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Oddly, the MPV was a very popular van both in the press and by buyers. It was named to Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1990 and 1991 and was featured as one of their vehicles for the coming (fuel) crisis. Initial sales were strong as well, but they rapidly fell once other automakers introduced all wheel drive and V6 engines. The minivan boom of the 1980s caught most of the Japanese automakers by surprise. Each company had its own response. Toyota was the first with an adaptation of their mid-engined Van, which was based on the Japanese Town-Ace in 1984. Nissan and Mitsubishi quickly followed suit with conversions of cargo vans in 1987. None of these were particularly successful, since all were small and only offered 4-cylinder engines, not to mention they were horribly styled.
The 1989 MPV was fundamentally different, as it was designed from the ground-up as a minivan for the American market. Like the later Honda Odyssey, it featured traditional hinged doors instead of sliding rear doors, though the original MPV only had a single rear door. It was based on a car, but Mazda started with the best platform they had, which was the large rear wheel drive 929's HC. In the beginning it really had no true competition, however, Toyota's 1991 Previa, Nissan's 1993 Quest and Honda's 1995 Odyssey all featured purpose-built platforms and quickly eroded Mazda's lead. Nevertheless, as of March 31, 2005, 950,051 MPV models had been sold worldwide since its introduction. One of the other major pitfalls of the MPV was its safety issues. Although the Mazda MPV was well received by the press and public, crash testers were less impressed. The MPV received one star out of four in the Australian ANCAP crash tests and a "Marginal" rating in the American IIHS crash tests.
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