Since 1989, the Japanese automaker Mazda has been producing a minivan called the Mazda MPV. The vehicle was initially launched with a rear-wheel drive layout with an option of selectable 4-wheel drive layout. The front-wheel configuration was introduced in 2000. Since its debut, more than one million units of MPV have been sold by Mazda all over the world.
First Generation [(RWD/4WD) 1989-1999]
The Japanese automakers caught by surprise by the growing popularity of minivans in the 1980s. The immediate response was seen by all automakers. The first was the Toyota that opted for a mid-engined Van derived from the 1984 TownAce. Next to follow were Nissan and Mitsubishi both of which went for adaptation in their cargo vans in 1987. However, all these modified vehicles were small and equipped with a 4-cylinder engine.
The MPV was launched in 1989 and was not a conversions or adaptation of any previous model rather it was started from nothing (from start) to provide US market with a minivan. The MPV was built on the platform from a rear-wheel drive 929 HC. The platform is dubbed as LV platform. The MPV received a V6 engine with an option of part-time 4-wheel drive (not to confuse with the permanent 4WD system), i.e. the vehicle could be shifted to selectable 4WD system through a switch positioned on the column fear selector. Another switch located on the dash let the driver to lock the center differential, hence dividing the power in a uniform manner between the front and rear axles. The system allowed the driver to engage or disengage 4-wheel drive while in motion.
Second Generation [(FWD/4WD) 1999-2006]
The second generation MPV was launched in 1999. It was a front-wheel drive vehicle with short-wheelbase and built on LW platform. Some of the basic features were dual sliding doors featuring power windows, dual sliding rear doors and a third-row seat which could be folded and tumbled across into the floor bed. As for body style, it has resemblance with the Ford Windstar based on V platform.
During its launch, it was equipped with a similar 170 hp DOHC Ford Duratec engine also used in the Contour, Mercury Mystique and Cougar. Two-place middle bench seat was offered in all DX models. The LX model on the other hand came with two middle buckets that allow the passengers to slide the side seats sideways. Other features were: power locks and windows, heated power mirrors, privacy glass and antilock braking system. The ES models feature leather seats, larger wheels, wood tone interior, dual zone front and rear air-conditioning system and side impact airbags for front passengers.
Third Generation [(FWD/4WD) 2006-present]
The third generation MPV was launched on February 2, 2006 in Japan. This generation comes with two engine options, i.e. a 2.3-L MZR 4-cylinder naturally aspirated engine and a 2.3-L MZR 4-cylinder with Direct Injection Spark Ignition (DISI) turbo engine.
Presently, the 3rd generation MPV is offered in markets including Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and Malaysia. In the markets including Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Macau it is marketed as Mazda8. The Turbo and 4WD models are sold only in the Japanese domestic market which means that the models export in other countries are available only as NA front-wheel drive. North American market doesn’t receive Mazda8 rather a CX-9 model is marketed there in place of it.