Used Vehicle Review: Mazda MPV, 2000-2006 – Autos.ca

24 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Used Vehicle Review: Mazda MPV, 2000-2006 – Autos.ca
Mazda MPV

January 21, 2010

Since the beginning of the minivan era – which began in 1984 with the original Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager – one of the lures of the minivan was that it offered the carrying capacity of a van yet drove like a car.

In reality, the minivan concept delivered on one half of that promise, but fell short on the other. Many an enthusiast simply accepted the fact that starting a family meant giving up his or her sporty coupe and belting themselves into a – yawn – minivan. While these are capable and commodious vehicles to be sure, they were never exciting.

At least, that was the case before the 2000 model year, when Mazda came calling with the second generation of its MPV.

The MPV was always a bit of an oddball in the minivan field. The original was a compact, one-size-fits-all, rear-wheel-drive affair in a class full of front-wheel-drive boxes, many of which were available in two sizes. Mazda went with a more conventional approach in 2000, switching to a front-wheel-drive platform.

2002 Mazda MPV. Click image to enlarge

The MPV continued to march to its own tune in three areas, however: it was still smaller than most of its competition, available in just one size and it offered a decidedly more interesting driving experience than other minivans.

So the MPV is on the small for the class, but how much so? At first glance, its 2,840 mm wheelbase and 4,750 mm overall length are consistent with other size-small minivans: the now-defunct short-wheelbase Dodge Caravan had a 2,878 mm wheelbase and was 4,732 mm long. The most significant size difference between the MPV and its competitors was width: only the also-now-defunct Chevy Venture/Pontiac Montana/Saturn Relay/Buick Terrazza were narrower, albeit by a negligible two mm, at 1,830 mm.

A word about all these aforementioned defunct minivans: Mazda discontinued the MPV after 2006, choosing to concentrate on crossovers instead. The seven-seat CX-9 replaced it in 2007, and other manufacturers have recently dropped minivans from their lineups too, including Ford and General Motors.

The result of its smaller stature was a deficiency in cargo room compared to some competitors, but that was made up for in the fun-to-drive category. From the start, Mazda gave the second-generation MPV a firm suspension to carry its “zoom-zoom” mantra over into the people-mover class of vehicle. That tight suspension made the 2000 MPV a hit with automotive writers, who praised its sporty handling, and a ride that truly verged on car-like.

2002 Mazda MPV. Click image to enlarge

The MPV’s handling won over many drivers, but what didn’t wow anyone right away was the second-generation MPV’s 2.5-litre V6 engine. It was the same 170-hp DOHC Ford Duratec unit that powered the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique and Cougar, and while it was a spirited performer in those cars, it struggled under the MPV’s 1,656-kg curb weight.

In 2004, the MPV received a mild facelift to bring its looks in line with other models in the company’s lineup. Trim level designations were also changed that year, with GX, GS and GT replacing the DX/LX/ES model nomenclature.

Mazda MPV

2002 Mazda MPV. Click image to enlarge

2000 Mazda MPV (top); 2002 Mazda MPV. Click image to enlarge

Despite Mazda’s generally good reputation for dependability, the MPV is decidedly average in the reliability department. The five-speed transmission added in 2002 has been problematic; the older four-speed is a better bet, even if it does come with the less powerful engine. There are mentions, too, in the forums at MPVClub.com of engine ignition coil problems with the 3.0-litre motor. For those who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, here’s a helpful post detailing how to replace faulty coils yourself .

Cracked exhaust manifolds also appear to be a fairly common issue – read here and here – as do coolant leaks in vans with secondary heaters for the rear seats. It appears that in colder parts of North America where salt is used extensively in winter weather, the hoses that run hot coolant to the back of the van are prone to severe corrosion and leaking. The hoses can be replaced but appear to be pricey; a stop-gap fix is to simply plug the rear heater lines.

See this thread at MPVCLUB.com for suggestions on common problems to be aware of in a used MPV.

Used MPV values range from $4,225 for a 2000 DX model, to $13,800 for a 2006 GT version. For about $10,000, you could try for a higher-end 2005 model; you’ll be looking at $10,000 or less for any 2003 or older model. Look for well-maintained examples, and pay attention to how well the automatic transmission has been maintained. Often, even a transmission that’s prone to problems will be reasonably dependable if it’s “over-maintained” over the course of its life.

Find a newer MPV that fits this bill, and passes a once-over by a trusted mechanic and you’ll likely have decent luck.

The second-gen MPV is a fun family hauler; a so-so reliability history is the only thing that would make me think twice, but as mentioned, a careful shopper could walk away with a good deal on a well-maintained example.

Mazda MPV
Mazda MPV
Mazda MPV
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