Nissan Quest Versus Mazda MPV

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    Both my wife and I agreed, if we had bought a Mazda MPV in 2003 instead of a small SUV (Honda Element), we’d be happy enough with it to keep it. But that never happened. Now, when it came time to evaluate the MPV, I almost immediately discredited it because of its size and Ford engine, Mazda has them deeply discounted, with rebates up to $4000 this summer for 2005’s, and dealers have 30 or more per lot, so I was convinced this was our budget choice. If nothing else, we could end up in a MPV for way way less than any other van. But why buy something you don’t like or want or worse yet : doesn’t fit your minimum requirements just to save a few bucks? Doesn’t this cost you more in the long run when you get rid of it early, or become inconvenienced by it later? Yes. Beyond being cheap, the MPV warranted at least some evaluation.

    I would have been tempted to blow the budget on an ES with leather and the works, but instead we focused on a mid-trim model. Truly, the MPV does offer a very car-like ride, in part to its small size. Its driver’s seat and control are most car-like of any van. Also, unlike the others, the shifter was connected to the steering column, something I hadn’t seen since my mother’s 1994 Buick LaSabre. That’s where the driver’s comparison should end. Despite comfort and seating, the actually power of handling of the vehicle lacks any “Zoom zoom” quality that I can find. It was terribly sluggish, even worse than the Toyota Sienna, and very awkward on corners.

    Passenger seating gets only one innovation: the “side by slide” 2nd row seats, which enables you to create a bench or captains chairs with a pull of a lever. This was very well done, but probably necessary for anyone to ever get to the 3rd row. The rear passenger area will fit a 6 foot adult, but not well. I found it very difficult to get around. It would have been impossible with child seats installed. The trim was otherwise solid and well done. The trunk too was very small, and struck me as a safety concern similar to our small SUV: small trunk = filled to capacity often = no crumple zone = injury.

    Saying that, the MPV was now only being considered because of budget. In the end, I decided against it altogether because we’d outgrow it too quickly. A lot can be said in favor of its small size. If you live in a tight urban environment with small streets and lots of tight turns, perhaps the size would work for you.

    I did look briefly at the Mazda 5 wagon, but it was even smaller and just a station wagon with sliding doors and very weird folding 2nd row seats.

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