Retrospective

Pretty or pretty ugly? 60 years of Mazda family cars and vans

Mazda has made a number of people haulers over the years, including this model, a concept van.

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Though the best cars often are described as drool-worthy models with abundant power and high price tags, there's something to be said for the competent family hauler. For the last 60 years, Mazda has been making vehicles that prioritize seating capacity and cargo space above style and performance. The last one on the list, however, fights that trend.

Take a look back at some of those family cars that put the brand on the map.

1964 Mazda Familia

Mazda Familia Wagon, 1963

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda's first go at a true family car in the 1960s was the 1963 Mazda Familia. The wagon version, seen here, joined the lineup for the 1964 model year and was better-appoinnted than the Familia van.

1966 Mazda Bongo

1966 Mazda Bongo

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda Bongo debuted as a 1966 model (shown here). It was powered by a rear-mounted 782 cc water-cooled four-stroke engine. The Bongo was named after the animal by the same name.

1971 Mazda 818/Gran Familia

1971 Mazda 818/Gran Familia

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda's 818/Gran Familia model was also sold as the Mazda 808 in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. It was only offered as a four-cylinder but came in a variety of body styles. The model shown above is a 1971 edition.

1976 Mazda RX-4/Luce

1976 Mazda RX-4 Luce

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda exported the Luce as the RX-4 through 1977. It was marketed as being a sporty and luxurious personal car. The wagon variant launched in 1973, replacing the Savanna Wagon. The '76 Mazda RX-4/Luce is shown here.

1977 Mazda 818/Gran Familia

1977 Mazda 818/Gran Familia

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda 818/Gran Familia has a short seven-year lifespan. The 1977 model in the photo above has rectangular taillights that set it apart from previous years' versions of the car.

1978 Mazda Capella/626 1800

1978 Mazda Capella/626 1800

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

This midsize car was manufactured by Mazda from 1970 to 2002. It is shown here as a 1978 model, the first year of its second generation.

1979 Mazda 323/Familia

1979 Mazda 323

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

For the 1979 model year, Mazda gave the 323/Familia a facelift. The car's round headlights were done away with in favor of rectangular ones. Those lights now were part of a single unit with the grille. The '79 wagon version is shown above.

1984 Mazda Bongo/Traveller

1984 Mazda Bongo Traveller

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda sold the third-generation Bongo as the Traveller in Australia. Rebadged versions of the van were sold as the Ford Econovan and Ford Spectron. Shown here are 1984 versions of the model.

1980 Mazda 929/Luce 2000

1980 Mazda 929/ Luce 2000

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The LA4 series of the Mazda 929/Luce debuted in 1977. In this new iteration, Mazda still delivered the large car experience to customers. This generation of the sedan was not sold in North America. The 1980 model is shown here.

1985 Mazda Bongo Brawny Sky Lounge Concept

1985 Mazda Bongo Brawny Sky Lounge Concept

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

This unique concept model pushed the envelope as far as Mazda luxury vans go. Presented in 1985, the Mazda Bongo Brawny Sky Lounge Concept, seen above, has a host of amenities including an oven, mobile telephone, and VCR. The floor between the passenger seats rose when the vehicle was moving.

1991 Mazda MPV 4WD

1991 Mazda MPV 4WD

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda launched its multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) minivan in 1988. The seven-seater Mazda MPV (shown above) featured a four-wheel drive option and, when it arrived in Europe in the mid-1990s, a fuel-efficient turbodiesel as well as a rear door on the driver's side. The first generation lasted 10 years. Pictured here is the 1991 model.

1995 Mazda CU-X Concept

1995 Mazda CU-X Concept

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda CU-X concept car (pictured above) was first shown in 1995. That same year, Mazda showed the RX-01 concept car.

1997 Mazda MV-X Concept

1997 Mazda MV-X Concept

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

Mazda moved closer to its modern SUV lineup with the Mazda MV-X Concept (seen above). The concept car was shown at the Geneva and Tokyo auto shows that year.

1998 Mazda 626/Capella Hydrogen Vehicle

1998 Mazda 626/Capella Hydrogen Vehicle

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

In Japan, Mazda offered the world's first electric-hybrid version of the 626/Capella though a leasing program. The model featured a rotary engine that could run on hydrogen or petrol.

1999 Mazda Premacy

1999 Mazda Premacy

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda Premacy, shown here as a 1999 model, was offered as a standard five-seater with a seven-seat option. Its second- and third-rows were foldable and removable. There were dual rear sliding doors. The Premacy was the predecessor to the Mazda5.

2014 Mazda5 Venture

2014 Mazda5 Venture

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The Mazda5 arrived in 2005 delivering more efficient people moving and cargo storage ability. The 2014 Mazda5 is pictured above.

2020 Mazda6 Tourer 165ps Sport Nav+ 

Photo courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

The 2020 Mazda6 estate model is the most modern, natural successor to the family haulers of the past. The car comes equipped with the latest Mazda engine and safety technology as well as a Soul Red Crystal paint job.

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The Bronze Edition model builds on the XLE trim.

Toyota

The Toyota Highlander entered its fourth generation for the 2020 model year, which brought sleek style, updated tech, and a premium-look interior. A new XSE trim joined the lineup for 2021, and for 2022, Toyota is adding a new hybrid-only Bronze Edition trim.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition adds useful features, such as a hands-free power liftgate.toyota

The new Bronze Edition Highlander builds on the XLE trim with:

  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Digital rearview mirror
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Memory driver's seat with 10-way power adjustments
  • Hands-free power liftgate

Toyota notes that the Bronze Edition previews features that will show up with the greater 2022 Highlander release. Among them are the new Wind Chill Pearl color, which replaces Blizzard Pearl from the previous model, and height/tilt passenger seat adjustments.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Highlander is a supremely comfortable SUV with room for the family.Toyota

The Highlander carries on into 2022 with a standard 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. A Highlander Hybrid is available, which mates a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. Combined system output is 243 horsepower. With the V6 on board, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition is available for Highlander Hybrid models.Toyota

All 2022 Highlander models get Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, road sign assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alerts, lane tracing assist, a sway warning system, and automatic high beams. Those features and the Highlander's excellent crash testing scores were good enough for the SUV to earn a Top Safety Pick + designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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The Corolla Cross hits a sweet spot in terms of size and price.

Toyota

Smart move! Every automaker is trying to grow their lineups. Toyota is no exception, and has now filled the white space between the C-HR subcompact utility vehicle and the compact RAV4 with the 2022 Corolla Cross, an entry-level offering that marries the Corolla sedan to an all-new model with crossover styling and utility. The venerable Corolla isn't simply well-known -- it's the best-selling nameplate of all time and is marketed in 150 countries with over 50 million in sales to date. And, even though the segment that Corolla Cross will join is filled with close to two-dozen offerings, it's attracting more buyers than ever as consumers choose crossovers over sedans.

A Sweet Spot in a Crowded Segment

Toyota's goal was to seek a sweet spot in the value-priced small crossover market, marrying engaging driving features with cargo-carrying functionality, and to endow the 2022 Corolla Cross with a long list of technology, infotainment and safety features. On sale in October, starting at $22,195 for the front-drive base model (an all-wheel drive version adds $1300) and up to $27, 625 for a top-of-the-line AWD (delivery and handling adds $1,215). Grades include L, LE and XLE; all can pull up to 1,500 pounds. This weight will accommodate personal watercraft on a trailer. Fuel economy is estimated to be 32mpg on the FWD and up to 30 on the AWD. Wheel options include 17-inch steel on L and 18-inch alloy on XLE. It will be built at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant, in Huntsville, Alabama on Toyota's high-strength TNGA-C platform.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Corolla Cross brings an impressive list of standard features.Toyota

Look to the compact RAV4 and even the midsize Highlander for some of the Corolla Cross' styling cues. This is especially from the back end, where Toyota has installed an integrated spoiler and LED lighting. This new stretched crossover/hatchback has a high belt line and strong arching shoulders above the wheel wells, and starts with a chiseled front grille with LEDs. It's 5 inches shorter than the RAV4 and 3 inches longer than the C-HR. The idea was to attract young, diverse, multicultural buyers who are smart and tech savvy, so designers penned looks meant to catch their eye in a way that is "refined with an urban edge". Hence, our drive to test the new model took place in the hip environs of Austin, TX. I drove both the FWD base model and the top-level AWD and liked each, with the biggest differences found the in distinguishing trim elements outside and, as expected, a more upscale interior on the XLE.

Strong List of Standard Features

There are a number of impressive features on this 5-passenger runabout with 60/40 folding rear seats include standard heating and air conditioning vents for rear passengers. Up-level models and options include SoftTex-trimmed 10-way power seats, a power moonroof, as well as either single- or dual-zone automatic climate control, a power lift gate with height adjustability, and a host of available accessories such as a roof rack with crossbars, an activity mount for carrying sporting goods such as bicycles, a tow hitch and all-weather floormats. Cargo Capacity with the 2nd Row in place is 26.5 cu.ft. for FWD/ 25.2 for the AWD; with the second row folded, it expands to 66.8/65.5 (slightly less for each for models with the moonroof).

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Corolla Cross sits between the C-HR and RAV4 in the Toyota lineup.Toyota

Fuel Economy Over Power

Power comes from Toyota's sophisticated Dynamic Force 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) that makes 169 horsepower and 150 pound-feet of torque and is shifted through a CVT. During my 100-mile-long drive, I found this powerplant has ample horsepower and torque to motivate it around town and on the highway; I found the AWD XLE a bit quieter overall and especially on hard throttle. A physical first gear provides a more punchy and better fuel economy. Also aiding in fuel economy is Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control system that directs up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels when it's needed – and disengages completely when not. The suspension for AWDs is a fully independent set-up while, while FWDs feature a brand-new torsion beam system in the rear. Impressive is the 8 inches of ground clearance, close to that of the RAV4, that will allow some backcountry and dirt road travel.

The interior will remind consumers of the Corolla sedan and hatch in looks and layout, with quality materials, good visibility and sensibly-placed controls. A 7-inch multimedia touchscreen comes on the L and LE, while XLE features an 8-inch touchscreen. There is a long list of in-car entertainment and connected functionalities, including standard compatibility for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross Styling is somewhere between a RAV4 and a Highlander.Toyota

Wireless charging is standard on LE and XLE, and all trims have conveniently-located USB media ports. The LE and XLE grades bring two USB charging ports for rear seat passengers. Also onboard are Audio Plus multimedia with Remote Connect and a nine-speaker JBL sound system as well as Amazon Alexa connectivity. Standard is a three-month SiriusXM Platinum subscription. Of note, XLE owners can get key info at a glance, courtesy of an available 7-inch Multi-Information Display with various vehicle and systems info to choose from.

All grades come standard with nine airbags and both the Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced active safety systems, as well as Toyota's STAR Safety System. Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert come standard on LE and XLE, while Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking is standard on XLE. Other top features in the safety bundle include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, and Traction Control.

2022 Toyota Corolla Cross The Alabama-built Corolla Cross goes on sale in October.Toyota

The 2022 Corolla Cross also comes standard with complimentary ToyotaCare that covers normal factory-scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, and two years of Roadside Assistance, regardless of mileage.

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