An all-new model in 2006, the Mazda5 undergoes minor changes for 2007. Horsepower ratings change, but only to conform to new SAE Measurement Calculations; actual engine performance is the same. There’s a new Leather Package, including Espresso Brown heated leather seats. There’s a new Galaxy Grey Mica exterior colour; exterior shades Stellar Silver Metallic, Carbon Grey Mica and Cardinal Red Mica are retired; and new Espresso Brown has been added to the interior colour choices.

The Mazda5 is best described as a compact “micro-van”: it’s based on the Mazda3 platform, but has three rows of seats and two sliding rear doors, and can carry six people.

Offered in GS and GT trim, the Mazda5 uses a 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine borrowed from the Mazda3, with five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic.

Features on the GS include 16-inch alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, power mirrors, rain-sensing intermittent wipers, intermittent rear wiper, CD stereo with wheel-mounted controls, tilt and telescopic wheel, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, and floor mats. Air conditioning can be added as an option.

The GT adds 17-inch alloy wheels, side and curtain airbags, heated mirrors, fog lights, spoiler, cruise control, easy-close electric-assist sliding doors, sunroof, anti-theft alarm system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and centre row fold-out cargo tray and storage bin. Air conditioning is available as an option, and the leather package, which includes a/c, can only be added to the GT.

Rear-seat passengers enter the vehicle via two sliding doors that open wider than on the company’s now-defunct Mazda MPV minivan; entry to the rear seat is made easier by second-row seats that fold and slide forward. None of the seats can be removed entirely, but the second and third row can be folded to form a flat cargo floor. While they’re not entirely electric, the GT’s sliding doors feature an “easy-close” system that uses a motor to pull the doors in, once they’re manually closed most of the way.

The Mazda5 is a good city vehicle for those who need to move people but don’t want a bigger van. It’s easy to park and manoeuvre, it gets better fuel economy than most minivans, and the third row is surprisingly roomy, given the vehicle’s size; children will be happiest back there, but larger passengers should be fine on short jaunts.

On the down side, the 2.3-litre engine works hard when the vehicle’s loaded, and the add-on air conditioning is an annoying marketing strategy to keep the advertised price down (while the GT’s price increases by $100, the GS remains at last year’s price, which is $5 under the magical $20,000 mark). Even so, it’s less money than a minivan with a smaller footprint, and should work well for people who prefer a compact car and only need the extra passenger space on occasion.

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