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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Buying guide

How to buy a modified car: Three tips

This is a clean modified truck, but they don't all end up this way.

Bring a Trailer

Modified cars are a mixed bag. Sometimes, they're incredibly well built and better than the original, but too many times they're only partially finished or end up being rushed as their owners get late-project anxiety. Whatever the case, buying a modified car can be a stressful process if you haven't done your homework ahead of time. The good news is that you can get a good deal on a reasonably well sorted project or modified car, but you'll need to be careful. Looking at used Lexus LXs earlier today, it became clear that there are as many modified vehicles for sale as there are clean examples.

This LX got me thinking about the breakdown between buying a rig and building one. The modifications made by this Lexus' seller are almost exactly what I would do if I were building a light overlanding rig. What could go wrong? I'm still on the fence about the Lexus, but the three topics below will help you make the right decision on buying a modified car.

2004 Lexus LX 470 Even if the mods are well done, you'll want to have the vehicle inspected before you buy.Bring a Trailer

Understand your personal taste

I mentioned the LX470 and how the owner's updates were pretty close to what I'd do with the truck. That's an exception to the rule, because 90 percent of the time I walking away from a sales listing because of modifications, rather than the other way around. If you're hoping to find a tastefully modified car that matches your exact tastes, you could be waiting a while. If you're hoping to sell a modified car, the same is true in reverse. Finding a buyer for your extremely personalized project car may not be the easiest thing you've ever done.

2004 Lexus LX 470 It's a good idea to seek out vehicles in solid shape, regardless of mods.Bring a Trailer

Be aware of condition and quality

This Lexus looks to be well maintained and in good shape. It also doesn't hurt that the LX is one of the most reliable vehicles built by one of the world's most quality-conscious automakers. Even so, it's hard to know what you're getting with this, or any other, modified vehicle. There's a little rust in this image, but the lift kit, wheels, and bumper mods all look good. However, even if the truck looked brand-new, you'd want to get a pre-purchase inspection. An independent mechanic can tell you if there are potential issues that are unrelated to mods, and you'll want to be sure that any modifications are installed properly.

2004 Lexus LX 470 Some mods are more useful than others.Bring a Trailer

Keep an eye on the price

Most people are reasonable when it comes to selling their modified cars, but there are hundreds of "I know what I got" memes on the internet for a reason. Some sellers want to recover every penny of the money they spent customizing their cars. They're convinced that the mods drastically increased the car's value and can't understand why the customized car isn't as attractive to you as it is to them. Tread lightly and be careful not to insult the owner, but it's your job to work toward a reasonable, fair price.

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New AWD performance car

The Subaru WRX is all-new for 2022

The new WRX's body cladding is already stirring up controversy.

Subaru

The Subaru WRX is a rally-bred performance car that offers a unique mix of rowdy all-wheel drive fun, a value price, and youthful styling. The car is long overdue for an update, though, and Subaru is doing just that for the 2022 model year. The fifth-generation WRX is all-new, and features a more powerful engine, along with several go-fast upgrades.

2022 Subaru WRX Both a manual and an automatic transmission will be offered.Subaru

A new GT trim joins the WRX lineup for 2022. It features a new automatic transmission, adaptive dampers, and drive mode selections. With various customization options available to the driver, the system offers up to 430 different settings combinations. The GT's interior adds Recaro seats wrapped in Ultrasuede with red stitching. The GT also gets exclusive 18-inch wheels.

Though still a Boxer engine, the 2022 WRX's powerplant is new and more powerful than before. It delivers 271 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, as well as a broader torque curve. Subaru says that the larger engine plus an electronically controlled turbo wastegate and air bypass valves improve responsiveness and acceleration.

2022 Subaru WRX A larger 11.6-inch infotainment screen is on board. Subaru

All WRX models come with Subaru's Symmetrical all-wheel drive system and active torque vectoring, which can shift power to individual wheels that need the most traction. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but a new Subaru Performance Transmission is available, which features faster shifts and other features to improve performance.

The 2022 WRX also gets a tech upgrade that brings a large 11.6-inch tablet-style touchscreen. It runs Subaru Starlink infotainment, handles HVAC and vehicle controls, and offers split-screen functionality for two apps to run simultaneously. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, and HD radio. An upgraded version of the system also offers navigation with three years of free map updates.

2022 Subaru WRX Subaru will offer a new GT trim with upgraded suspension and finishes.Subaru

As it has done with many of its other vehicles, Subaru is equipping every WRX with its EyeSight suite of advanced driver aids. The packge includes lane departure prevention, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, and more. A new available automatic emergency steering system works with the car's pre-collision braking feature to help avoid collisions at speeds under 50 mph.

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