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From just-auto.com



Mazda Motor Corporation has staged the world debut of its newest ‘concept’ vehicle, the MX-Flexa. The six-seat ‘space wagon’, the fifth ‘concept’ Mazda has showed within six months, is claimed in the press bumpf to demonstrate “one possible direction Mazda could take for a future space wagon” but is widely regarded by industry pundits as a production-ready replacement for the MPV minivan, which has flopped in Europe, writes just-auto.com deputy editor Graeme Roberts.

Mazda has a habit of passing off production-ready cars as ‘concepts’ at European motor shows – there was virtually no difference between show concept versions of the Demio/2 small minivans and what soon thereafter rolled out of a Mazda plant in Japan and a Spanish Ford plant (where the European market versions are made). Certainly, from the press handout photos, the MX-Flexa looks production ready enough to be the next MPV.

While it’s a pleasant enough looking vehicle, inasmuch as a functional minivan can be, the MX-Flexa sets no new standards for innovation. It’s about the right size, seats six (and surely, once in production, seven) and has the sort of stylish cabin minivan buyers on both sides of the Atlantic (e.g. Nissan Quest; Peugeot 807 & Sevel Nord-built siblings) have come to expect of late.

As shown at Geneva today, it’s 4,470 mm long; 1,745 mm wide, and 1,650mm high on a 2,750 mm; in the same ballpark as many rivals built in Japan, the US, Europe and South Korea.

And the engine is nothing special either. You might have expected maybe Mazda’s first hybrid, or the world debut of a new fuel-cell package in a so-called 'concept'. Nope. Just a ’cooking’ 2.3-litre MZR petrol four, as seen in the 6 car line and latest US-spec Ford Focus, developing 126 Kw at 6500 rpm and maximum torque of 214Nm at 4000 rpm.

The concept’s transmission is also routine: a four-speed (why no five or six-speed?) electronic automatic. McPherson-type struts at the front, multiple links at the rear, etc, etc. Any minivan engineer could write this spec in his sleep.

Now well on the way to recovery from being one of the Ford empire’s basket cases, Mazda could sure use a hit in the minivan line, along the lines of the acclaimed success of its 6 line and the recently launched 3 – though UK consumer press reviews of that latter new model range have been a bit mixed.

Certainly, Mazda could use a hit in the minivan/MPV segment. In the US, its original MPV, initially unique to North America (though Japanese built), came late to market and was too small to knock the established domestics, especially those made by Chrysler, off their perches. As the market has matured over two decades, respected imports like Honda’s Odyssey and Toyota’s Sienna have arrived to severely challenge the Big Three’s offerings, especially GM’s ageing models, but Mazda hasn’t even been on the US minivan buyer’s radar in recent years.

Ditto in Europe. The new(er) generation MPV is rarely seen here in the UK, or on continental European roads, and its smaller sibling, the Premacy, an apparent late-to-market attempt to challenge Renault’s dominant Scenic and Citroen’s Picasso, is also a rare sight.

To build on the success of the new 6, RX-8 and 3, Mazda could use a hit in niche markets. To do that, it needs two new minivans – a US-size MPV successor for North America and a Scenic-size Renault basher for Europe. Both need to set new styling, practicality and technology standards in their segments, as achieved by the original Plymouth Voyager and Renault Scenic.

At first look, the MX-Flexa simply doesn’t cut the mustard.

Ironically, its senior marketing chief thinks it does.

“It’s not by chance we chose the Geneva show to launch this important concept,” said Mazda’s senior managing executive officer in charge of global sales, marketing and customer service, Stephen Odell in a statement issued for the Geneva show.

“The space wagon segment continues to be an important and growing segment in many markets around the world. In Europe, it has exploded in the past five years, growing in some estimations by more than 200% in the five largest markets.

“We think this is one segment where Mazda can definitely inject a little zoom-soom.”

We beg to differ.
 

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ME likes those rims! I don't like the rear/tailgate, looks too much like one of those Star Trek space crafts.

I hope they offer the new MPV in a somewhat larger size, not as large as the current Ody/Siena/Quest, a couple more inches in length/width could go a long way for the MPV tho.
 

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Well, I have to admit that my mind has changed a little bit on the MX-Flexa. After seeing all these pics, I can say that this minivan's styling is growing well on me.

I definitely like the light blue-ish color. I wish our beloved Mazda 3's could come in that shade.
 

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I like the styling. Until the Odyssey gets replaced, this is certainly a more modern looking design. More daring than the Sienna, and far more cohesive than the Nissan Quest. The back side looks a little bland and bulbulous, but not too bad.

I am, however, concerned about the engine. How the heck is there supposed to be any "zoom zoom" in a car this size driven by a 2.3L 4?

I ridiculed Mazda "zoom zoom" commercials of past because none of Mazda's cars had any actual "zoom zoom" after the RX-7 departed from our shores. A stock Mazda Miata would have trouble keeping up with a Honda Civic if it wasn't for curves. Anyway, I hope they stuff a big V6 in there for the US market.
 

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My guess is that Mazda's larger cars (Mz6, MPV, Tribute) will receive Ford's new 3.5l Duratec later this year. We should start seeing Mazda Cars/Trucks making upwards of 240hp just like Hondas and Nissans.

The color looks nice, Mazda is starting to use this color on all their concepts, did the same with the MX-Sportif (a la, Mazda3 "concept"). I wish they'd offer the color on their production models.
 

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The pics of the MX-Flexa from the car show look good. I definitely like the color in person. Maybe I can wish really hard for this color to come out with the Mazdaspeed Mazda 3.

The back end is kind "blah", but everything else is pretty hip and edgy, IMHO. I like it.

I do hope that they will use a more powerful engine than the 2.3 160hp I-4. For a vehicle this big, to compete with everyone else, they are going to need at least a V6.
 

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Mazda would never be dumb enough to release a 160Hp Minivan in this market when the current MPV has 200Hp.

As far as V6 or I4 with forced induction I don't think it matters. On one hand people are used to their minivans having a V6 but the whole concept of a Turbocharger or Supercharger would sell well on it's own.

I'd love a 2.3T pushing 250Hp personally.
 

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raitchison said:
As far as V6 or I4 with forced induction I don't think it matters... I'd love a 2.3T pushing 250Hp personally.
Reminds me of the old Toyota Previas that used a Turbocharged i4. As small as the engine was, those things could stilll move!
 
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