I had my Mazda5 for about a month before I realized that it is not a minivan. It’s almost a minivan; maybe a micro-van. I think in other parts of the world it belongs in a class of vehicle called MPVs but I’m not sure if that classification includes minivans as well.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that third row SUVs are just minivans. Although they are taking the place of and being used as minivans, they aren’t minivans because they lack one important feature.
To me, minivans need to have 3 defining characteristics:
1. Third row seating. In the Mazda, as well as in many other minivans and SUVs, the third row seats can be folded flat to expand the usable storage area. So the Mazda is a minivan in this sense, but it is too narrow to be a true minivan. Real minivans have 2 2 3 (or 2 3 3) seating but the Mazda only has 2 2 2 seating. Most, if not all of the 3rd row SUVs have the same seating capacity as a minivan.
2. Sliding rear door(s). This is what really sets apart minivans from third row SUVs. Sliding rear doors are the most magical things if you have children, especially ones that need car seats. There is no easier way to buckle up kids than to just move the whole door out of your way. This is unbelievably useful if you are parked too closely to the car next to you.
3. Cargo space behind the third row of seats. Minivans and full size SUVs have this in common. The Sienna, Odyssey, and Escalade all have space to put suitcases behind their 3rd rows. This is where the Mazda5 really fails as a minivan. When the rear seats are being used, there is almost no usable space behind them.
So, although I wanted a minivan, and my car looks like a minivan, I don’t think it is a minivan. I still tell people I drive a minivan, because if it is not a minivan, than what it is?