Remorse is a terrible thing for auto writers. And we confess, we're in the throes of it over the 2000 Mazda MPV minivan, a vehicle that recently made our top 10 list of the year. We were excited because the new Mazda - which features front-wheel-drive for the first time - was the only new minivan at the start of the 2000 model year. We were thrilled with features like a third-row seat that folds flat into the floor and power windows in the rear doors.

But after living family-style with the new MPV for a week, we're less sold on it. We drove the top-of-the-line ES model with a sticker price of $27,730.

She: Like a lot of families, we've taken a chance on new vehicles with no reputation. Remember our purple 1989 MPV - the original Mazda minivan? It had rear-wheel-drive, a swing-out rear passenger door and I don't think it even had a cupholder. Pretty primitive next to the new 2000 MPV. I wish I had the kind of seating available in the new MPV back when I had little kids. The new version has removable second-row seats that ingeniously slide sideways and the third-row folds flat into the floor - two features they borrowed from the Honda Odyssey. Very cool. Families love that kind of versatility.

He: Families who want to haul four or more passengers may be disappointed by the MPV's twin-cam 2.5-liter V-6 which is the only available engine. It makes 170 horsepower and 165 lbs-ft of torque, which puts it near the bottom of the minivan class. For comparison's sake, the Chevrolet Venture delivers 185 horsepower, the Ford Windstar 200 horsepower and the Honda Odyssey 210 horsepower. I realize those are just numbers to a lot of people. So let me say it this way. When you and I were the only occupants in the MPV, and I stepped on the gas pedal, the engine still felt like it was working extra hard to get us up to speed.

She: Here we go on that old weight thing.

He: I'm not that old, and I'd rather you didn't mention my weight.

She: Speaking of weight, the new MPV kind of fools you. Almost like a woman dressed in black trying to hide an extra 10 pounds. You can get real excited by the new Mazda at a glance - it's fairly stylish as far as minivans go and the ES version seems pretty impressive on paper. It offers standard leather, fake wood, front side air bags and 16-inch alloy wheels. But remember that you can't get power doors. Just think of yourself with a bag of groceries in one arm and a baby in the other and you'll begin to yearn for that feature.

He: You mention groceries. I was amazed that I could squeeze so few bags into the rear, until I went and checked the specifications, and realized that nearly all its major competitors offer more cargo space than the MPV. That's sure to be a consideration for any parent who has to haul soccer gear or hockey equipment. Or even luggage. I was also disappointed to see the MPV, despite its smaller engine, doesn't do as well in highway mileage as the Venture, the Win dstar or the Odyssey.

She: You had a real beef with that clunking noise we heard after releasing the brake pedal.

He: I also didn't like the fact that you don't get standard anti-lock brakes on the base model like you do on many of the MPV's competitors. I guess to sum things up, the MPV, being all new for 2000, had the opportunity to be a segment leader. Unfortunately, it's nowhere near the top of the class.

She: I still think the 2000 Mazda MPV is a good value, especially when you skip the fancy version we had with options like a $700 power moonroof and opt for the plainer DX model which starts at $19,995. Certainly that makes it a minivan to consider for younger families on a budget.

He: Before I did that, I'd take a close look at a Dodge Caravan which starts at $18,700. Even if you're inclined to spend the nearly $28,000 that our test vehicle cost, there are better values to be had - from a well-equipped Toyota Sienna to my personal favorite, the Honda ssey.

She: I don't know. I guess I just get all gooey when I think of the good times we had in the old purple MPV.

He: Oh, you must be talking about that big wad of bubble gum one of the kids stuck on the back of your seat.

2000 Mazda MPV ES

Anita's rating: above average

Paul's rating: above average

Likes: Standard side air bags on ES model; Clever middle and rear seating configurations; Power-down rear windows; Fairly stylish for a minivan; Pretty nimble handling; Finally, Mazda moves to front-wheel drive

Dislikes: Only engine lacks sufficient power; Brakes make clunking sound when pedal is released; Worse highway mileage than most competitors; Less cargo space than most competitors; No power sliding doors available; ABS cost extra on base model

Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, seven-passenger minivan

Price: Base, $25,550; as tested, $27,730 (inc. $480 destination charge)

Engine: 2.5-liter V-6; 170-hp; 165 lb-ft torque

EPA fuel economy: 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $1,179 (Estimate. Rates may be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)

Where built: Hiroshima, Japan