The minivan is as a quintessential part of everyday American life as soccer moms and apple pie. But did you know that one of the most successful minivan models is actually from Japan? That’s the story of the Mazda Multi-Purpose Vehicle or MPV. One of Mazda’s flagship automobiles, the Mazda MPV epitomized value, functionality, and originality in a vehicle type that’s saturated with cookie-cutter models. Today, more than one million MPVs have been rolled out of the assembly line, and there are no signs that one of Mazda’s best-loved vehicles is going away anytime soon.
1980s: The rise of the minivan
The Mazda MPV was born in the midst of the US minivan boom of the 1980s. Japanese car manufacturers scrambled to have their own kind of minivan, but all of them were small and underpowered to actually get a foothold in the American market. The Mazda MPV, however, was an exception. Introduced in 1989, the MPV was more than just a knee-jerk reaction to its competitors; it was the first
true minivan made by a Japanese automaker for the American market.
The biggest advantage the Mazda MPV had over its competitors is its four-wheel drive. Built upon the LV platform and powered by either a four-cylinder or V6 engine, the MPV featured a selectable 4WD system that allows the driver to switch into 4WD while moving and to lock the center differential, splitting power equally between the front and rear axles. This made the minivan easy to drive even in rough weather conditions, a trait that the PR at Mazda took advantage of by calling the MPV the “go-anywhere” minivan in its ads.
The Car and Driver magazine put the Mazda MPV in its Ten Best List for 1990 and 1991 and noted it as one of the vehicles suitable for the
coming fuel crisis
2000s: Catching up
By the mid-90s, minivans from competing automakers finally caught up, threatening to dethrone the Mazda MPVs' dominance in the market. Mazda responded by introducing a much-improved second generation of the MPV in 2000. The 2nd-generation MPV retained the compact dimensions of its predecessor, but in almost every other aspect, it was a brand new player in the game. Among the biggest changes was the discontinuation of the MPV’s four-wheel drive capability in favor of a more fuel-efficient front-wheel drive and the shift from hinged rear doors for more convenient sliding doors. It was also packed with unique features and Mazda MPV Mini Van accessories including configurable captain’s chairs that could be positioned together for bench seating and a third-row bench seat that could be folded into the floor or turned to face the tail end when the tailgate was up.
Despite its high degree of functionality, the Mazda MPV remained one of the smaller minivans in the industry, living up to Mazda’s philosophy of a
compact minivan and drawing up supporters and detractors in the process. But there was one thing that everyone could agree on – because of its compact size the MPV was one of the most maneuverable options in the market.
2006: Living up to the name
Mazda did its part to keep the third and current generation of the MPV on track with the times. The MPV received a massive power upgrade with a 200-horsepower V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Car enthusiasts can also take advantage of special Mazda MPV Minivan parts including a traction control system, refined braking control, and suspension tuning. The gear shift was also moved from the steering column to the center console– a common amongst Japanese-made minivans today.