Rare Rides: A Mazda Bongo 4×4 - JDM Van Time From 1994

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a mazda bongo 4 215 4 jdm van time from 1994

For decades, the Japanese market has loved vans of all shapes and sizes, ranging from basic kei to fully-loaded VIP luxury. Rare Rides has touched on JDM van time just once previously, with a luxurious and capable 1990 Toyota Town Ace. Today we’re taking a look at what Mazda offered a Nineties Japanese consumer of vans.

Mazda’s Bongo offering is a longstanding one, in production since 1966. In 50 years, it’s had just five different generations. Wearing 13 different badges around the globe, at one time or another the Bongo was also branded as a Ford, Kia, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and a Toyota. Not many nameplates have that sort of range. Bongo’s beginnings in the Sixties were rear-engined, sharing engines with the Familia small car lineup. The first generation was short-lived as Mazda went through money trouble, and was cancelled by 1975.

The second-generation offering realized the layout the Bongo would keep for decades: engine in the middle, and rear-wheel drive. The second generation lead a double life: in Japan it stayed as a Mazda, and was produced from 1977 to 1983. But Kia started production of the Bongo in South Korea with the second generation, and played a long game. As Mazda moved on to newer generations of Bongo, Kia stuck with its tried-and-true gen two. Badged as Bongo and Ceres, it remained in production with consistent revisions through 1999.

That brings us to the third-generation Bongo, and the one which was longest lived in Mazda guise. It debuted in 1983 with a new engine lineup. Sales expanded to several different Ford varieties, and Bongo became a Nissan Vanette in the Nineties. Mazda decided not to field its Bongo in the U.S., as other manufacturers were faltering with their offerings. Instead, the company spent some money on a different kind of van that was far ahead of its time: the MPV. Bongo’s third installment lived on through 1999 before being succeeded by a fourth generation that lived through 2018.

Available in its myriad of configurations, the Nineties Bongo was rear-wheel drive or 4×4 and used gasoline and diesel engines. Today’s Rare Ride features the mid-pack 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine; a larger 2.2-liter was available. It sends 76 raucous horsepower through a five-speed manual that includes low-range gearing and four-wheel drive. Luxury options like rear air conditioning were included, though the interior is serious in its spartan nature. With 72,000 miles, it asks $10,995 in Washington.

[Images: seller]

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2 of 9 comments
  • MeJ MeJ on Nov 22, 2019

    Anything named "Bongo" is cool in my books!

  • Nm68 Nm68 on Aug 03, 2021

    I own the same type of Mazda with petrol engine. It is a nice car to drive. The steering is responsive. The car is quick and has off road power. Mine is Mazda Bongo Wagon 4WD 1994 SSE8R model.I bought it online from Japan in 2012. I would like to buy another one.

  • Wjtinfwb How does the ICE mid-engine C8 platform work for... anything else? A sedan? SUV? With a mid engine configuration? A mid-engine SUV will have to be Suburban sized to offer the utility of a CRV. GM should dust off the Omega platform designed for the Cadillac CT6 for an SUV/Sedan offering with exceptional handling, Rear or AWD capability and acceptable space utilization. They also need to focus on interior fit & finish, trim choices and high quality final engineering and assembly. What GM doesn't need is another half-baked product with a storied and prestigious badge on the decklid and a premium price on the Monroney. No more Cimarron's, Allante's or X-cars needed to tarnish the reputation of Corvette.
  • InCogKneeToe BUILD It and they will come.By Build It, I mean a Vehicle that the Customer Wants and it works for them. It could be called Chevette for all that that matters. The Mach E's success isn't because it totes the Mustang on it.Just build what people want, the next Caravan/Taurus/Beetle/Maverick (truck).
  • YellowDuck Wait...how do you make a mid-engine crossover? Or even a 4-door coupe? Me not get.
  • 28-Cars-Later Thanks Corey. The head stud job on NOrthSTAR-T was $3K *years ago* as it involves an engine pull so rear wheel arch rust in and of itself isn't a show stopper. I'll be sure to check out the trunk as it may start to add up on deferred maintenance. Supposedly this was garaged so the underneath the rockers etc. should be decent but if those are shot its not gonna work.
  • Mark 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, G4NG engine with connecting rod bearing issues. Engine needs to be replaced, but Hyundai is denying warranty claim. I have all maintenance records from mile zero. It has been in Hyundai Service department 5 time in 4 months. They added the knock sensor and software update to let you know the engine is about to blow up. They kicked the can down the road doing patch work until the car was past the 120k extended extended warranty. I have that documentation too. So how can I join the class action law suit or find a Lawyer that handles these types of issues?