The Mazda 5's packaging is pretty much perfect for the type of small families that Joe mentions, and mine happens to be that kind of family. Loading my one-year-old daughter into the middle row--through one of the large sliding doors on either side of the car--was incredibly easy. Installing her baby seat was simple, too, since the Mazda's middle-row bucket seats move fore and aft as much as most cars' front seats, so I was able to find the easiest ergonomic setup for my quickly aging new-parent body. That same sliding middle row allows rear passengers to enjoy either lots of legroom or to scoot forward to give diminutive third-row passengers a bit more breathing room.
Before I installed the baby seat, I used the versatile 5's stuff-hauling mode to transport several boxes of Christmas decorations and other items, including a tall curio cabinet.
Yet although I honestly feel that the Mazda 5 is the perfect type of vehicle for a large portion of the American population, part of me (probably the Detroit-bred, muscle-car-loving part) can't help but think that the 5 is dorky, mostly because of its mini-minivan shape and just-adequate powertrain. I concur with David, though, when he noted that our test vehicle's cool wheels and dark red paint job improved its appearance.
It also helps that, for what it is, the Mazda 5 handles and drives pretty well. Outward visibility, particularly for the over-the-shoulder blind-spot check, is excellent, too. However, I was a bit disappointed that the driver's seat didn't have much thigh support and felt too hard/flat, and I wasn't happy to discover that the Mazda lets in a lot of wind noise, which is also an issue with our long-term Mazda 3 hatchback.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor