2002 Mazda MPV
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by Greg Wilson

Though it was all new in model year 2000, Mazda has upgraded the 2002 MPV minivan with a new 200 horsepower V6 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, sportier suspension, revised styling, and new power sliding rear side doors. MPV’s come in three trim levels, DX, LX, and ES ranging in price from $25,975 to $36,510.

Boost in horsepower adds vroom to MPV

The Mazda MPV minivan underwent a total redesign for the 2000 model year — from a rear-wheel-drive minivan with two swing-out rear doors to a front-wheel-drive minivan with two sliding rear doors. The 2000 model MPV also featured a fold-into-the-floor third-row seat (like the Honda Odyssey), two centre buckets that slid together to form a bench seat, a surprisingly roomy seven passenger interior, and a new Ford-built 2.5 litre V6.

2002 Mercedes-Benz ML500
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Though roomy, easy to drive, and comfortable, the MPV was criticized for its comparative lack of power. While the MPV’s 2.5 litre V6 engine offered 170 horsepower at 6250 rpm and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4250 rpm, its main competitors offered bigger engines with more horsepower and torque. For example, the Chrysler Caravan’s new standard 3.3 litre V6 offered 180 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque; the Chevrolet Venture/Pontiac Montana offered 185 horsepower and 210 lb-ft of torque, and the Toyota Sienna offered 210 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque.

From 0 to 100 km/h, the MPV took 12.8 seconds, two seconds slower than a Toyota Sienna and a second slower than a Dodge Caravan. To add insult to injury, the MPV’s average fuel consumption of 11.8 l/100 km was worse than its more powerful competitors.

Another complaint about the 2002/2001 MPV was that it didn’t offer power-operated sliding rear doors. Both of these concerns, and others, have been addressed in a mid-cycle update of the 2002 MPV.

A new Ford-built ‘Duratec’ 200 horsepower 3.0 litre V6 engine, also offered in the Mazda Tribute, replaces the 2.5 litre unit; and a new 5-speed automatic transmission replaces the previous 4-speed automatic transmission. Mildly restyled 2002 MPV’s are also available with new traction control, new 17 inch tires and alloy wheels, and a retuned sportier suspension.

More power, same fuel economy

2002 Mazda MPV
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The new 3.0 litre DOHC 24 valve V6 not only offers a substantial boost in horsepower, it is considerably more responsive because of an increase in torque at lower engine revolutions. The new engine has 200 lb-ft at 3000 rpm compared to the previous engine’s 165 lb-ft at 4250 rpm. Mazda says the new engine develops 90% of its maximum torque from 1800 rpm through 5500 rpm.

Despite its extra power though, the new engine gets approximately the same fuel consumption as the smaller 2.5 litre V6: 13.6 l/100 km (21 mpg) in the city and 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg). That’s still not as good as its competitors, but not far off.

A new Ford-built 5-speed automatic transmission with an overdrive top gear improves performance and highway cruising and includes a ‘slope control’ system to avoid gear-hunting when climbing grades.

Improvements to the MPV’s suspension were designed to add performance without detracting from the ride comfort. The front springs were redesigned to counteract body lean, the body and suspension mountings are stiffer, and there’s a new rear stabilizer bar. The steering ratio is also quicker than before.

Traction control is now optional on LX models and standard on top-of-the-line ES models. Brakes are front disc/rear drums, but ABS and electronic brake differential are only offered on LX and ES models, not the base DX model.

New power rear doors

Inside, there are new power-operated rear sliding doors (optional LX, standard ES) that can be opened or closed with buttons on the dash, near the doors, or with the remote keyfob. The power doors include an obstacle detector to prevent the door closing on little fingers. The MPV is the only minivan on the market that offers sliding rear doors with roll-down rear side windows.

The MPV’s standard AM/FM/CD player is now offered with standard steering wheel mounted controls. LX models add a cassette player, and ES models have an in-dash 6-disc CD changer with 9 speakers.

Other interior changes include redesigned front cupholders that hold larger cups, and more hooks for shopping bags. Top-of-the-line ES models have attractive new chrome door handles and vent trim, leather-wrapped parking brake handle, multi-adjustable power driver’s seat, and a folding table between the front seats.

Interior impressions

I found the leather upholstered interior in my top-of-the-line ES very comfortable and nicely-finished, but I was disappointed to find there were no front seat heaters. The seating position is high with good outward visibility through the oversized windows, but the step-in height is still quite low.

2002 Mazda MPV
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The handsome dash has three gauges including a tachometer, leather-wrapped steering with cruise control functions on a stalk behind steering wheel, and radio controls on the steering wheel hub. My ES test van had walnut trim on the dash, console and doors which has a rather shiny clearcoat finish; and easy-to-use, large controls for the stereo and heater. The heater includes a fan speed control for the rear heater/air conditioner. There are also controls near the third row seat.

The automatic transmission is operated with a column shifter that includes an on/off overdrive button on the end of the shift lever – the overdrive button is angled towards the driver so it can be operated with a forefinger like other dash controls. One complaint, in the Drive position, the column shift lever obscures the radio’s volume knob.

Just below the heater are two pull-out cupholders, and below that a handy fold-down bin for CD’s or valuables.

Between the seats is a folding table, something like the one offered in the Honda CR-V. Mazda’s version has a covered container for coins and two cupholders in the front and two in the back. The table will flip down for ‘walk-through’ access to the rear seats.

Both front seats have inboard folding armrests, very useful on drives longer than ten minutes. I noted that the front footwells are very wide, allowing plenty of stretching room for front passengers legs.

Second row passengers have plenty of legroom and headroom. The second row ‘slide-by-side’ bucket seats push together simply by pulling up on a lever. Both seats move fore and aft, have reclining seatbacks, and inboard and outboard folding armrests. As well, both seats are individually removeable. Fold down the seatbacks, reach behind the seat and pull up on a latch, and the whole seat can be lifted out of the van. I found them to be small and light enough for one adult to carry without risk of back injury.

To get into the third row seat, it’s better if the second row seat on the passenger side is slid over towards the other second row seat. Otherwise, you have to go around it and through the centre aisle. I found the third row seat roomier than I expected. There’s just enough legroom even with the second row seat moved all the way back, but the third row seat is lower, so the knees stick up a bit.

The third row seat has three seatbelts for three passengers, and two height adjustable seatbelts — but it’s a bit snug back there with three adult passengers. Third row passengers have access to the optional rear air conditioning/heating controls including fans speed, temperature and ventilation adjustments. On the left side of the third row seat are two cupholders, and on the right side are two cupholders.

As mentioned, the rear sliding doors can be opened and closed with a button on the door frame near the doors — they can also be opened by simply tapping back the large inside door handle, however, they won’t close automatically by tapping on the door handle. In addition, there is considerable resistance if you try and open or close the doors manually.

2002 Mazda MPV
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One of the problems with a short wheelbase minivan like the MPV is that when the third row seat is occupied, there’s not much cargo room behind the seat. The MPV solves this problem with a deep well in the cargo floor that adds a substantial amount of cargo space: there is 487 litres (17.2 cu. ft.) behind the third seat, more than in a typical mid-size sedan trunk.

The well is there to hold the ‘tumble over’ third row seat. First, you pull a release strap to lower the backrest, and then pull another strap to fold the seat over into the floor well (the rear head restraints have to be removed first). The folded seat sits flush with the floor, creating a long, flat cargo area. The advantage of this seat is that you don’t have to carry it out of the van when you’re not using it — a task which usually requires two people.

The cargo area includes a 12 volt powerpoint, two latches and two hooks for securing cargo.

The rear hatch door is big with a large opening, but is easy to lift, and includes a rear wiper, washer and defroster on the rear window.

Driving impressions

As I said, the driver has great visibility — even the rear head restraints are positioned so they don’t block side or rear vision. The driving position is good relative to the controls, and the gauges are easy to see.

2002 Mazda MPV
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The biggest difference over the previous MPV is throttle responsiveness. The new MPV just leaps off the line and accelerates to 100 km/h in less than ten seconds according to my stopwatch. That’s a big improvement over the previous model. As well, mid-range acceleration when merging, lane changing, or passing, is much more responsive, even with seven people on board.

The engine makes a sporty roar when accelerating, but is very quiet at highway speeds with the engine revving comfortably in the mid 2500 rpm range. The new 5-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, and generally enhances the feeling of sportiness.

I also liked the refinements to the suspension, even with the optional low-profile Dunlop Supersport 215/60R-17 tires 17 inch tires. The MPV feels sportier, more manoeuvrable, and less cumbersome than the previous van without big sacrifices in ride comfort. The steering feel and responsiveness is quicker, and I found the front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS and EBD up to the task of hauling this 1730 kg (3814 lb.) minivan to a stop in short order.

The traction control system activates slowly, rather than cutting power suddenly, which is a good thing — but sometimes you wonder if it’s working.

As a short wheelbase van, the MPV has some advantages over big vans like the Windstar, Odyssey, and Grand Caravan. It’s easier to park and maneouver in city parking lots, and fits in the garage with space to spare. It amazes me how much room there is inside the MPV even though it’s over a foot shorter than a Honda Odyssey.

Now that the MPV has the power and features to match its competitors, there’s little for critics to complain about. My only concern would be that top-of-the-line ES models seem rather expensive for $36,510 — that’s a substantial increase in price over the previous ES. However, competitive minivans with the same features seem to be the same, or more in price.

Price and features

The MPV’s manufacturers suggested retail prices are: DX $25,975, LX $28,970; and ES $36,510.

Options on the DX model include a Convenience Package ($1,125) which includes cruise control, power windows & door locks, power heated door mirrors, AM/FM/CD w/cassette, under seat storage, and overhead console with two storage pockets.

The MPV DX is available with a Towing Package ($600) which includes an automatic transmission oil cooler, heavy duty radiator, and 15 inch alloy wheels. The same Towing Package on LX models with 17 inch alloy wheels is $700.

The LX is available with side airbags and rear air conditioning ($1,350), and dual power sliding rear doors ($1,150). An LX Sports Package ($3,055) includes rear air conditioning, premium audio, 6 CD in-dash player, traction control, 17″ alloy wheels, towing package, side air bags, seat side table, and front fog lights.

ES models include the Sports Package as standard equipment. LX models with the Sports Package and ES models are available with a GFX package ($1,100) which includes front and rear air dam and side skirts.

Like other Mazda’s, the MPV comes with a 3 year/80,000 km basic warranty, and a 5 year/100,000 km powertrain warranty.

Technical Data:

2002 Mazda MPV
Base price (DX) $25,975
Price as tested (ES) $36,510
Type 4-door, 7 passenger minivan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
Horsepower 200 @ 6200 rpm
Torque 200 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Transmission 5 speed automatic
Fuel Regular unleaded
Tires P215/60R-17
Curb weight 1730 kg (3814 lb.)
Wheelbase 2840 mm (111.8 in.)
Length 4786 mm (188.4 in.)
Width 1832 mm (72.1 in.)
Height 1755 mm (69.1 in.)
Cargo capacity 487 litres (17.2 cu. ft.) behind 3rd seat
  1546 litres (53.7 cu. ft.) 3rd seat folded
  3526 litres (124.5 cu. ft.) 2nd/3rd seats folded
Towing capacity 907 kg (2000 lb.)
  1361 kg (3000 lb.) w/towing package
Fuel consumption City: 13.6 l/100 km (21 mpg)
  Hwy: 9.6 l/100 km (29 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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