2008 Mazda5 interior
Way back in the 1990's, Honda debuted a minivan in the U.S. that turned out to be 10 years too early in release. Honda's first-gen Odyssey van was a friendly, six seat runabout that was more than willing to serve the needs of families from 3 to 6 members. The four cylinder Accord engine was tame but able to cope with it's assigned mission. Owners raved about the van's ease of use, small dimensions, and versatile interior.
Alas, American families (as well as astute Honda product planners) went up a few sizes in the booming 2000s. The little O was supplanted with the Big O and it's been a deserving best-seller ever since.
Mazda, however, found a welcoming niche when it decided to introduce the Mazda5 in the U.S. in 2006. Nearly matching all of the first-generation Odyssey's dimensions perfectly, a virtual prodigal son had arrived in the eyes of small but growing families.
The Mazda5 has always featured a peppy 2.3 liter four, nice 17" alloy wheels, brilliant sliding doors, a firm but agreeable ride, and strong safety ratings. It's easy to park, has been proven reliable (sharing many parts with the Mazda3), and is distinctive in it's micro-minivan profile.
And it's a great bargain in the used car ranks. An early 2006 model can be found for under $10,000 and with less than 100,000 miles. While brand-new Mazda5s are nearly identical in style and performance, they can top $20,000 when loaded with options. Dealers with used Mazda5s, especially in the van-averse wild west, often will make spectacular deals with you so they can free up the lot space for more trucks and SUVs.