A Mazda Bongo Review by Wade Montague — a pioneer who introduced the Mazda Bongo Friendee (Ford Freda) camper to the UK camping scene in 1997.
The Bongo family of vehicle drives so very well because — unlike most of its competition — it is not derived from a van. It was born as a luxury MPV. Due to coil spring suspension and disc brakes on each corner coupled with substantial anti-roll bars Mazda Bongo has excellent road manners.
If you push this Mazda camper hard in the bends it will not wander and wallow.
I still remember my first drive in a Bongo camper, 1996 Kobe Japan. I saw the roof going up on a forecourt and thought “I must own one of these”.
The test drive was like a calling, we had been involved in VW, Peugeot and Fiat based campers up until then, all based on vans and driving like vans.
Our first consignment of Mazda Bongos arrived in Southampton waters in early 1997. Every one had sold by spring 1997. Back in the day to have…
- 4 speed automatic as standard,
- sports coil spring suspension standard,
- Auto-Free-Top electric elevating roof standard,
- electric folding mirrors standard,
- electric windows,
- A/C all standard
… it was nothing short of a miracle. The rest is history as the cheeky Bongos wiped the floor with the competition.
Bongo racing never took off, but the fastest Bongo I ever drove was in 1997 a six month old 2WD manual, it flew.
See also: full Mazda Bongo specifications.
What do these Japanese campervans do best?
That is an easy question to answer. Mazda Bongo is a true MPV — a camper that provides an excellent high end everyday car for the 300 days each year when you only want a car. Go camping, overnighting, holidays — everything is already with you.
Mazda Bongo review gallery – click on images to see in full size.
Unlike Ratners we love our product, our own vehicles have toured most of mainland Europe several times. Customers have sent us photos go 321Away Montague conversions touring India.
These campers whether by design or by accident, looking from the front end, have a mischievous face. As if they are soliciting adventure.
Finally, there is no mad complex electronic wizardry ready to make the whole shooting match grind to an expensive stop at the road side. A conventional diesel engine, fuel pump driven from the crankshaft via a gear train. Only 3 valves per cylinder and away we go.
The Bongo motorhome, it’s superb ride and equipment list is the ideal canvass to put your personal stamp on. So many options are available for both the exterior and interior camper conversions.
It was 19 years since I first drove a Bongo, over two thousand camper sales later they still make me smile.
Wade Montague, 2016
This full Mazda Bongo review authored by Wade Montague. Wade Montague is the pioneer who introduced the Mazda Bongo to the UK camping scene. He’s also the father of the Mazda Bongo camper as we know them in the UK. He is also a founder 321Away (since 1997).
See also: Practical Motorhomes review of Montague Mazda