This is actually my parents vehicle that they traded a 1999 Mazda Protege. So this review is the opinion of an 18 year old driver that used to drive an Eclipse Spyer.
While I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of driving a minivan at first, after driving it for two years I'm very impressed with the car.
The feel and handling are all Mazda. It drives more like a midsized car, and handles better than one. This is thanks in part to its smaller size. You can't help, but smile when your pulling off maneuver's you never thought possible from a soccer-mobile.
The engine size was upped to a 3.0 for this model year and feels like it was made for this car. It will out accelerate almost any other minivan or SUV on the street, and throws you back into your seat all the way up to the 7k RPM red-line.
However, I can't say the same thing for the transmission. While its fine for cruising, a more responsive automatic or even a manual would be better for the times when you need power on the fly. The current transmission likes to take its time down-shifting.
A lot of people complain that its too small; but my families never found anything they couldn't fit in her. Besides, the smaller size adds up to better handling.
Now for the novelties. The third row seat fold flat into the floor, making for ample storage space without the pain of removing seats. Dual sliding doors (power optional), power rear windows (the first on a minivan), and steering-wheel mounted stereo controls round out the the cool gadgets. And for storage space, there's cup holders and storage compartment everywhere you look; in the dash, in the seats, under the seats, in the doors, on the ceiling.
But the most important thing about this car is the one thing most manufacturers fail to build in. Character. From the sporty front end to the "zoom-zoom" sticker in the back, this car just screams fun. Its the kind of car youll find yourself praising after you cut someone off, and apologizing to for hitting a pothole.