Used 1997 Mazda MPV Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

Four-wheel ABS is standard across the board, and all but the LX 2WD model are dressed in goofy All-Sport exterior trim.

Vehicle overview

Mazda's MPV lineup, streamlined to three models last year, has been revised again. Two trim levels remain: well-equipped LX, and luxury ES. Last year's value-leader DX trim level has been dropped. Upper-level minivans can have shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive. Four-wheel disc antilock brakes are standard on all models. The ES edition contains such pleasantries as leather seating surfaces, and automatic load leveling.

Like Honda's Odyssey, the longer-lived Mazda minivan does without a sliding entry door, matching the Odyssey by providing rear doors on both sides. Mazda promises sedan-like comfort and ride qualities for up to eight passengers in the MPV. Front MacPherson struts and front/rear stabilizer bars help keep the minivan comfortable and on-course. Bucket seats hold the front occupants, while three each can fit on the middle and back seat. Optional on LX and standard on ES models are quad captain's chairs. Center-section leg room is less than great, but most riders aren't likely to complain. When fewer passengers are aboard, cargo space can reach 110 cubic feet.

Acceleration with the 155-horsepower, 18-valve, 3.0-liter V6 engine is sufficient. Four-wheel drive cuts into potential performance, because of its sizable extra weight. Gas mileage also dips considerably with 4WD vans. A four-speed automatic, with electronic controls, is the sole transmission choice. With 4WD, a dashboard switch can lock the center differential, for peak low-speed traction.

Inside and out--especially up front--MPVs offer a distinctive appearance, not quite like most minivans. Styling was revised for 1996, and the MPV now sports a protruding, ungainly countenance in an effort to make it look more like a sport utility. For 1997, all MPV models except the 2WD LX are dressed in All-Sport trim, which consists of a grille guard, fender flares, rear bumper guard, stone guard, roof rack, special graphics, and alloy wheels. A contemporary instrument panel contains dual airbags. Visibility is terrific from the airy cabin.

The 1997 MPV is the equivalent of an Arch Deluxe that's been sitting under the heating lamp too long. There's more to it, but it's old, loaded with fat, and costs more than many competitors. We liked the old MPV plenty for its crisp, clean looks and fun rear-wheel drive personality. This heavier, bulbous, SUV-wannabe model leaves us cold. And with base stickers approaching $23,500 with destination charges, we can't recommend the MPV over most other minivans on the market.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.