Considered as Mazda's first-ever SUV offered for the US market, the Mazda Navajo was actually a rebadged version of the Ford Explorer. It was on production from 1991 to 1994 and was manufactured at Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant. Despite its short production years, the Mazda Navajo was moderately successful and earned a loyal following among Ford and Mazda fans. As a matter of fact, the Navajo earned the Truck of the Year award in 1991 from Motor Trend magazine.
1991: The Navajo enters the US market
Introduced in 1991, the Navajo was sold only as a two-door, four-wheel drive vehicle. To differentiate it from its Ford twin, the Navajo was equipped with different wheels, taillights, and a differently designed grille. As for the interior, the Navajo looked just like the Explorer except for new seat fabric and a redesigned steering wheel hub. Buyers were able to choose between two trims: base and LX. The base was equipped with standard equipment such as power mirrors, power locks, and power windows. As for the LX, it featured a steering wheel covered in lush leather and additional illumination for the interior. A premium package was also offered, which included cruise control, an easy-to-remove moon roof, a stereo system with cassette deck, and an adjustable power lumbar support for the driver's seat.
1992: Introducing a 2WD version
For buyers looking for a reliable off-road vehicle, Mazda released a 2WD of the Navajo in 1992. This version featured more cargo space, a sportier look, and higher seats. All base models were also renamed as DX units in accordance to the new naming scheme implemented by Mazda.
1993: Safety and engine upgrades
In 1993, the Navajo, as well as the Explorer, was equipped with four-wheel anti-lock brakes to improve passenger safety. Its V6 engine was also upgraded to provide more power, and it was equipped with an optional CD player.
1994: Cosmetic upgrade
In the following year, the only change done on the Navajo was the addition of five-spoke alloy wheels. In 1995, the Mazda Navajo was discontinued to make way for the Mazda Tribute, a five-door SUV that was basically a twin of the Ford Escape. Another reason for its discontinuation was the immediate success of and increasing demand for the Ford Explorer, forcing Ford to focus more on its more successful SUV.
Throughout its short production years, the Mazda Navajo experienced only minor upgrades. This was due to the fact that this model was a well-designed, durable, and tightly built vehicle. Because it had no major mechanical flaws from the beginning, designers and engineers didn't bother with major upgrades. Today, the Mazda Navajo continues to be a considerably popular option among buyers looking for a reliable SUV that's easy to maintain and drive. Because this model continues to attract second-hand buyers, parts are still widely available and are quite affordable.