The acronym MPV stands for Multiple Purpose Vehicle and it’s doubtlessly the blandest variant of vehicle ever made.
Ideally, they’re meant for people who wear cardigans, are boring in social settings and like to mate, hence the need for space for the brood. I have never really understood the people who buy them.
My mind fails to fathom the fact that an ordinary person would go to the dealerships, walk past family saloons, station wagons and even various SUVs and settle on an MPV. I’d rather eat my toenails than own one. Apprehensions aside, in the interest of impartiality, I swallowed my pride and borrowed a 2011 Mazda Premacy to check it out.
This is the third generation Premacy and borrows the grille design from the third-gen MX-5. It works beautifully on the little sports car, but on the MPV it looks a bit garish and ungainly: a bit like a fat man wearing a tight shirt. But as far MPV’s go, it’s one of the better-looking ones.
It incorporates strakes on the flanks, making what would have otherwise been a vast sheet of blandness a bit interesting to look at. The rear lights wrap around the rear three-quarter section in a successful attempt at reducing the visual mass. All in all, the Premacy is easier on the eyes than its rivals but then again, that’s like saying it’s the prettiest pig in the pen.
This is the MPV party piece and the Premacy gets off to a running start with the rear sliding doors. They open up to a quirky middle row. At first glance, it seats three but the middle, smaller seat can be folded away to create a gap between the two outer seats, making the cabin feel roomier.
The sliding doors make getting your offspring in and out a breeze and with the middle row moving fore and aft, even the rearmost seats allows easy access as does the low opening boot.
Up front, as you’d expect, it’s not a driver’s dream. The seats are comfortable but sitting there you look at a bland sea of dark hard-wearing plastics. It feels very well made and the switchgear will outlast your ownership but it has a utility whiff about it. It’s a seven-seat family-size stroller with the rearmost best reserved for toddlers.
The family’s strapped in, the engine warmed up and you’re ready to set off. It should feel like a small bus when you do but strangely, it doesn’t. Mazda is renown for driving dynamics as experienced in the simply sublime MX-5 and this is apparent even in their least driver-focused car.
The steering is pinpoint accurate and the chassis perfectly balanced, shifting weight confidently like a cat in the corners. It feels lighter than one and a half tonnes and balances perfectly between comfort and agility.
The materials may be tough and hardwearing but comfort is king in an MPV and the Premacy doesn’t disappoint. Wind and road noise is kept to a minimum as the shocks comfortably cushion occupants from the harsh road conditions. The 2.0-litre engine progressively, but quietly delivers power for smooth linear acceleration when you get on the go pedal.
It feels grippy when you do and urges you to drive enthusiastically. If you’re not keen on the speed it will have you trying to explain to a policeman why you couldn’t keep to the limit. It doesn’t look like a driver’s car but the Premacy has driving dynamics to shame some saloons and hatchbacks.
I don’t particularly like the name which sounds incomplete and I’d much rather they’d called it the Mazda 5 as they do elsewhere. I don’t like the default MPV shape, which looks exactly like every other MPV ever made and I don’t like the fact that it made me want to buy a brown cardigan.
MPV’s have sensibility and dullness built into the chassis and while the driving and riding experience is better than expected for its class, it’s still irredeemably an MPV.
You may wax lyrical about its capacity, comfort and driving dynamics, and it would all be true because it’s a practical, reliable and sensible car. But the very fact that it’s an MPV means that it will slowly douse your passion for life. A fun night will consist of board games with the family and when you are eventually invited to a party you’ll be the only person there in a sweater. That’s too high a price to pay.