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2004 Minivan Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Mazda MPV
Madza MPV minivan

If you're an enthusiast, read to the end of this entry and stop there; this is the van you want. Truly, the MPV makes driving a minivan much less mundane than it has any right to be. And not because it has the strongest engine on the market (because it doesn't). Not because it the newest van on the market (because it isn't). And not because it offers the most space or features on the market (because it doesn't). What is it, then? Well, it's got to do with what most people assume is just marketing schtick, but that we in the journalist circles know is more than that. Specifically, we're talking about zoom zoom.

The MPV is just plain fun to drive. It gets up and out of its own way, thanks to a 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 200 frisky horsepower. It also handles and stops better than most minivans currently on the market. Mazda engineered in some real steering feel to boot. Throw in a healthy amount of outward visibility and you have a truly pleasure-filled driving experience. As the commercials claim, this is a minivan with a soul of a sports car.

Happily, being a minivan means that it can do a helluva lot more than a sports car when it comes to carrying people and things. The MPV's tidy exterior dimensions don't yield quite the same amount of interior space as the others in this group, but it seats six comfortably (seven in a pinch). This also was the first van to offer the cool "disappearing" third-row seat. It also was the first to offer roll-down rear windows in the second row, which still make it a favorite among kids. The MPV is also reasonably priced, starting a bit under $22K and rising to just over $30K for a loaded ES model with lots of options.