Car Test   R0245
 
July 2002
First Drive Mazda MPV
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.0 Diesel
WHEN was the last time you saw a Mazda MPV Ė and would you have recognised it, anyway? Well, quite. Itís probably the most disregarded people carrier in the business. Which is why Mazda has set about giving its under-achieving seven-seater not only a makeover but a higher profile, too.
   Even so, the revisions are subtle. Look hard and you might spot styling tweaks to the stiffer body, but under-the-skin changes are equally underwhelming Ė until you come to the engines, that is.
   In place of the old two-litre petrol power unit, thereís now a new, all-alloy 2.3 thatís as smooth as it is swift, thanks to a sump-mounted balancer shaft.
   The bigger seller, however, is likely to be the new and most impressive two-litre common-rail turbo-diesel. Thereís just a trace of tremor at around 1300rpm, but thereafter itís smooth and refined, with a really eager thrust of acceleration from 1800rpm to the 4500 red line. Itís affable in town, too, aided by a positive gearchange, and quiet and refined on a motorway, thanks to its long-striding top gear.
   Although it lacks the suppleness of Toyotaís Previa, the MPV rides well on the firmed-up suspension. Nevertheless, it makes clear its dislike of potholes and transverse ridges with a thumpy reaction. Cornering roll isnít excessive and the steering is light and easily manageable; pity is suffers from vagueness around the straight-ahead position, though.
   The shiny carbon fibre-effect facia contains big instruments and large well-sited controls for both the audio and heater/air conditioning. The steering has only height adjustment, but the driverís seat has front and rear cushion tilt, so itís possible to find a comfortable position. All round vision is clear only when the head restraints are tilted or removed.
   Sliding side doors are a boon in traffic and give easy entry and egress, especially to those in the centre row. These passengers sit on three sliding and reclining seats with good kneeroom and ample headroom. Two adults in the rearmost seats arenít too badly off on short journeys, provided theyíre not too lanky and donít wear size 12s.
   The five removable back seats donít do any clever Zafria-style party tricks, but if you play musical chairs with them, the MPV offers innumerable options, from a seven-seater minibus with virtually no luggage space, to a two-seater, open-plan cargo carrier.
  
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • roof/floor vents for mid and rear seats
  • seven cup holders, two bottle holders
  • big, deep visors good against low sun
  • two sunglasses holders in roof
  • all back seats fold to form tables
  • huge range from 75-litre fuel tank
and GRIPES
  • air vent direction controls too small
  • roof handgrips too close to one's head
  • mid row seats have no outer armrests
  • front passenger's seat only slides
  • no rear bumper protection when loading
  • rearmost climate controls too remote
VERDICT
Donít dismiss the self-effacing MPV if youíre in the market for a roomy family holdall. True, even this latest model brings nothing new or exciting to the people-carrier sector, but the impressive engines, improved ride and the comfortably accommodating cabin make it more competitive than hitherto. And, of course, thereís the reassuring prospect of Mazdaís build quality and reliability. Well worth a look.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1998cc, turbo-diesel, 16valves; 134bhp/229lbft with common-rail fuelling; 75-litre fuel tank
drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
suspension front: independent coil spring/damper struts with lower links rear: beam axle with coil springs, telescopic dampers and Panhard rod; anti-roll bar
wheels/tyres 215/60R16H tyres on 6.5in alloy wheels
brakes ventilated discs front, drums rear with ABS and EBD
CO2 emissions 188g/km
0-62mph* 13.2sec
official mpg 39.8
* maker's figures

THE MPV RANGE
size and type large 5-door (premium priced) MPV - 7 seats   trim levels one only
engines petrol 4cyl/2.3litre/139bhp; diesel 4/2.0/134   drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (no automatic at present)
notable features sliding rear side doors, separate air-con controls for mid and rear seats, electric glass sunroof, front side airbags, dark-tinted rear glass, eight-speaker audio system with steering column remote controls, traction control (petrol model)
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