Posted on July 10, 2010 at 12:00 am
Back in the 1980s, the introduction of the minivan and its overnight popularity in America had Japanese manufacturers rushing to develop a model to offer American customers. Most of the early efforts were adaptations of vans, a quick way to get a new model into the market, but Mazda decided it was worth the effort to develop something entirely new and used a large car platform for the purpose. Its model was known simply as ‘MPV’ and was a boxy rear-wheel drive vehicle with three rows of seats. A few units were sold in Malaysia in the mid-1990s but the thirsty 3-litre V6 engine was not particularly appealing so it never made an impact. The second generation, which had front-wheel drive and a sleeker shape, never made it here officially.
|Mazda MPV, introduced in early 1990s, was the ‘grandfather’ of the Mazda8
In line with the new model ‘naming’, the MPV model got a number and as its size positioned it somewhere at the top of the range, it became the Mazda8 when the third generation was launched in 2007. By then, the engine size had become more practical and the model was offered in the Asia-Pacific area. Now Bermaz, the distributor for Mazda vehicles in Malaysia, is also offering it to Malaysian customers.
The Mazda8 launched recently in Malaysia is the latest version with cosmetic updates that differentiate it from the one that was launched in 2007. Since the earlier version was never seen here before, it’s unnecessary to go into the changes and the Mazda8 can be treated as a new model.
Being a MPV like the Mazda5, there may be a tendency to regard it as a ‘bigger brother’ but there is no ‘family’ link between the two MPVs though their engines come from the thoroughly-proven MZR family. In the case of the Mazda8, the engine is a 2.3-litre unit with a variable induction system as well as Sequential Valve Timing (SV-T) which is what Mazda calls its variable valve timing mechanism. Tuned for use in a MPV, the DOHC 16-valve engine (which can run on RON95 petrol) produces 120 kW/163 bhp at 6500 rpm and 203 Nm of torque at 3500 rpm. The transmission is a 5-speed Activematic unit with overdrive ratios in the top two gears to keep revs low during cruising at high speeds. Mazda claims that the range of ratios available is equivalent – or even better – than a CVT’s. When desired, the driver can also shift manually in a sequential manner to enjoy the Zoom-zoom character that Mazda promises its owners will experience in every one of its models.
The chassis is a pretty straightforward type for a MPV with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link layout at the rear. It has some elements shared with the Mazda6 stationwagon but is pretty much an individual platform. Steering power assistance is provided a combination of electric-hydraulic power which robs less engine power, thereby helping in fuel efficiency and overall performance. The wheels are 6.5J x16 with 215/65 tyres fitted and behind each wheel is a ventilated disc brake.
|Front and rear suspension of Mazda8
|Airbags on front and sides of the cabin provide superior protection for all occupants
It goes without saying that a model like the Mazda8, which has a pricetag of RM190,228 (on the road without insurance) will come with a generous list of standard of safety equipment and features. ABS, EBD and BA are standard and six airbags provide cushioning on three sides of the cabin. Four of the airbags are for the front occupants (front and side) while the third pair are curtain airbags that cover the windows during a side impact. Those with small kids will be pleased to know that ISOFIX attachment points are provided.
As would be expected of a MPV as large as the Mazda8, interior accommodation is very generous, akin to a living room on four wheels. Added to that is a premium appearance and feel with beige leather upholstery brightening the ambience. There are three rows of seats with the second row referred to as ‘Super Relax Seats’. They offer the ultimate in seating comfort with not only plenty of fore/aft movement but also adjustable armrests on either side of each seat and swing-out footrest pads. Though there are two separate seats, three people can still be accommodated when necessary if the two seats are adjusted tightly against each other. This means up to eight people can be accommodated in the Mazda8.
The third row is simpler with 50:50 divided backrests and space for three persons as well. A nice feature here is the unique karakuri folding system developed by Mazda interior designers. By pulling on a strap on each seat, the seat cushion sinks into a recess and the backrest can lie flat on top of it. This allows a totally flat floor to be created to carry extra cargo. Even with the third row in use, there’s still 357 litres available, enough for two sets of golf clubs and under the floor, there’s another 109 litres of space which is enough for even a small bag.
The rear door is easy to open – just a touch of a button by the driver or on a microswitch on the door itself and it opens upwards on its own. For safety, there are sensors that will immediately halt movement if an obstruction is detected.
Like the Mazda5, there are sliding doors on both sides which open/close at the touch of a button or by clicking on the door handle. The doors slide backwards to provide an opening 785 mm wide which makes it easier to get to the third row by folding the second row seats forward.
To ensure comfort for all occupants, the air-conditioning system has been designed to deliver cool air to all three rows. Airflow originates not only from the dashboard but also from ceiling vents and under the seats. Temperature settings can be adjusted from the front as well as by the rear occupants.
The Mazda8 in the first vehicle in the world to have an ionizing system which was developed in collaboration with Panasonic. Called the nanoe* ion system, it is already in use in certain household appliances. The nanoe* ions, wrapped in water molecules, are said to have a powerful deodorizing, sterilizing, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-allergenic action that can purify cabin air. This is a welcome feature as motorists here usually keep their windows closed and inadequate fresh air comes into the cabin.
The Mazda8 may be priced close to RM200,000 (after adding insurance) and sounds pricey but Bermaz has ensured that customers get their money’s worth with such an extensive list of standard equipment. It’s understood that there are already some 80 people waiting to take delivery so all the first batch brought in by Prima Merdu (the importing company) is already gone and if you order one now, it will take another month and a half before you get your Mazda8.
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