Mario James, Gleaner Writer
The spacious interior of the 2003 Mazda Bongo. Available at Auto Impressions.
Back in my school days (circa 1983), before the Toyota boys became really popular out here, there was a minivan called the Nissan E20. This was a forerunner of the Hiace, but was more popular with the public transport contractors because it had more space and a bit more power than anything Toyota had at the time. Making the trip from Dinthill (Linstead) to Spanish Town in those days, we students had a choice to make.
Either we went with one of the newfangled Coasters, piloted by an 'antichrist', or one of the E20s, driven by the devil himself. The Coaster had more capacity, but the Nissan had a big engine in a little chassis. It was the little engine that could, and did, compete with the big boys, it had to be much faster, which it was. How we survived those days without a scratch must be the eighth wonder of the world!
But I digress. The reason why the E20 figures in this review is that Mazda's Bongo has about the same power-to- weight ratio, resulting in a real canyon-carving gorge runner. It has got to be good for at least 100 mph. Unlike the E20, which had a 2.4-litre gas engine or a 2.7-litre diesel, the Bongo comes to the party with an F8 series, 1,800 cc petrol engine, which produces all of 113 hp! Coupled with an automatic three-speed gearbox with ratios cunningly spaced, Bongo has better off-the-line performance than your run-of-the mill 1992 Corolla. Under full throttle, the rear tyres always seem to be at the limits of adhesion. And it only cost $850,000! If I had just bought a '92 Corolla and had my clock cleaned by a bus, I woulda killed somebody.
Bongo is a cab-forward design, but this proven way of making space has not reaped any room-dividends for the bigger folks among us. Bongo's cockpit feels crampy we liked the steering position and dash legibility. However, this model as tested did not come with ABS, a serious oversight in this day and age. Maybe that's why it is so cheap; after all, the TownAce sells for about $200,000 more. But they both have the same payload (750kg).
The Mazda boasts 128 cubic feet of useable interior volume with no seats installed. There is hardware available on the floor which can take four bench seats, if you can find them. Mazda has been building this little van since 1966, so there are many of them around in the motherland for our recyclers to scrap and send here. So it is actually a decent buy; it is a good package, with more than adequate poke and utility.
The 2003 Mazda Bongo, a good package with more than adequate poke and utility.- Contributed