Later this year, a totally new version of the Mazda5 arrives in showrooms.
But the current one is very good as a family hauler and it's dirt cheap, too - with a $3,000 factory-to-dealer cash incentive on the table. It brings the base price down to $17,495, or less depending on what you can squeeze out of the dealer in terms of a discount.
Deals aside, the Mazda5 posted an "Excellent" score in Consumer Reports' test of three different types of family movers.
"The Madza5 hits a sweet spot for families on a budget," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. "It provides most of the versatility and convenience of a minivan along with stingier fuel economy, more agile handling and a lower price."
Also "Excellent" was the Ford Flex EcoBoost three-row SUV. Interestingly enough, the redesigned 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan rated "Very Good." Once again, we're seeing pretty solid progress from Ford with its vehicles and not so much from Toyota - which put a lot of effort into reinventing the Sienna.
But the Mazda5 is at least $10,000 less expensive than either of those two with sales sweeteners factored into the sale. Though smaller than other mainstream minivans out there, the 5 has enough space for kids and stuff, sliding side doors, a small third-row seat, and seating for up to six.
Here's another twist: the Sienna did not measure up to the previous model, which had been CR's top rated minivan for three years. CR says interior fit and finish and quietness have all slipped. CR says the Sienna ranks below the top-rated Honda Odyssey and roughly on par with the Kia Sedona.
Finally, reliability: the Mazda5 is recommended by CR, but the Sienna and the Flex EcoBoost are too new to have a bank of reliability data, thus CR has withheld its recommendation.
If you need a cheap family van, the Mazda5 should be on your radar.