Mazda's MPV isn't anything like it used to be, and that's just as well. Some history: Mazda launched the MPV nameplate in 1989 as its Multi-Purpose Vehicle. It was an important, innovative vehicle because it offered minivan roominess with rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and with a single rear door that opened outward, like a car's. It was enjoyable to drive and had enough guts to pull trailers. Today's Mazda MPV, totally redesigned and re-engineered last year, comes with front-wheel drive and dual sliding doors. That sounds like just about every one minivan being sold today, yet this latest MPV is smaller and more nimble than most competing vans. It drives more like a tall car. The glass in its rear doors is powered and rolls down like a car's, an industry first. It also features a hiding third-row seat, similar in design to the Honda Odyssey's, that can also flip around for tailgate parties and picnics. Compared with other minivans, Mazda's MPV handles better on the road, and maneuvers better in tight confines. It offers a unique alternative for buyers who like the versatility of a minivan but who do not need the ultimate passenger or cargo capacity of the larger minivans. This new-generation MPV rolls into 2001 with a few additions to its standard-equipment list but no other significant changes.
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