2000-2005 Mazda MPV ES

Matthew Phenix
Glenn Paulina
Full Driver Side View

Our MPV was twice the victim of what looked like execution-style shootings--grisly underhood scenes of splashed and oozing engine oil. Fortunately, both times the situation looked a lot more grave than it actually was. On the first occasion, it turned out that the oil filter had been tightened inadequately during a routine service at the dealership. The result, a mile down the road, was a big mess and a tow back to the dealership. The service technician, apparently less than giddy to see our whacked MPV pushed back into his bay, this time overtightened the oil filter, cracking its housing. The result, once again, was a big mess and a tow back to the dealership--a different dealership.

The MPV's remotely operated fuel door gave us some trouble, too. First, it became stubborn about opening, requiring a simultaneous tug on the remote-release lever and on the flap itself. Picture a single person attempting the feat, and you'll understand the venomous comments in the logbook. The reason for the flap failure was that the rubber grommets that spring the fuel door open when a plunger is unplunged via the remote release had fallen out. Simple enough.

Full Front View

Well, said rubber grommets had to be special-ordered by our Mazda dealership's crack service department. By the time they arrived and were installed, a nameless staffer with perhaps one cup of coffee too many in him had already employed violent measures to get the fuel flap open, breaking the aforementioned plunger. Now (sigh) the flap wouldn't stay closed. The service department then ordered a new plunger mechanism, installed it (a shockingly elaborate process that necessitated the removal of the minivan's entire rear quarter-panel), and finally put an end to the fuel flap saga, some four months after it had begun.

Full Rear View

And that was it. Over twelve months and 33,445 hard-run miles, our fire-engine-red MPV remained admirably reliable. Fuel consumption was an acceptable 19 mpg overall--slightly under par for this class but likely attributable to the Auto-mobile Magazine staff's congenitally heavy right feet.

Although perhaps not the seven-passenger Miata that Mazda's "Zoom-Zoom" advertising campaign would have you believe it is, the MPV does offer a spry compromise between a sporty wagon and a long-wheelbase minivan. It's spacious enough for most tasks yet trim enough to thread through traffic. The Ford Motor Company has shown unexpected skill at preserving the identity of its brands; this is certainly true in Mazda's case. Foibles and all, the MPV is every inch a Mazda-- full of character, easy to own, and engaging to drive.

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