Mazda minivan looks slick, is slick


The Mazda MPV minivan is available in a "special edition" form that features leather seats, alloy wheels and an exclusive two-tone finish that renews my curiosity about the people who name automobile paint colors.

I'm wondering who could look at paint chips, then walk up to another adult and say, with a straight face, "Why don't we call these special MPV colors 'Whisper Green Mica' and 'Prestige Silver?' "

If Sigmund Freud were still alive, he could probably shed much light on the nature of these paint people. Certainly, he would have unkind things to say about their relationships with their mothers. But since that high-performance, 24-valve Viennese thinker has gone the way of all shrinks, their darkest secrets probably will remain just that.

For those of you who speak only English, "Whisper Green Mica" is a dark green metallic paint. "Prestige Silver" is a gray metallic.

For those of you who are interested in a very agreeable, upscale minivan, the MPV special edition model is certainly worth a long look.

The Mazda rendition of America's popular people-mover is an exceptional minivan at any trim level. It is slick, comfortable, and comes about as close to being addictive as this high, boxy breed can get.

The first thing one notices about the MPV is its styling, which is as smooth and clean as it is conservative. No wild, swoopy futurism here, just pleasant, contemporary design reminiscent of the new Chrysler minivans.

The Mazda's ride is soft and supple, allowing the vehicle to smooth out some pretty bumpy roads. There is, of course, a trade-off: The MPV heels over markedly in fast turns. The suspension (struts up front, a live axle in the rear) remains composed in hard cornering, but it's hard to ignore the body roll.

The smoothness one finds in the Mazda's ride and styling also is evident in the interior design. Like its exterior, the MPV's innards are rounded, flowing and nicely detailed. Analog instruments and controls are readily accessible to the driver, and the deluxe front buckets, with their armrests and adjustable headrests, are quite comfortable.

The MPV is available with two engines: a standard 2.6-liter four that develops 121 horsepower, and the optional, 150-pony, 3-liter V-6 that resided in the test car.

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