder engine develops 153 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 148 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. Power reaches the front wheels via a slick 5-speed automatic transmission. The Mazda5 gets an independent MacPherson strut in the front and a multilink suspension system in the rear. A variable-assist, electro-hydraulic power steering provides good feedback to the driver.
LOOK & FEEL: The all-steel unibody frame sits firmly on large 17-inch alloy wheels. The exterior is body colored, notably the grille, door handles, mirrors, side moldings and bumpers. Also attention-grabbing are standard auto xenon headlights and fog lamps, vertical LED taillights, stainless-steel exhaust tip and rear roof spoiler. The interior is not just attractive but also incredibly roomy. Take the fore-and-aft- second-row seats for instance. One of them has a hidden tray underneath while the other a fold-out table tray and two cup holders. The 50/50-split third-row seat also folds flat. All in all, you have 142.1 cubic feet of interior space. The sliding-rear doors are easy to open, especially if you are transporting the kids to school or headed to a weekend outing. Other comforts include leather seats, shifter knob and three-spoke steering wheel, driver's seat-height adjuster and air vents and controls for second-row passengers.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for all three rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist, three-point safety belts for all passengers, latch child-safety seat anchors, anti-theft engine immobilizer and tire pressure monitoring system.
OUT THE DOOR: $22,675, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P205/50R17 all season; wheelbase, 108.3 inches; length, 181.5 inches; weight, 3,475 pounds; fuel capacity, 15.9 gallons; city, 21 mpg; highway, 27 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: The agile Mazda5 offers not just adequate power but abundant people- and cargo-hauling capabilities. Who wouldn't want to enjoy a carlike ride on wheels that can carry six in comfort?