Most of us were charmed by the packaging of the MPV's spacious, elegant interior, which was guided by what Mazda calls the OptiSpace design philosophy. Further keeping Mazda's trademark lawyers in clover, the MPV sports Side-by-Slide second-row seats, which go from separate captain's chairs to a single bench seat with one quick shove, and a Tumble-Under third-row bench seat, which does a tuck-and-roll maneuver not unlike that of Honda's similarly trademarked Magic Seat. We were also amused by the MPV's surfeit of storage compartments and cup holders (ten each) and by the unique roll-down windows in the dual sliding rear doors; only one among us lamented the loss of the original MPV's front-hinged rear doors.
We would be remiss not to mention our van's rear-seat entertainment system at this point, a $1595 option that includes a videocassette player, a headliner-mounted flip-down liquid-crystal display, and a wee-bitty remote control. To say that the setup--which prompted pages of unprintable comments in the logbook--seemed like an afterthought is to do a disservice to the term afterthought, which at least implies that some thinking took place. To wit: Despite the MPV's easily removable Side-by-Slide chairs and disappearing Tumble-Under bench, Mazda saw fit to screw down the video player--roughly the size of a toaster oven--right in the center of the floor, thereby not only putting the unit at risk for damage but also compromising what might have been a really useful flat load surface. Better have Sears deliver that washer and dryer after all.
In its defense, the entertainment system handily pacified passengers who otherwise might have spent the duration of a long voyage whining and kicking the back of the driver's seat. Shove a tape into the player, be it Barney or Braveheart, and drive in peace. And, to be fair, Mazda states that the videocassette player is merely thumb-screwed to the floor and, therefore, conceivably removable. Duly noted, but there are better options nonetheless; a similar system, available in the Oldsmobile Silhouette, the Pontiac Montana, and the Chevrolet Venture, positions the player in the lower portion of the instrument panel, where it's out of danger, out of the way, and out of sight. A premium product like the MPV deserves that kind of solution.
Our MPV certainly was premium-priced. In fact, at $28,675, it was a significant $2300 pricier than our Four Seasons Odyssey EX. Liberal optioning played a role--not the first time that's happened around here. The inclusion of the rear-seat entertainment system, a 180-watt premium audio system with six-disc in-dash CD changer, foglamps, and a roof rack added a hefty $2645 to the bottom line. Still, the 2001 MPV DX starts at a reasonable $21,155, including the destination charge; the '01 Odyssey won't move for less than $24,340.