The Mazda Bongo is a line of vans that has been in production since 1966. However, the vehicle was mainly created for the domestic market in Japan so any Bongo that may have found its way to the United Kingdom is an unofficial import. The most popular of the Bongos to reach the country though would have to be the Bongo Friendee. While originally an eight-seater MPV, a lot of the Friendees that have been imported were converted into camper vans, which is a big hit for the UK market.
A Mazda Bongo Friendee is incredibly versatile. As it is, it is a great people carrier and still has enough room to move almost anything else you need. Seats can be folded down to become double beds and there are certain models with auto free tops that open up the roof to let two more people sleep on it. To complete the camper van experience, earlier Friendees were installed with small kitchens.
To extend versatility, Bongo Friendees offer three engine options: two petrol units and one diesel. This way, buyers are essentially given the choice to pick out an engine configuration that would best suit their needs. Automatic and manual transmission systems are also available, alongside the option for a rear-wheel-drive system or an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
As one man put it, it's not exactly cheap to get a Bongo. While you'd have to pay around £4,400 for the car, you still have to deal with maintenance costs, insurance, tax charges, and fuel and those will add up. However, being a camper van, the Bongo Friendee is ideal for families with children. Pile everything inside and head to the nearest campsite and you could very well be spending the best summer of your lives. And for most people, what the Friendee has allowed them to do and experience over the long run far outweighs whatever money they had to spend to acquire and run it.
The Mazda Bongo Friendee was only in production between 1995 and 2005. As such, any Friendee you will come across today would be a second-hand unit. This isn't necessarily a problem because many of the imports from Japan have been maintained well or at least have been shipped out before any considerable damage has been incurred. Even if you were interested in a Friendee earlier while it was still in production, you'll still be dealing mostly with imports anyway. Using a second-hand vehicle may not just sit well with you if you really wanted a Friendee that is yours from the very beginning.
A second-hand unit is still a second-hand unit so it's best to assume the worst when checking out a Bongo Friendee. After all, you can never be too sure what level of wear and tear the vehicle had to go through before it reached the other side of the world. Still, the Bongo is not without its own problematic quirks, issues that pop up regardless of whether or not you're using a second-hand unit. One of these problematic quirks is head gasket failure. The upside is that this can easily be avoided with regular maintenance.
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