The second issue with MPV owners was the engine noise caused by the four-speed automatic transmission, which was overworked and shifted too often because of the engine's lack of power. The frequent shifts also hurt fuel economy.
The new transmission, a five-speed produced by Jatco Transtechnology Ltd., features a slope control system that avoids unnecessary shift changes during a hill climb by holding the transmission in fourth gear rather than shifting down.
Mazda says the engine and transmission changes provide a slight fuel savings over the previous powertrain: 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway, compared with 18/23 mpg for the 2001 model.
The MPV's suspension was tweaked to improve handling and reduce body roll. Mazda claims a 64 percent reduction in body roll.
But will the "Zoom, Zoom" advertising and the images of the Miata in the MPV commercial create expectations the 2002 minivan cannot meet?
"It is a minivan. It is not a Miata," said John Mendel, executive vice president for sales, marketing, customer service and parts for Mazda North American Operations.
"Someone asked, 'Are you concerned about the safety aspects, that you are over-promising, that people will overdrive this car?' I don't think anybody will go shopping for that vehicle thinking they are buying a high-performance vehicle," Mendel said.
"What I think people will be saying is, 'I enjoy driving this car. I have good power, I've got good balance, and I don't feel like I'm driving a school bus.' I think that is kind of the target," he said.