2008 Mazda Mazda5 Sport 4dr Minivan (2.3L 4cyl 5A)
I can't think of another vehicle with this much functionality AND good gas mileage. You might get more room from a full size minivan, but you also will only get 16-17 mpg in the city. I have received 23-25 mpg in the city and 28 highway. I bought this car used after I had a chance to rent one. The third row is small but is just fine for your kids. I have sat back there and wouldn't mind sitting there for around town outings. It's just nice to have the option to transport up to six people occasionally. I owned a 2002 Protege which was a litte unrefined regarding road noise. This is no Lexus but definitely is improved and more than satisfactory, even on the highway.
Exterior styling, low price, fuel economy, third row seating, good safety ratings, generous standard features, the power is satisfactory with enough acceleration ability.
A liitle more power would be nice but not at the expense of fuel economy. Some have complained about a lack of horsepower but I find it sufficient, even with two adults and two children. A little more driver leg room would be nice.