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2008 Mazda MAZDA5 Overview

When Car and Driver recently picked a list of its top 10 urban vehicles, they included only one minivan: the Mazda5. It's small - only 23 inches longer than the Honda Fit - but has room for six people or 70.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the two back rows folded flat. It also has a base price equaling that of the MINI Cooper, another one of Car and Driver's top 10 urban-vehicle choices. And since it's based on the Mazda3 platform, this "mini" (as in minivan) is also a handler.

Debuting in 2004, the 2008 version brings a mild exterior and interior refreshing that includes the replacement of the outgoing four-speed automatic with a new five-speed automatic transmission; a five-speed manual is available only in the base model. The interior is duded up with electroluminescent gauges and other cabin features; the optional navigation system is also supposed to be more user friendly.

A 153-hp, 2.3-liter DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing powers the Mazda5. Except when fully loaded, reviewers found the engine to have enough pep. But with six passengers aboard with all their equipment, passing and on-ramp maneuvers had to be planned carefully. The EPA estimates mileage at 22/28 with the manual transmission and 21/27 with the automatic. Consumer Guide Automotive reviewers saw 21.8-22 mpg with the automatic on regular-grade fuel.

Reviewers commended the Mazda5's road manners, attributing the minivan's sporty, "razor-sharp" handling to its Mazda3 chassis DNA. Traffic maneuvers and parking are a breeze, another reason for its "top urban vehicle" pick. Its good grip, modest body lean, fine road feel, and "petite" 34.8-foot turning-circle radius further impressed reviewers.

The cabin is spacious and laid out to permit interaction among the passengers of this "space wagon," as one reviewer described it. The second row features captain's chairs that have lots of adjustability and reclining functions to maximize legroom in the third row. Yet, as seems typical, third-row space is best suited for children. Mazda researched the arm, leg, and body movements of people getting in and out of the van to best determine the interior dimensions and seating positions. The sliding rear doors - a first for this class - that self-close on level ground provide excellent entry to the second row and permit entry and exit in tight parking spots. Mazda is also credited with excellent interior fit, finish, and attention to noise reduction through the use of various sound-deadening technologies.

The Mazda5 comes with ABS disk brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, front side airbags, three-row side curtain airbags, and a tire pressure monitoring system, but stability control is not available. The Mazda5 has earned buyer recommendations from a number of reviewers who consider it a top choice for small urban families.

Updated by Anonymous

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