Read Joe Lorio’s comments on driving the 2008 Mazda 5.

The very same day after I recommended a Mazda5 to a friend, I end up driving one home for the night. Did I give him a bum steer or not? Well, this Grand Touring model, with its heated leather seats, nicer door panels, and integrated navigation screen, is a lot more expensive-looking inside than our base-model 4-Seasons car was. So in that respect it’s actually better than I’d remembered. But of course it’s also more expensive, just about $23,000 to start, $2000 for navigation, plus a couple miscellaneous items and the total MSRP crests $25,000. Not quite the screaming bargain our long-term Mazda5 was.

The third-row seats are inadequate for even occasional adult transport, but they will work for kids. And all seats fold pretty flat to make one big cargo hold. The non-powered slider doors are light and easy to use and the overall size of this thing is easier to deal with than the standard-size minivans.

The verdict: the Mazda 5 is still on my recommended list. I believe it’s underrated by bigger-is-better shoppers, but as a trimmer, slimmer take on the minivan genre, it makes sense for those whose minivan need is marginal, whose garage space is at a premium, or who simply don’t want to feel like they’re driving a school bus.