Thursday, February 23, 2012

Used Car Review - Mazda MPV (1996-1998)

NOTE: I won't write a used car feature for the week of February 27-March 2 due to the preparation for our presentation in our humanities subject, and with our movie entry (I'm the production assistant  for our film fest entry) on CineMapua being shown on that week (please do me some favor guys, can you like the following? Like the CineMapua Facebook page first then like the movie poster of Traje de Boda - that's our project - and also take time to watch the trailer and like it also), which leaves me no time for writing. Regular used car features would resume the week after .

For the first time, Myk Belmonte would be featuring a not-so-popular vehicle in this page. Yes, why give this page to something not popular where in fact popular used car models deserve this. Remember, there are cars that are not for everybody. But, you'll be shocked at some revelations mentioned somewhere in this page.

1996-1998 Mazda MPV

With the Chrysler minivans starting the minivan party, Japanese car makers wanted to be a part of it. Toyota fielded an adaptation of their mid-engined van based from the TownAce in 1984. Mitsubishi and Nissan followed suit in 1987 with their conversions of cargo vans, but the three had four cylinder engines and deemed too small for Americans, which limited their popularity in North America. By the 90's, a lot of car makers entered the fray but the popularity of the Sport Utility Vehicle diminished their market share plus the mommy-mobile stigma. By this time, crossover vehicles (the word explains it all) replaced minivans and interestingly enough (in the US), only Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, Dodge, and Nissan sell minivans; GM and Ford walked away from the competition.

Based from the 929 sedan, the Mazda MPV was designed specifically for the North American market. It does possess a V6 engine (which deemed suitable for that market), and an optional 4WD drive train. The 4WD knob is similar to SUVs and can be shifted while the vehicle is moving. It also introduced a parking brake that sat beside the driver's seat (but migrated to be a foot brake in its minor model change in 1996) and unusual for the class, ordinary conventional doors. Worldwide production shouldered on from 1989-1999.

Introduced locally by Columbian Autocar Corporation (which used to manufacture and sell Mazda passenger cars in the 90s) in 1996, the MPV didn't appeal to Filipino buyers. It had captain seats in the middle (think of the Toyota Innova V), anti-lock brakes, airbags, and even a powerful diesel engine (this eats the dust left by L300s and Tamaraws back then). But the price is a killer and there exist other vans and similar vehicles that can seat more, drinks fuel like a bird (for a diesel), and more affordable. With the financial crisis hitting the Philippines in 1998, Mazda sold 70 MPV's (back in 1998) off dealer floors. This prompted Columbian Autocar not to sell the second generation locally.

Value and Costs
The MPV was not successful locally and with poor resale values that Mazda got (at least locally); someone wanting this vehicle would find units from P220,000-P330,000. A warning though, there are units that are priced similarly with the local ones but with a gasoline power plant and an automatic transmission. These are Japan imports and best left avoided to prevent further headaches. Unrelated though, second generation Mazda MPV's are sold in Cagayan and Subic and the same tip with the first one, avoid it, if possible.

This car didn't sell well, so parts are not as abundant like its competitors. But the good news is, engine and other mechanical parts are shared with the 2004-2006 Ford Everest and 1999-2006 Ford Ranger. Plus the influx of imported units is also a good thing. You can gather parts from imported ones (aesthetics and other interior bits) but locally, there are shops that cater to 90s era Mazda's, just have patience and some sipag, you'll surely love this car.

Exterior and Interior
You may dismiss the MPV as un-minivan for not having sliding doors. And the vehicle might look as a loaf of Gardenia bread (as commonly thrown to minivans) or a Kelvinator refrigerator that came out of Abenson or 680 Appliances. But those who appreciate true beauty that is common among minivans - which is called simplicity and versatility - would love the car more. No offensive lines or awkward angles present.

The MPV had an advantage when it comes to its interior against lower priced rivals back then. There are captain seats in the middle row, a good thing for those who don't want to sit beside with someone who has bad breath or body odor. The rest of the front controls is unmistakably 90s era. Slide switch aircon controls and an expansive black and silver plastic dashboard, which can look cheap (but depends on your taste). There are two airbags and CMC didn't scrimp on safety by placing ABS Brakes.

As what mentioned earlier, the MPV shares its engine with the Everest and Ranger, which is definitely a good thing. The local Mazda MPV had a manual transmission paired with a WLT-31 2,499cc with 117hp at 3,500rpm and 280Nm at 2,000rpm. (Do take note, that power figures are lifted from the Ranger, so anyone who has the exact figures is welcome to comment). It may sound lowly for a diesel in modern standards (no CRDi technology infused), but this van can go fast, despite its weight penalty. Both turbo and intercooler versions are available but with the same displacement.

Driving Impressions
As with minivans, they should have a car-like handling and ride, and the MPV does not fail to accomplish this. Comfortable for passengers especially those who are seated in the second row captain seats. Although it can get noisy at highway speeds, but not heard nor is the feeling of matagtag is visible. This van is a welcome option for those who want to trade their truck based AUVs and leaf spring vans. The comfort is there and congratulations.

This vehicle is a one-hit wonder in the Philippines, but those who truly appreciate its beauty and versatility would love this car. Those graduating from Revos, Adventures, L300s, or any truck based van would like the comfort brought by the MPV. Think of it as an influential vehicle, which paved the path for similar like vehicles locally sold such as the Mitsubishi Fuzion, Toyota Innova, and the Chery V5. The saying goes "not for everyone", so to conclude, the Mazda MPV is not for the average motorist. Just the ones who have the passion and will.

The Good:
  • No more knee aches, spacious interior
  • Standard diesel engine
  • Not archaic against it's competitors (during it's time)
The Bad:
  • A bit slow by modern standards
  • Cheap looking interior
  • Looks like a loaf of bread
The Pick: Local variants with the Intercooler engine

Engine: 2,499cc WLT-31 I4 diesel
Power: 117hp @ 3,500rpm
Torque: 280Nm @ 2,000rpm
Fuel Consumption: 6.5-9km/L (city); 9-12km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Suspension: No data available

Price (New): P1,000,000 (estimated)
Price (Now): P220,000-P330,000
Rivals: Toyota Liteace, Nissan Vanette, Mitsubishi L300, Kia Pregio, Mitsubishi Spacewagon, Mazda E200 Powervan, Honda Odyssey
On Sale: 1996-1998

Kia Pasay - 852-1490 (this dealer also services Mazda vehicles)
Mazda Greenhills - 722-1102
Kia Quezon Avenue - 712-2923 (this dealer also services Mazda vehicles)

Photo courtesy of


  1. Thanks for the info. I still have my 1997 MPV, and I'm still very happy with it. :)

  2. Good reliable car...intend to keep mine for another 2 years...