Modesty, thy name is the Mazda 5's drivetrain. It's a good thing the sporty running shoes underneath work so well.
The Mazda 5's based on the 3 compact sedan and hatchback, so handling's more athletic than any other minivan. But acceleration is among the slowest. The only engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 157 horsepower, and it's teamed up to the front wheels through either a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. No one would ever accuse this minivan of being quick, but at least the transmissions have well-chosen ratios, giving the 5 decent acceleration.
Note: the six-speed manual is only offered on the base Sport model, while the other models have the automatic standard. The automatic has a manual-control mode, but the six-speed still has a more energetic, direct feel. Either way, there's really no point in revving the engine into its noisy upper reaches, though.
Top-notch steering and a nimble, athletic feel make the 5 a blast to drive, especially when the road winds. The Mazda5’s quick-ratio electro-hydraulic power steering is weighted about perfectly, and feels natural and confident whether you’re cruising on the highway or taking on the tight esses of a mountain road. Likewise, body control is tight, and four-wheel disc brakes provide strong stopping power without the dramatic nosedive of other people-movers. Ride quality is surprisingly absorbent and comfortable, given the suspension’s taut, responsive tuning.