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With an infusion of power under the hood for 2002, the MPV becomes a respected choice in the minivan marketplace.
Compact and maneuverable, confident handling manners, roll-down windows in sliding doors.
Limited maximum cargo capacity, lacks some features found in the other minivans.
Available MPV Minivan Models
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Mazda adds power to the MPV in the form of a 200-horsepower V6 engine governed by a five-speed automatic transmission, which is just what the doctor ordered for this previously underpowered minivan. The MPV also gains power-sliding doors, available 17-inch alloy wheels, traction control, an improved braking system and revised suspension tuning.
Mazda's MPV minivan doesn't receive as much consumer attention as some of the other hotshot minivans like the Honda Odyssey or Dodge Caravan. It does have its own particular advantages, however, and these advantages just might suit you.
The MPV looks tight and muscular, courtesy of a relatively short front overhang, slanted D-pillars, sculpted fender flares and crisp body panel lines. It's smaller in stature than most other minivans, with a 111.8-inch wheelbase and a 187.8-inch overall length. This makes it more maneuverable, but maximum cargo volume is limited to 127 cubic feet, about 20 fewer than the Odyssey.
Mazda equips the interior with three rows of seating. The second and third rows can be configured for different seating arrangements. The second row features two comfortable captain's chairs that have their own flip-up armrests. The right-side second-row captain's chair can be released by a handle, allowing it to slide along tracks to meet up flush with the other seat, creating a bench. Both second-row seats are removable. The third-row seat easily folds flat into the floor, creating a large cargo space.
For power, the MPV receives a new 3.0-liter V6 engine for 2002. With 200 horsepower on tap, the MPV accelerates quickly enough to stay out of its own way. This upsized V6 is a big improvement over last year's weak 165-hp 2.5-liter V6. Shifting duty comes via a new five-speed automatic driving the front wheels, and traction control is now standard.
Handling is almost car-like, thanks to a nicely tuned MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam axle rear suspension, both enhanced for the new year to further its "zoom zoom" image. Along with front and rear stabilizer bars and a power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system. Standard brakes are front disc and rear drum with ABS enhanced with electronic brakeforce distribution. Mazda has also improved the brake pedal's feel this year.
Two trim levels are available: the LX which includes 15-inch wheels, dual sliding doors with roll-down windows, steering-wheel mounted stereo controls and air conditioning. Power driver's seat, sixteen-inch wheels, an in-dash CD changer, front side airbags and traction control are options. Step up to the ES and get 17-inch alloy wheels, power sliding rear doors, leather trim, rear air conditioning. The side airbags and traction control come standard, but you'll have to pay extra for the CD changer and a power sunroof. Both the LX and ES offer a winter driving package. Some items missing from the options list, however, include a tire pressure monitor, a reverse sensing system and a DVD-based entertainment system.
While still not our top pick in the minivan class, the MPV's 2002 improvements have made it a much more viable choice. If your needs for family toting in style and fun outweigh your requirements for space, the MPV deserves a close look.
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