What it Is 2008 Mazda 5 Preview – 2008 Chicago Auto Show: With little fanfare, Mazda snuck the 2008 Mazda 5 onto the show floor at Chicago. The subtle revisions are mostly cosmetic, with modifications made to the nose and instrument panel the most apparent. A few new goodies make their way into various options packages, and there are five new colors to boot.Why it Matters The Mazda 5 is, despite the company’s howls of protest whenever it’s mentioned, a mini-minivan. As such, it caters to those who value practicality over style, but despite this it’s a nifty looking little vehicle, and unique in the marketplace. If you want compact transportation but love the utility of sliding doors, the Mazda 5 is the only choice. The revisions give the front end a little more character, and the new instrument panel is nice as well, but we would prefer it if Mazda had put a few more ponies under the hood while they were at it. What it Looks Like There’s no hiding the Mazda 5’s sliding doors, but Mazda does a good job of distracting you from them with the sharply styled nose. The revisions are mostly to the bumper, which features a differently shaped grille, lower facia and fog light housings. The rest of the car still looks like a shrunken minivan – which it is – but the proportions are right on, and it’s still overall a more stylish car than its closest competitor, the Kia Rondo. What’s Inside The changes are more apparent inside. Normally, the addition of black plastic in place of hued stuff is a backwards step, but here it works well, breaking up the aluminum-look stuff that overwhelmed the previous car’s center stack. Also included are new electroluminescent (i.e., glowing) gauges for better visibility, and second-row air vents with independent fan and temperature controls. What Automaker Says Mazda’s stance on the 5 is humorous, with the vehicle never described as a van, mini or otherwise, despite the obvious fact that’s what the car is. Instead we get Jeff Home, the Mazda 5 vehicle line manager, saying: “Mazda’s forte is creating spirited vehicles that target a very specific driver. Our designers and engineers set out to build a vehicle that offers superb comfort for six, and the versatility to complement the active family lifestyle; their efforts resulted in the Mazda 5.” He adds that, “The new 2008 MAZDA5 offers the same ‘go anywhere, do anything’ personality for the active family, but with added levels of sophistication, refinement and features found in vehicles twice its cost.” What We Think We like the Mazda 5, and think the company should just come clean and call it a van. Still, the mid-cycle updates are worthwhile, and like we said, if you need a compact, four-wheeled sliding-door vehicle in which to drive around, it’s your only choice.