2009 Mazda MAZDA5 Sport 4dr Minivan (2.3L 4cyl 5M)
I just got this car yesterday, but I had another 5 as a loaner for a week before that so I'm pretty acquainted with the car's peculiarities at this point. We were looking at everything from small hatchbacks like the Honda Fit and Toyota Matrix to full-size minivans such as the Odyssey and Sienna, but the Mazda5 seemed like the perfect fit for us: it has plenty of space for a small family (up to 2 kids easily; 3 would be fine until you have to go for a long trip), it's relatively sporty and maneuverable, and it's much more fuel- efficient than minivans. The kicker -- it's the only thing remotely minivan- like that offers a manual transmission.
Manual transmission * Carlike handling * Sliding rear doors * Fold-flat third row seats (loads of cargo space with the third row folded)
* More cubbies and so forth for stashing stuff inside. * Gas cap should be on the drivers side. * It would be nice if the middle row seat track extended a little further back, though I guess that would require making the car longer overall.