New Car Review: 2003 Mazda MPV ES
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
The Auto Channel/ 11-24-02
Remember minivans? Wait, let me rephrase that question slightly.Remember when minivans really were mini? Some seem to want to be full-size vans these days, which is fine if you need a large vehicle, but then they can be as awkwardly unmaneuverable as any other outsized vehicle. Fortunately the second-generation Mazda MPV is still reasonably-sized outside, and, because of its efficient design, it has more interior spacethan you might think without a closer investigation.
The second-generation MPV made its debut for model year 2000,
powered by a 2.5-liter V6 engine. While it was far more mainstream in design than Mazda's original MPV, it was also sportier than the average minivan in styling, ride, and handling. Its 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower V6 engine was its only weak point. The problem wasn't that it was underpowered - the 170 horses were plenty, if the engine could be revved high enough to find them. Peak torque, 165 lb-ft, was developed at a relatively high 4250 rpm. It could have worked with a manual gearbox, but, despite Mazda's ``body of a minivan and soul of a sports car'' slogan for the MPV, a sport minivan with a five-speed manual transmission would inhabit a vanishingly small niche market in the real world. Fortunately, there was a better solution at hand. The 2.5-liter engine has a close relative of 3.0-liter displacement that easily fits into the MPV's engine compartment. With more horsepower and more torque, developed at lower engine
speeds, and matched to a new five-speed automatic transmission
instead of the original four-speed, the MPV's power situation
The 3.0-liter engine debuted in the 2002 models, introduced mid-
way through 2002, and so there are no major changes for 2003. A DVD rear-seat entertainment system is now available, and power sliding rear doors are offered on both the LX and ES trim levels. I've been spending time in an ES, and have found it to be a versatile and comfortable vehicle. Despite its easy-to-park exterior size, there is plenty of room inside. And because of its dimensions and well thought out suspension, the MPV is much more fun to drive than the average minivan.
APPEARANCE: The MPV exhibits plenty of Mazda DNA in its
styling. While its two-box shape is standard minivan, sharply-creased character lines on the sides and the front styling, with the fenders higher than the hood center, and the hood line flowing into the chrome-trimmed five-point grille would mark the MPV as a Mazda even without the ``winged M'' logo prominently displayed in the center of the grille.
COMFORT: The MPV may be smaller than some competitors
outside, but it doesn't show much inside. Good design and careful
attention to detail results in an interior that makes the best use of available space. It will hold six easily, or seven if third-row
passengers are kid-sized. Access is easy thanks to the dual sliding doors, which may be ordered with power operation, controlled from the key fob or interior buttons. In contrast to the bench or captain's chairs in other minivans, the second row "Side-by-Slide" seats can be moved fore-and-aft and the right seat moves side-to-side to give either configuration when needed, and make access to the third-row seat easy. And the third row seat not only folds flat into the floor, it can be reversed to make the MPV a very comfy vehicle for a picnic or tailgate party. Cupholders, storage spaces, and power outlets abound, as expected in a minivan. Unusually, the sliding-door windows can be lowered. Why, in an air-conditioned vehicle? Every try to get all of the hot air inside of a minivan out quickly? No problem in the MPV. Back up front, comfortable bucket seats and a well-designed instrument panel with plenty of convenient storage spaces can be found.
SAFETY: The MPV received a five-star rating in government safety
tests. Its ``Triple-H'' construction results in a rigid, impact-resistant structure around the passenger cabin, with front and rear crumple zones. standard antilock brakes and available front side airbags further enhance safety.
ROADABILITY: OK, it's not a Miata, but the MPV's smaller-than-
typical-minivan size, rigid structure, and detail modifications to its
suspension make it more maneuverable than other minivans. The ride is family-sedan comfortable, and good damping also keeps body motion to a minimum in corners. Some minivans can feel
cumbersome on twisting, poorly-paved secondary roads. Not the
PERFORMANCE: While the MPV's original engine looked good in
theory, there really is no replacement for displacement when it
comes to torque production. And the old 2.5-liter V6 was a little
deficient in low-rpm torque. There is no such problem with the new 3.0-liter engine. Its 200 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque are developed at lower engine speeds than the 2.5-liter engine. That output is more than merely adequate for the MPV's size and weight, and the new five-speed automatic transmission allows the engine to work more efficiently. Acceleration for merging and passing at common real-world traffic speeds is noticeably better, and the transmission shifts less on steep grades. Electronic ``slope control''shift logic also helps keep it in a lower gear on hills.
CONCLUSIONS: The Mazda MPV is right-sized and versatile.
2003 Mazda MPV ES
Base Price $ 26,000
Price As Tested $ 29,345
Engine Type dual overhead cam 24-valve V6
Engine Size 3.0 liters / 181 cu. in.
Horsepower 200 @ 6200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 200 @ 3000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed electronically-controlled
Wheelbase / Length 111.8 in. / 187.8 in.
Curb Weight 3812 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 19.0
Fuel Capacity 19.8 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P215/60 HR17 Dunlop SP Sport 4000 A/S
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, antilock standard
Suspension, front/rear independent strut / torsion beam axle
Drivetrain front engine, front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
city / highway / observed 18 / 24 / 20
0 to 60 mph est 8.8 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Fog lights $ 250
Roof rack $ 200
In-dash 6-disc CD changer $ 450
Power moonroof $ 700
Power dual sliding doors $ 800
4-seasons package: includes: rear heater, larger washer tank,
heavy-duty battery, heavy-duty rear defogger, transmission
oil cooler, additional cooling fan, heated mirrors, heavy-duty
wiper motor, 3000-lb towing capacity $ 425
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....