failboat New Reader
Nov. 10, 2010 2:22 p.m.

User reviews on edmunds, msn autos, etc... on the last of the 1st gen MPV's seem to be pretty good. A number of people praising the locking diffs and the vehicles ability in the snow and also the general reliability of it.

Heres my situation.... moving in a few weeks to a new house. No trash pickup, planning getting rid of the Mercury failboat and getting a truck/van/suv to drive once or twice a week to the landfill a few miles away, and of course be useful for home depot trips, etc.... ability to fit large items a plus, like 4x8 sheets of plywood/drywall for example.

90% of the year, we wont need 4x4 or 4wd, however, the driveway while not long, has a lot of asphalt area and its pretty steep. Anything more than an inch or two of snow and her Ford Focus and my Hyundai Accent will likely not be able to get up the driveway. We would like the spare vehicle to be capable to get in or out in these situations for convenience, to get to work, and also in case of emergency. Last year for the first time in years in our area (Northern VA) we got a few feet of snow.

Also thinkin about adding a pair of jetskis to the collection at some point so I would need to be able to tow at least that...

Im considering a number of other vehicles, and trying to see if I can get something in decent shape for less than $5k, maybe even hopefully trading the Merc for it straight up.

-96 F150 I6 5-speeds - cheap, common, plenty of hauling capacity Jeep Libertys - still pricier, common, a little smaller inside, balljoint issues? Suzuki Vitara/Chevy Tracker - cheap, fuel efficient, smaller though Jeep Cherokee - super reliable, cheap to maintain, ive been in a few though and they seem small inside Astro/Safari AWD - duh reliable. fleet cargos are pretty cheap. i have seen more than my fair share of chevys with weird electrical gremlins...but I loved my last 4.3L anyways

I guess I like the idea of the MPV because it seems pretty capable and would suit my needs. That is if it isnt a nightmare to own. Its kind of an oddball car and you never see them any more, I cant help but think it would be pretty sweet with some slightly taller all terrain tires. Am I crazy for considering it? Discuss.

M2Pilot Reader
Nov. 10, 2010 9:38 p.m.

The bride had a 1st gen MPV with 2 wheel drive. It was competent,had no problems for 60,000 miles or so,then she was T-boned by a shiney happy person who was on his way to see his parole officer.

integraguy Dork
Nov. 10, 2010 10:02 p.m.

While my car was "in the shop" they gave me a loaner of a 1st gen. MPV. This was way back, about 10 years ago. At the time these were new, one of the big complaints by roadtesters was the "jerky" action of the automatic transmission. But then, it's my experience nearly all Japanese automatic transmissions in the '80s and early '90s were "jerky". And yes, the one I drove loved to hang on to gears a bit too long for my liking. Their other drawback, compared to "contemporary" minivans was that they were heavy for their size (thanks to the separate frame) and as a consequence, were LESS economical than, say, the Chrysler minivans.

Pluses? Good ones/well taken care of ones are built like vaults, and they are able to tow more than ANY FWD minivan.

IF, I had a choice of a COMPARABLE MPV, or a Ford Aerostar....I'd get the Aerostar. Better engines and transmissions, and available AWD. But you really can't lose all that much with the MPV.

RoosterSauce Reader
Nov. 10, 2010 10:29 p.m.

MPV's are cool, but I'm not sure the engine is up for towing much. For dump runs and occasional towing, I'd rather have a pickup. Driving an enclosed van full of smelly trash sucks, anyway.

RexSeven Dork
Nov. 10, 2010 10:58 p.m.

My dad had one of those as a daily driver and it was the first car I learned to drive with. IIRC, it was somewhat thirsty but it was unkillable and handled well in the snow. It was also surprisingly decent at light off-roading. I will ask my dad more about it, since he liked it a lot aside from the gas mileage. He put a lot of miles on his MPV.

kellym New Reader
Nov. 10, 2010 11:08 p.m.

landcruiser - look for a 1993-1997

m4ff3w SuperDork
Nov. 10, 2010 11:16 p.m.
kellym wrote: landcruiser - look for a 1993-1997

Land Cruisers of that generation will cost 2, 3, or more times the cost of a MPV. At least they do down here. Not to mention ~5mpg fuel economy hit.

failboat New Reader
Nov. 11, 2010 7:52 a.m.

Thanks for the replies.

Yeah, the engine isnt a real powerhouse with 155hp/169lb-ft. I think plenty to tow jet-skis ~20 miles to the lake. Mpg around 15/20.

We do have 2 large dogs and go camping a number of times throughout the year hence why I am leaning more towards vans/suv's than trucks. Having a van before, its really nice to unload your gear and not have to set up a tent and sleep in the van. I have always been preferential towards vans over suvs/trucks.

Not too concerned about trash smell stinking up the interior, still going to use trashcans with lids.

I guess I will see how things pan out. May try and get by without 4wd this winter, and trade the Merc in the springtime on something when 4wd isnt such a selling point.

As a side note I do like the general obscurity, and how dorky this thing looks.

m4ff3w SuperDork
Nov. 11, 2010 10:34 a.m.

Plus, if you get bored, just do like that guy and put in a Twin Turbo 300ZX engine.

93celicaGT2 SuperDork
Nov. 11, 2010 11:05 a.m.
m4ff3w wrote:
kellym wrote: landcruiser - look for a 1993-1997

Land Cruisers of that generation will cost 2, 3, or more times the cost of a MPV. At least they do down here. Not to mention ~5mpg fuel economy hit.

What do they run down there? I can get my hands on them for $3k or less.

m4ff3w SuperDork
Nov. 11, 2010 11:09 a.m.

I've never seen one from that generation less than 4.5k. usually more like 6k.

integraguy Dork
Nov. 11, 2010 2:49 p.m.

I'm not sure why, but is "seems" that 90% or more of the 1st gen. MPVs in this country were that dark green.

belteshazzar SuperDork
Nov. 11, 2010 5:19 p.m.

first of all, I like every single aspect of an astro better than an mpv.

secondly, ten years ago when I used to sell cars, the price of an extended warranty was based on which class the vehicle fell into. For whatever reason, mazda mpv's had their very own class BELOW every other make & model. No other single car had that. I never learned why, but to me that means they can't be that reliable.

Capt Slow HalfDork
Nov. 11, 2010 5:47 p.m.

My mom had one of those... I learned to drive in one. We didn't have any major problems that I can remember...

failboat Reader
Dec. 21, 2010 8:11 a.m.

Felt obligated to bump the thread...we picked up a 1998 MPV All Sport 4WD over the weekend.

Not as low mileage as I initially wanted, but it was a well maintained one owner van that was garage kept most of its life. All the service paper work, original manuals, original window sticker, super clean interior. 176k miles on it and it does run and drive great. Has a few minor issues typical for an MPV that I'll be addressing over the next few months, but so far I did find a great resource for information over at www.mpvclub.com

dj06482
dj06482 Reader
Dec. 21, 2010 9:20 a.m.

If it has the rear air shocks, they're $$$ to replace. A co-worker owned an MPV and absolutely loved it, good luck with yours!

failboat Reader
Dec. 21, 2010 11:17 a.m.

Most expensive parts are the shocks and pump, but pump from a lincoln town car is a direct swap...and you can get replacements online for $170-190. Bolt in Monroe MA818 air shocks are about $75 a piece (or $70 a pair shipped on ebay i just found). My system does have a leak somewhere so one of these days I have to figure out where it is. the rear should be sitting about 3 inches higher or so.

oem parts from the dealership...yes, you are looking at $600 per shock. the pump is just as bad.

The folks I got this one from...this was their 2nd MPV. They replaced their first because they knew this was the last model year for this generation.

dj06482
dj06482 Reader
Dec. 21, 2010 12:01 p.m.

^ Good to know, my co-worker was researching options for his air-shock equipped MPV and then his 16 year old son went out and totaled it. That pretty much ended the need for new shocks...

RoosterSauce Reader
Dec. 21, 2010 1:17 p.m.

Oh, goody. If you end up wanting to ditch the air suspension, I vote for a lift kit.

failboat Reader
Dec. 21, 2010 1:45 p.m.

29's fit on the stock suspension, without a lift kit. Depending on how many parts need replacing on my air suspension, I may just switch to 1996 4wd spec springs and shocks.

^^^ stock w/ 29's

I have only seen pics of 1 lifted MPV, and it was a custom job. Theres no low range 4wd with the auto trans so really going all out with isnt something im too interested in. It already sits as high as most full size SUV's and towers over all other minivans. Its bigger than it looks in photos I think.

Vigo Dork
Dec. 21, 2010 4:57 p.m.
Pluses? Good ones/well taken care of ones are built like vaults, and they are able to tow more than ANY FWD minivan.

Where do people come up with this stuff? Are you listening to the ratings or something?

I see the max rating of an mpv at like ~4300 lbs, while the vehicle itself weighs at MOST 3900 (for a van that small? ick). Nearly all the minivans are rated at 3500. Maybe some people see that as a significant difference, but all i see is one vehicle where tow ratings could be considered a viable selling point, and many others where it would not.

I, for one, would be more comfortable towing 4300 lbs with a wider, lower, and heavier (4500+ lbs) sienna, caravan, or odyssey, with 110+ more hp, and bigger brakes, than with the mpv, so imo i wouldnt go around bragging about it's minor ratings advantage and hoping noone notices the deficits that come with it.

1988RedT2 HalfDork
Dec. 21, 2010 6:47 p.m.

As I recall, the 1st gen MPV was based on the very well-regarded 929 chassis. I had a friend that put over a quarter million miles on his with no major repairs. Those 3-liter engines will not quit.

ptmeyer84 New Reader
Dec. 21, 2010 8:02 p.m.

Nof to be a stick in the mud but if you are worried about winter driving, a set of snow tires are alot cheaper and more effective. But I will say that I have entertained the idea of building an offroad Astro myself. It shares alot of bits with the blazer so it wouldn't be too difficult.

Nitroracer SuperDork
Dec. 22, 2010 10:15 a.m.

One of my friends uses an MPV as a snow plow for their long gravel drive way. Its a big hack job but gets the job done and even towed me when I got stuck in the snow. It has been beat on for years and still starts up and runs every time you ask it to.

failboat Reader
Dec. 22, 2010 4:48 p.m.

In reply to ptmeyer84: I would agree..but my other car has about 4 inches of ground clearance.

I'm selling the grand maquis because we need something for trash runs and weekend hauling so it made sense to get a truck or van w/ 4wd. God forbid there's some sort of emergency and we need to get out of our steep driveway/neighborhood in the snow. I have a soft spot for vans. And obscurity. This van delivers both.

Parts are harder to find (aka the local shop doesn't always have them in stock) but I'm ok with that. I probably have to agree with one of the earlier posts...in that the astro is probably better than an mpv in every respect. I knew that and got the mpv anyways. Already had a 4.3 chevy van once...lifes too short to not try a different car.

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