Minivans aren't so mini anymore. Both the 2010 Honda Odyssey and 2011 Toyota Sienna are great family cars - I'll even throw the Kia Sedona in there too. But one thing those family vans are not is mini. The first minivan, the Dodge Caravan was based on a stretched K car platform and subsequent Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi vans (or whatever they were) actually did ride on compact car underpinnings. Today, a Honda Odyssey is more SUV sized than compact. A 2010 Honda Odyssey is about the same size as a Chevy Tahoe in terms of lenght and distance between the wheels.
Enter the Mazda5. It has seating for six, side doors that slide open like a typical van plus power comes from a fuel sipping 4-cyl engine (28 mpg highway). It clearly feels small from behind the wheel but the Mazda5 does a lot with its small size. There are three rows of seats - second row seats slide foward and back and third row seats easily flip up or down.
The Mazda5 is probably the perfect family vehicle for anyone who lives in or has commute into a large urban area. If you call Montana home, get an SUV or a traditional (not so)minvan but for families in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York the 2010 Mazda5's combination of a small footprint but roomy cabin will work best. Also, the Mazda5 is remarkably affordable - it's about $21,000. Top of the line Grand Touring models sell for about $23,000.
BTW - after driving the Mazda5 Grand Touring for about a week I keep finding things to like. The manual sliding side doors are probably better than power because the effort to open and close is very low. Also, this Mazda5 has automatic HID headlights and they have a height adjustable feature. Also heated front seats and rain sensing wipers.