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Making the MPV segment look good

2019 Mitsubishi Xpander GLS Sport 1.5G AT

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After a week with the reigning and defending best-selling small multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), I have to say it’s so deserving in more ways than one.

Let’s start with the looks. Flaunting that ‘Dynamic Shield’ design, it looks so futuristic and less MPV, more high-performance vehicle. You see it on the nose (from the grille all the way down to the airdam), and this is just half of what the design really wants to convey. The other half is a sense of protection via shield-like headlamp casings bordered by chrome strips that point inward. Unique, is the first thing that comes to mind when you see those headlamps. Now you’ll know why it looks the way it does the next time you happen upon an Xpander.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the daytime running lights (DRLs) are positioned right beside the grille, on top of the headlamps. This way, according to Mitsubishi, pedestrians can easily spot the DRLs while reducing the headlamp’s glare to oncoming traffic.

Instead of the standard skid plate, this trim comes with a front, side and rear airdams. It does not affect the performance whatsoever, but it does make it look a whole lot prettier.

Both sides are highlighted by a deep line that traces from the front door all the way to the taillights. Not surprisingly, it also displays a more modest version of the ‘shield’.

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As stylish as it is on the outside, the interior carries a more modest arrangement. Seats are fabric and the only leather to be found is on the steering wheel. It also comes with cruise controls on the right and audio controls on the left. The ‘shield’ effect continues subliminally but only on the corner aircon vents. I expect its next iteration should come with a more uniform ‘shield’ implementation for better overall impact.

Its instrument panel is simple but has a high contrast meter and a colored multi-information display, which is great to look at and easy on the eyes. It has a trip computer and even eco-driving indicators.

Atop the center vents is a seven-inch touchscreen that runs the multimedia system. It is equipped with GPS navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, plus USB and AUX-in ports. There’s a short learning curve to figure out the menu system in order to access various settings, but it won’t take too long even for the tech-challenged. If there’s one gripe though, the volume jumps by increments of ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. I wasn’t able to find a setting to adjust it properly. In the end, I just had to settle for either slightly low or slightly loud volume when listening to the radio.

The 1.5L gasoline engine is pretty sufficient even for its 1.24-ton body. It sends 105 PS and 141 Nm of torque to the two front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission. Shifting is smooth although it takes a tad longer than it should to upshift; especially from first to second gear even under normal driving situations. You can get it to downshift much earlier by releasing the throttle as soon as the right speed for the gear is attained.

It doesn’t have an Eco switch to dampen the engine’s performance for higher fuel efficiency but the eco coach guides you by indicating how much fuel you’re consuming on every leg of the drive. My best mark on a holiday weekday run on EDSA was 15.8 kilometers per liter driving at an average speed of 70 km/h.

Like most MPVs, it uses a MacPherson strut suspension system up front and torsion beams on the rear. Its car-based platform makes the drive quiet, comfortable and very sedan-like for a tall vehicle. I say that because of all the MPVs, the Xpander that has the highest ground clearance at 205 mm.

Electronic steering makes the feel very light, which is deceiving of its curb weight but then again, it makes it easy to take around traffic in Metro Manila. I’d take the latter, which is the lesser of two evils.

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Overall, it is a terrific MPV — a looker, a consummate performer, and an efficient rider — to think it’s just a first generation model. I’m excited for what the update will bring in the future, but for now, at a very reasonable PhP 1.175 million, it’s no wonder Mitsubishi has a best-seller in their hands.

Text and photos by Eric Tipan

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