Beyond the engine, the most apparent change is the styling, an adaption of Mazda's Nagare design direction, a look the automaker is moving away from in the future. While the fascia could double for a Mazda3, the 5's unique bit is a set of swoopy lines that arc along the profile, which adds a welcome bit of flair. Exterior modifications result in slimmer dimensions all around. Length has shrunk an inch, width has dropped 0.1 inch, and height falls 0.6 inch. Mazda also says the new model is 22 pounds lighter than last year, but we'll have to take their word for it. Our tester weighed 3399 pounds.

For the most part, the interior works brilliantly. The manual sliding doors are easy to actuate, only needing a slight amount of pressure to shut. There are few blind spots when the car is empty, and the armrests on the front seats add a nice touch of comfort. You'll find cargo nets and compartments hidden everywhere, including under the second row seats.

Relative to the established minivan set, the tiny size makes the Mazda5 easy to maneuver through cramped streets and parking lots. It's rather fun to throw around, thanks to responsive and communicative steering. The 5 ran a 28.7 second lap around our Figure Eight, which is a tenth faster than that 2006 model. Its lateral acceleration has improved by 0.01 average g, too. A bank robber may enjoy this as they flee.

They'll be cramped in the backseat, though. While the second row offers plenty of space, the third is definitely for small children. Executive editor Ed Loh claimed to have "ate his knees" while subjecting himself top third row testing. He also found quality in the back poor, adding, "You feel every seam, gap, and bump in the road, as you're sitting directly over the rear wheels." The paradox is that if you fold the third row flat, you have tons of cargo volume (27.5 cubic feet), but one less seat than the Mazda3.

Aside from a few grievances, we like Mazda's mini minivan. It offers a unique and more sensible way to transport people and goods. And it does so with good value. Our tester totaled $23,180, while the base model with the manual starts at $19,990. That and the updates for this model year make for a better car -- even if there is no comparison yet.

2012 Mazda5 Touring
Base price $21,990
Price as Tested $23,180
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, 6-pass, 4-door van
Engine 2.5L/157-hp/163-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 3399 lb (56/44%)
Wheelbase 108.3 in
Length x width x height 180.5 x 68.9 x 63.6 in
0-60 mph 9.1 sec
Quarter mile 17.0 sec @ 81.5 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 128 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.79 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.7 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 21/28 mpg
Energy consumption, city/hwy 160/120 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 emissions 0.82 lb/mile