2002 Mazda MPV ConceptEnlarge Photo
MPV THE SPORTS CAR OF MINIVANS?
Another product niche that doesn’t get much respect these days is the minivan. Yet Mazda continues to put plenty of emphasis on its MPV model, insisting the compact mini deserves a place alongside today’s more popular SUVs. The Ford affiliate brought two MPV variants to Los Angeles, including the updated 2002 version. It features a revised exterior, some interior upgrades and 20 percent more power, 240 hp, in all, from its 3.0-liter, 24-valve V-6. Even with that boost, it gets slightly better fuel economy than the old MPV. An upgraded front suspension also should reduce body roll, for a more performance-oriented ride, promised Mazda’s top U.S. executive, Charlie Hughes. The price of the ’02 models will be cut $550, with the base LX beginning at $22,250. Mazda also unveiled an MPV Concept vehicle, which featured more aggressive, sports-car like styling cues. Despite such efforts to upgrade the minivan’s image, Hughes acknowledged, “that (minivan) market is going to decline for some time.”
2002 Mini Cooper SEnlarge Photo
MAXING OUT THE MINI
The official U.S. launch of the new Mini brand is still more than two months away, yet the British subsidiary of BMW came to the Left Coast with its second model. The Mini Cooper S is the high-performance upgrade of the base Mini Cooper, its intercooled turbo boosting power to an impressive 163 horsepower for this pocket-sized two-door. Company officials claim it will screech from 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. BMW sold 25,000 Minis in Europe during the abbreviated 2000 calendar year, and feels confident there’ll be more than enough demand to top 20,000 in the States. If anything, the automaker intends to limit availability, in part to keep it from becoming a brief-lived shooting star. “If this becomes a fad, it will be the death of Mini,” acknowledged the brand’s U.S. boss, Jack Pitney. Final prices won’t be announced for a few more weeks, but look for the Mini Cooper S to come in under $21,000, Pitney hinted. The British marque intends to offer a vast array of accessories, from flag decals for the roof to a navigation system, and that could run up the price of the typical Mini by $2000 or more, BMW is betting. During the 40-year run of the original, there were more than 100 variants of the Mini, and you can expect “We will bring other variants” of the new Mini, too, Pitney promised.
2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIIEnlarge Photo
2002 Mitsubishi Montero Evolution ConceptEnlarge Photo
MITSU’S EVOLUTION ON WHEELS
Mitsubishi will launch an edgy, performance version of its new Lancer in January 2003, the Japanese automaker announced from its show stand. Dubbed the Lancer Evolution VII, the compact sedan will feature a 250-horsepower V-6 and such street racer necessities as big Brembo brakes. The target is clearly the young “rice burner” crowd that has long been dominated by “slammed” versions of the Honda Civic. Mitsu also plans to take the Evolution racing with a new SCCA team, six-time winner of the Pikes Peak championship. Could Evolution strike twice? The carmaker lifted the veil on a radical remake of the Montero SUV, also wearing the Evolution badge. Mitsubishi is currently working on the design for the next-generation of its flagship sport-ute, and “that’s the direction we’d like to go,” suggested the automaker’s U.S. Chief Operating Officer, Pierre Gagnon. But don’t expect anything near as radical, cautioned Mitsu insiders.