The Car Connection Mazda MPV Overview
The Mazda MPV was a small minivan sold from 1989 through 2006, in two generations, as the Japanese maker's response to the rising popularity of minivans during the 1980s and 1990s. It was succeeded in 2007 by the Mazda 5 minivan, and Mazda continues to be a minor player even today in a stagnant minivan market, although the center of the market has evolved to favor much larger vehicles than today's Mazda 5.
The first MPV, which ran from 1989 through 1998, was a rear-wheel-drive vehicle developed specifically for North America. It was based some of the same underpinnings as the large Mazda 929 sedan, and launched with a body that had a driver's front door on the left, and both front and rear doors on the passenger side--with the rear door hinged, rather than sliding as on the Chrysler and Dodge minivans that pioneered the segment. It featured three rows, with the option of a bench rear seat to give a capacity of eight passengers.
Two engines were offered: a TK-horsepower 2.6-liter four-cylinder, and a 3.0-liter V-6 with an output of TK hp. The majority of MPVs were sold with a four-speed automatic transmission, although a five-speed manual gearbox was offered from 1989 through 1991 before being withdrawn due to lack of buyer interest. The Mazda MPV also offered optional selectable four-wheel drive, which could be engaged via a switch on the steering column, and included the ability to lock the center differential.
While sales were initially strong, a "marginal" crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the arrival of other minivans with V-6 engines and optional all-wheel drive ate into the MPV's market. For 1996, Mazda revised the MPV considerably to add a second passenger door on the left side, a longer nose, and an airbag. The four-cylinder option was also discontinued, leaving the V-6 as the sole engine option. Polished alloy wheels and contrasting body cladding were added for the 1997 and 1998 model years.
The second-generation Mazda MPV, sold from 2000 through 2006 (there was no 1999 model-year MPV), switched to a front-wheel-drive platform and dual sliding rear doors. Its third-row seat folded and tumbled into the floor. It was launched with a 170-hp 2.5-liter V-6 and a five-speed automatic transmission, which was replaced in 2002 by a significantly more powerful 200-hp 3.0-liter V-6, along with a restyled grille and 17-inch alloy wheels. Three trim levels were available: DX, LX, and ES. The base DX had a two-person rear bench seat, whereas the LX replaced that with two individual rear bucket seats, including a sliding right-hand rear seat, plus power windows, locks, and mirrors, and anti-lock brakes. The ES model added leather upholstery and wood trim, side airbags in the front seats, larger wheels, and two-zone front and rear climate control. It received mild upgrades for the 2004 model year, and was replaced by the smaller Mazda 5 minivan for 2007.