Le Mans winner and Miata maker Mazda heavily identifies itself as a sports car builder, even labeling their married with children MPV as the minivan with the soul of a sports car. Though last year the response to that claim was lukewarm; the chassis seemed willing, but the powertrain was lackluster. That was last year. Mazda has seriously updated the MPV, addling nifty usefulness to the interior, available power sliding doors and yes, pumping up the engine room with a 3.0 liter V6 definitely hot enough for sports duty. Rated at 200 bhp at a willing 6200 rpm, Mazda’s new V6 is a dohc 24 valve design promising all the zoom-zoom Jeff Gordon might want. Torque is 200 lb.ft at 3000 rpm, with 90 percent of that peak on tap from 1800 through 5500 rpm, so flexibility is excellent as well. These are 40 bhp and 35 lb.ft increase over last year and they can be left. To use the extra power effectively, Mazda fitted a fifth gear to MPV’s sport tuned automatic transmission, along with “Slope Control” to hold 4th gear on hills and avoid any hunting tendencies.
The extra top gear also aids highway fuel mileage; the MPV’s highway EPA rating has moved up a notch to 24 mpg. City mileage remains at 18 mpg. ABS and EBD brakes are standard. Also central to Mazda’s sport van outlook is moderate size. The MPV’s 111.8 in. wheelbase is the second shortest of midsize vans, which pays weight, garage space and handling dividends.