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1997 Mazda MPV Van

4dr ES 4WD

Starting at | Starting at 15 MPG City - 19 MPG Highway

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  • $28,895 original MSRP
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1997 Mazda MPV Van

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1997 Mazda MPV Van

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1997 Mazda MPV All-Sport

Source: New Car Test Drive

The world's first sport-utility van.

by Sue Mead

Not long ago, station wagons were the preferred choice for hauling people, pets and parcels. Then came minivans that could do everything wagons could do and more.

Now we've got sport-utility vehicles. Outfitted with four-wheel drive and a tough, go-anywhere image, it seems everyone wants one. Recognizing an opportunity, manufacturers are putting the sport-utility label on everything from trucks to mid-size station wagons to compact cars.

Mazda has been missing the sport-utility bandwagon ever since it stopped selling the Navajo. Not content to stand on the sidelines any longer, Mazda dressed up its competent MPV minivan with a sporty package that combines rugged looks, proven mechanicals, a huge people-carrying capacity and four-wheel drive.

Though this latest incarnation looks fresh, the MPV is not new. More than 230,000 of them have been sold since its introduction as a 1989 model. This popularity can be traced to the performance, handling and reliability that the MPV offers. Nearly 99 percent of them are still on the road.

Mazda figures the MPV All-Sport will attract buyers who need a minivan to haul people, but want a sport-utility vehicle with four-wheel drive and a rugged, outdoorsy appearance.

Subaru successfully used a similar approach with its Legacy Outback, a four-wheel drive mid-size station wagon with off-road performance and styling cues. Pontiac is also trying this approach, calling its '97 TransSport Montana a sport-utility van. The Montana has a somewhat rugged appearance, but it lacks four-wheel drive.

MPV sales are up, so Mazda's strategy must be working.

Walkaround

The MPV was updated last year with a fourth door, redesigned instrument panel, dual airbags and more flexible seating, all of which were welcome improvements.

Two trim levels are available this year, the LX and the more luxurious ES. Each comes as either a two- or four-wheel drive model. All come with a 3.0-liter, 18-valve V-6 that produces 155 horsepower and 169 lb-ft torque mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.

Introduced as an option at the end of 1996, the All-Sport package is now standard on all MPVs except the base 2WD LX, where it's optional.

Muscular styling gives the MPV a sporty appearance, made more rugged by the All-Sport's grille guard, stone guard, fog lights, fender flares, rear bumper guard, roof rack, five-spoke alloy wheels and two-tone paint.

The MPV is now a paradigm of practicality: hinged doors on each side swing open 90 degrees. Hinged doors are more convenient than the sliding doors on many minivans. Having them on both sides eliminates having to run around to the other side of the car to install a baby seat. In back, a single door lifts to make loading easy.

All MPVs come with dual airbags, steel door beams, energy absorbing crumple zones and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. Two-wheel drive All-Sports ride on P215/65R-15 tires while the 4WD models get more aggressive P225/70R-15 mud-and-snow tires. An optional Four Seasons package adds a rear area heater, a larger capacity windshield washer tank and a heavy duty battery.

With its compact disc player ($860), power moonroof ($1,200) and ES preferred equipment group (dual air conditioning, carpeted floor mats, keyless entry system and privacy glass for $2250), our test vehicle totaled $32,320.

The Inside Story

Mazda's attention to detail shows inside. The speedometer and tachometer are housed in a rounded instrument panel. Ventilation and audio controls, cupholders and storage for small items are located front and center for easy access. A sporty four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel houses the driver-side airbag, while the passenger-side airbag is above the glove box. A rear air conditioning blower with separate controls adds to the comfort of passengers in the back rows. A storage tray under the front passenger seat is a thoughtful touch.

Other standard MPV features include power windows, doors and outside mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering column, power steering, AM/FM/cassette sound system with digital clock and four speakers, rear wiper/washer/defroster, dual vanity mirrors and remote fuel door release.

All MPVs come with reclining front bucket seats. LX models are upholstered in nice velour cloth, while ES models come with leather seating surfaces.

A key MPV consideration is choosing between seven- and eight-passenger seating. Eight-passenger models use a second and third row of bench seats that hold three passengers each. Both rows can be folded flat to carry cargo and the middle bench reclines and adjusts fore and aft. It looks good on paper, but the width of the middle bench makes getting to the third-row bench seat difficult.

We don't want to sway you, but seven-passenger seating is the preferred layout in the MPV. A pair of captain's chairs replace the middle row bench. The captain's chairs are more comfortable than the bench seat and they make it easier to get to the back row. ES models come standard with seven-passenger seating and it's an option on the LX models.

Either way, the third row can be folded forward to provide more cargo space or removed completely. The MPV does not offer nearly as much cargo space as a sport-utility, but it does a superior job of hauling seven humans.

Ride & Drive

The MPV is fun to drive on a winding road. It handles much better than a sport-utility vehicle. Ride quality is also superior on pavement and on smooth dirt roads.

Rough dirt roads pose few problems for the All-Sport as long as speeds are kept to reasonable levels. The four-wheel drive system works well on slippery surfaces and handling is predictable. Our MPV climbed a steep, silty hill that would have left a sedan in the dust, and it cut through snow and ice with no worries. The 4WD system automatically splits power between the front and rear wheels as needed. When the going gets really sloppy, the center differential can be locked by pushing a button. This locks the traction split equally between the front and rear wheels, which helps when driving up a steep slope of mud, snow or ice.

All-Sport or not, a 4WD MPV is not designed for trekking along the Continental Divide. It lacks the suspension travel, tires and the low-range set of gears found on most sport-utility vehicles, so knowing its limits and slowing down for big obstacles is important.

Plenty of power is on tap and the V-6 engine works well with the four-speed automatic transmission. Steering is light and precise and the disc brakes instill confidence. With its independent A-arm front suspension and five-link live rear axle, the MPV is stable at high speeds. Anti-roll bars at both ends minimize body lean in corners.

We found the MPV to be a stable vehicle for pulling light trailers. Based on a rear-wheel drive platform, the MPV is far superior for towing than the front-wheel drive minivans comprising the majority of the market. An optional load leveling package allows the MPV to tow up to 4500 pounds. This makes it a good choice for pulling ATVs, motorcycles, snowmobiles, personal watercrafts, canoes, small boats and other light loads. It's a stretch, but we've even used it to pull light car trailers.

Final Word

The MPV All-Sport should appeal to buyers who need a minivan but want the four-wheel-drive traction and outdoorsy image of a sport-utility vehicle.

The All-Sport is capable of getting down the worst roads, but its best feature is its car-like performance and handling. And when it comes to moving people around the MPV is far more capable than a sport-utility vehicle.

These traits make the MPV a practical alternative for families with a gaggle of kids who make occasional forays into the woods.

Order our 200+ page magazine of reviews. Send $8.00 (S&H included) to New Car Test Drive, 2145 Crooks Rd. Suite 200, Troy, MI 48084

© 1997 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

1997 Mazda MPV Van

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade
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Passenger Crash Grade
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Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Std

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Child Safety Locks Std

Road Visibility

Fog Lamps Std
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std
Printable Version

1997 Mazda MPV Van

Mazda Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

Each Mazda Certified Pre-Owned vehicle comes with a 12-Month / 12,000 Mile Vehicle Limited Warranty with no deductible on covered components, which begins when the factory warranty ends. If it's out of warranty, the 12-month/12,000 miles warranty begins on the certified retail date.

Coverage begins on the limited powertrain warranty from the original retail sales date and covers 7-Years /100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Age/Mileage Eligibility 2008-2014 model years and less than 80,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 150-Point Detailed Inspection

Autocheck® Vehicle History Report with 3-year buyback protection from Experian, subject to all Experian & Experian Automotive buyback terms and conditions.

Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance 24hr Roadside Assistance for the life of the Powertrain Limited Warranty offers confidence on the road around the clock.
Special Financing Yes, see your Mazda dealer for details.
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $0

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

1997 Mazda MPV Van

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