Inigo S. Roces / Kelvin Christian Go | August 08, 2018 07:56
The Comfortable Choice
If there’s anything we can thank excise tax for, it’s turning our attention to a new, blooming category, the B-segment MPV. This year, there seems to be a lot of activity in this segment. We’re having a look at a car that has lots of buyers talking, the Mitsubishi Xpander. Mitsubishi announced the vehicle’s arrival as early as last year, and while the arrival of the Toyota Rush may have stolen some of its thunder, the lines for an Xpander continue to be long.
That may partly be due to the Xpander’s standout design. Like all current Mitsubishis, the Xpander carries the Dynamic Shield design language. This is composed of four shields in the façade that meet in the center to provide passengers a feeling of safety and protection. The Xpander takes a page from the Nissan Juke’s design by positioning Daytime Running Lamps (DRL) on the hood and moving the headlights further down on the body. Foglamps have been moved lower, on either side of a center skid plate (more visible on variants without the bodykit).
Towards the side, it features broad, boxy haunches over the wheels. A character line stretches from the front door to the back. And like the Toyota Fortuner, there’s a notch on the rearmost windows to give it a floating roof look.
Behind, Mitsubishi seems to have learned from the Montero Sport, this time, stretching the taillight upward to avoid the "crying eyes" look derided by many. That leads the eyes to the integrated spoiler up top. While on the bottom, it takes on sporty design cues with corner reflectors and a center diffuser and skid plate with integrated foglamp.
Being a GLS Sport, it’s fitted with a rather modest skirt set and 16-inch wheels with a laser cut two-tone pattern as standard.
Getting into the Xpander is easy. It comes with a smart key fob that you can keep in your pocket. Once at the driver-side door, press the button on the door handle and it unlocks. Inside are fabric seats, even in this top-of-the-line model. Nonetheless, there’s a wide variety of adjustment. The steering wheel has tilt and telescopic settings. The seat offers fore and aft sliding, back rest, and even seat height adjustment. This makes it easy to see over the relatively high dashboard.
Ahead of the driver is the instrument cluster with analog speedometer and tachometer dials with adjustable brightness. There’s a multi info display in between that shows fuel and temperature readings, along with trip info and fuel consumption. The wheel itself features a sculpted rim with remote buttons for the stereo, as well as cruise control in the GLS Sport.
In the center of the dash is a large touchscreen infotainment system with soft touch buttons. In this trim, it comes with navigation and a back-up camera, but no CD player. The OS also allows for screen mirroring with a smart phone. There’s also connections via USB, Bluetooth and Aux.
Lower on the dash are the aircon controls dials, and while precise temperatures can’t be set, it’s more than enough. There’s also a USB, Aux, and power outlet just underneath. On the passenger side is a little tray for storing coins or pens just above the glove box.
The Xpander seems purposely designed for techy passengers. There’s another power outlet in the center console and one in the third row. There are thin slots seemingly taylor-made for cellphones and tablets all over, too.
In the second row, is a bench seat. It has a folding armrest and 3-point seatbelts for all. Passengers here also get their own vents mounted on the ceiling, though it works more like a blower than a dual aircon system.
With just a flick, the second row seats can fold and tumble forward for easy access to the third row. Take note, there are also clips on the side to secure seatbelts so you don’t trip over them going in.
The third row, when stowed is not entirely flat; there’s a slight angle to it. Still, its felt surface makes it easy to load cargo. The seats are pulled up with just a tug on the strap. They’re stowed just as easily with another. Of course, these seats can be pretty tight for adults, even if the second row is slid all the way forward. Nonetheless, they come with armrests with cupholders and cubby holes.
As for luggage, with the third row seats up, there’s just enough space for a week’s groceries. Fold the seat down and there’s much more usable space. Under a hatch is even more compartments to store sensitive items away from prying eyes. A little cover in one of the compartments also provides access to the nut that holds up the spare tire to prevent it from being stolen.
Ride and drive
Powering the Xpander is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with MIVEC valve timing. Being the top-spec GLS Sport, the engine is paired with a four-speed automatic that drives the front wheels. Other trim models can be specified with a five-speed manual however. Granted, it’s not exactly cutting edge or class leading, but it’s surprisingly versatile for a variety of situations. The throttle response is smooth and the gear shifts are barely perceptible in normal driving.
Because the Xpander is built on a car platform rather than a ladder frame, it still feels and drives like a car on the road. The only difference is the relatively high seating position. The electric power steering is nice and light yet still precise when it comes to inputs. Best of all, the ride is soft and comfortable and the noise suppression is very good — easily the best in its class.
Because the engine doesn’t have impressive specs on paper, many are asking, “Is it enough?” For city driving, there’s more than enough to get you moving along. Much of the torque comes in above 2,000 rpm, so it may not feel powerful initially, but gets rolling quickly from there.
Where some might find it lacking is at higher speeds or when it’s fully loaded. Being a gasoline engine, it will have to rev higher to get heavy loads moving along. Still, the kickdown from the four-speed auto wasn’t as rough as we were expecting. Nonetheless we don’t recommend any daring overtaking movies when fully loaded and driving out of town.
Perhaps the real revelation is how comfortable and easy to drive the Xpander is. It feels much wider inside than it looks, with lots of elbow and head room. Provided you’ve found the right adjustment, visibility is very good thanks to the broad windshield, large side mirrors and equipped back-up camera.
Safety-wise the Xpander is covered with a drive and passenger airbag, ABS, EBD, Hill Start Assist, and Stability Control.
Finally, the consumption is par for the course, getting 8-9 km/L in the city in heavy traffic with a couple of passengers. We haven’t had much experience with it in the highway yet to confidently provide its consumption.
In summary, the Xpander may not be class-leading in ground clearance, or speed, but it’s by far one of the most comfortable and easiest to use in this segment yet.
It’s easy to adjust to, whether you’re coming from a small or big car, or it being your first. The ride is supremely comfortable and its flexible interior is easy to figure out.
Is it good enough to carry on the legacy of the Adventure? Without a doubt. In fact, it sets the bar much, much higher.
Priced at P1,060,000 for the GLS Sport, the only downer for this top-of-the-line model is the lack of any soft-touch material in the dash and door cards. Besides that, it’s quite a bargain, and likely more so if you’re willing to forego some of the bells and whistles. Just be prepared to wait as Mitsubishi is ramping up production to meet the high demand for this car.