Downside: The rear shoulder belts in the Mazda5 need better anchoring and/or positioning. They bang against the interior wall when they are not in use. Wrapping them around the rear seat headrests -- an inelegant fix -- ends the noise.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Exceptionally nimble and agile in city traffic. Comfortable ride. Good acceleration, meaning that it changes lanes competently in high-speed traffic.

Head-turning quotient: Cosmopolitan, sophisticated. This one looks as though it belongs in traffic in Paris, Rome or Washington.

Body style/layout: The Mazda5 is a compact front-wheel-drive minivan expressly designed for urban areas. It has four doors and a rear hatch.

Engine/transmission: The standard 2.3-liter, inline four-cylinder engine develops 157 horsepower at 6,500 revolutions per minute and 148 foot-pounds of torque at 4,500 rpm. The engine is linked to a standard five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is optional.

Cargo and fuel capacities: The Mazda5 has seating for six people -- four adults in the first and second rows, and two children in the rear. Total cargo capacity is 44.4 cubic feet. Maximum payload, the weight of what can be carried onboard, is 1,239 pounds. Fuel capacity is 15.9 gallons of recommended regular unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 25 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Safety: Front, rear and third-row head protection air bags; side air bags; four-wheel anti-lock brakes.

Price: Base price on the tested 2006 Mazda5 Touring minivan is $18,950. Dealer's invoice price on the base model is $17,717. Price as tested is $22,460, including $2,950 in options (including navigation) and a $560 destination charge. Dealer's price with options and charges is $20,847. Prices sourced from Mazda,, and, a Washington Post affiliate.

Purse-strings note: The Mazda5 is a solid family vehicle buy.