The Mazda MPV is a people mover unlike any other. The boom of the people mover in the 1980s was somewhat of a surprise to Japanese car companies, but one such reaction to that boom was the MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) from Mazda in 1989.
While it was originally designed for the American market, the people mover saw success throughout Australia and the rest of the world over its decade-long production run for the first generation. The introductory generation, however, did not fare as well. Popular models from Nissan and Honda ate up most of the sales, and the Mazda MPV was further hindered by the one-out-of-four star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program.
As a result of the poor safety rating, the 1996 models saw a number of increased safety mechanisms. An additional rear door was added, the footbrake was moved, and a number of improvements were made to the airbag system. This helped sales and was seen as a marked improvement over the previous models.
The second generation of the Mazda MPV was released in 1999. Since the landscape of the market for people movers had changed considerably, with other makers cementing their names into the market, Mazda opted for something different. The new MPV was engineered as a higher-end people mover, with a level of style and performance a considerable amount higher than its competition.
Power and space were increased, and the versatile people mover became a force to be reckoned with. The MPV dominated the scene and became a very popular people mover. The second generation was discontinued in 2006, yet the MPV continued into a third generation, but only in Japan and nearby Asian countries. The model lives on as the Mazda CX-9.
The original Mazda MPV was a unique people mover upon its release. Available with a V6 engine and selectable four-wheel drive, the vehicle had significantly more power than its competitors, thus giving it a great performance rating. It had a 2.6L engine that got 90kW, but you could get it with a 3.0L engine that got 111kW. Unfortunately, the unsophisticated airbag system and the handbrake directly on the floor were what led to a one-star rating from ANCAP. The year 1996 saw a number of rectifying changes, and these are typically the earliest models you will see on the used car market.
Second-generation Mazda MPVs were available again in the V6 engine, but a number of improvements were made. The people mover was no longer available in manual transmission, but the automatic transmission was increased from a 4-speed to a 5-speed. The LW Series 1 model had a combined fuel rating of 10L/100km, a number that was improved upon for the LW Series 2, which boasted a 10.5L/100km rating. The V6 engine was further increased to a 3.0L size standard, as opposed to the 2.6L of the previous model. This gave it 152kW of power and 270Nm of torque.
The most widely available version of the Mazda MPV on the used car market is the second generation. Those models have a good amount of kit that makes the MPV a people mover that is unrivalled by the others of its era.
Power windows, locks, and mirrors make access to the second-generation vehicle as simple as possible, while cruise control offers a significant comfort level for long trips. The seating arrangement is done in a 2-3-2 manner, which is a departure from the international models and unique to the Australian version. This allows three adults to sit in the middle, rather than in the back, thus opening the door to a 5-person configuration with ample storage space in the boot.
During the first generation, the Mazda MPV saw some very stiff competition from the Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest. Although the Odyssey got off the line a year earlier than the Mazda, its 1996 engine was only a 2.2L. Despite this, the Honda’s upgraded kit seems to be what ultimately won people over once they got inside. It already had power mirrors and windows and cruise control, all of which worked well. It also had a few of the more efficient safety features that the Mazda MPV lacked. While the Mazda MPV was clearly lagging behind those people movers in the earliest days, the post-1996 MPVs are an entirely different story.
When the second generation was released, the MPV represented a style of people mover that was unprecedented at the time. For the used car market, this is especially useful as the MPV contains many modern conveniences that cannot be matched by similarly priced people movers of the area. Buying an early second-generation MPV is like buying a people mover of a much later era, but at the price you would expect from an older model car. Price was a distinguishing factor upon the release of the second generation of the MPV. Now, it compares very favourably to the people movers of its era.