- Seating for six in such a compact vehicle
- Easy to maneuver and park
- Handles like a small, nimble car on a curvy road
- The only minivan to offer a manual transmission
- One of the smallest vehicles with sliding doors
- Sorely lacking zoom-zoom with a full load
- Skimpy front seats
- Top of the range can get pricey
Provided you don't expect too much of a zoom-zoom feel, the 2008 Mazda Mazda5 is one of the few good choices for buyers looking for minivan spaciousness in a vehicle that's especially fuel-efficient and maneuverable.
The 2008 Mazda5 is a vehicle that's not closely rivaled in the U.S. market; it's a three-row, six-seat "sport minivan" that's slightly smaller than short-wheelbase versions of minivans, such as the Kia Sedona.
The 2008 Mazda5 shares its platform and powertrain with the Mazda3 sedan, and it promises especially good handling. That handling prowess is assured via MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink suspension in the rear, with 17-inch wheels and tires. Braking is provided by a surefooted four-wheel anti-lock disc system.
Nimble handling and excellent maneuverability distinguish the 2008 Mazda Mazda5 from other SUV and minivan possibilities on the road, but it's hindered by a 153-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is only somewhat peppy with the standard five-speed manual (a rarity among minivans). With the available five-speed automatic transmission, the engine is barely adequate with a light load and completely overwhelmed when carrying around half of your kid's soccer team.
The 2008 Mazda5 stands out among vehicles its size for its amazingly spacious interior, with seating for up to six people--although the rearmost two seats are kid's stuff only. "Theater-style" seating makes the most of those rear seats, although the front seats are skimpy in size for taller or larger people. A one-touch walk-in mechanism offers easy access to the third-row seats, and both the second- and third-row seats can fold down to create a virtually flat floor for transporting large objects. For more space in either the second or third row as needed, the second-row seats slide fore and aft. The Mazda5 rides well, too--smoothly but firmly and without much body motion.
Available in Sport or Touring trim levels, the 2008 Mazda5 includes a standard CD stereo, power windows and locks, and cruise control. Available equipment includes air conditioning, fog lamps, a CD changer, and a power moonroof. For 2008, the Mazda5 gets a touched-up exterior design, rear vents, an iPod input jack, and on some models, LED taillights. Grand Touring models also pick up standard alarm systems, a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, automatic headlights, heated sideview mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers.
Top options on the 2008 Mazda5 include a DVD-based navigation system, remote engine start, an overhead rear-seat DVD entertainment system, and Sirius Satellite Radio.
Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are paired with stability control in the standard-features list, which also includes front side and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows of seating. The 2008 Mazda5 hasn't been crash-tested by either of the U.S. testing programs.