Having spent my entire adult life in the readymade garment industry commonly referred to as the rag trade, when I was asked to test a Xpander, my first thoughts were to the driving pants we used to manufacture in Sri Lanka for exports with an expander waist band which had adjustable elastic waist straps at either end of the waist which could be released when one was in the driving seat to allow a few more inches of waist space for comfort on long journeys. So I wondered, should I get appropriately dressed for this test, so that I can shed my pants at short notice and don the expanders?, But my apprehension was short lived when I was told that it was an offering from the stables of United Motors in the form of their latest MPV or small people carrier, the Mitsubishi Xpander. I was certainly relieved that I did not have to drop my pants at the Hyde park corner showroom of Mitsubishi, lest I be associated with all the political clowns that frequently disrobe in close proximity to Hyde park corner and Lipton circus.
The Xpander is an Asian specific model (for the moment) manufactured by Mitsubishi in Indonesia and was launched in 2017 at their auto show; and since then demand has grown in leaps and bounds and the vehicle is currently sold in Malaysia, Thailand ,Philippines, Vietnam and some African countries in addition to Sri Lanka. The demand has been unprecedented and Mitsubishi has had to up their production from its earlier 100,000 units to 120,000, with a planned expansion to 150,000 shortly.
It is a seven seat people carrier dubbed a MPV and is based on a car platform. It is developed in the new Mitsubishi design idiom called Dynamic Shield design which focuses on 3 gladiatorial like shield elements that give one the impression of safety and impregnability. In one of our previous issues Gishanka tested the small SUV Eclipse and he was pretty impressed with the design and I must say I concur, with this new found design mojo of Mitsubishi.
The Xpander looks fabulous to my eyes and the front is quite revolutionary with the daytime running lights mounted on the bonnet and the head and fog lamps mounted below on the front bumper and supplementary driving lights mounted on the under bumper. The swept back grille with the three diamond badge lends a very sporty look to the front in a sort of American inspired butch way.
The front wheel arches are flared, very flared and are squared off with a sort of a flat deck. The side feature line starts at the front door and extends to the rear lights. The side profile with the large attractively styled mirrors and the nicely styled gray and polished aluminium alloys on 205/55 x 16 Bridgestone Ecopia low resistance tyres complete a pretty picture.
Mitsubishi claim that they have removed the droopy eye rear light design of the Montero and instead have straightened the rear lights with an element going up the D pillar, whilst I do agree that it is an improvement, I feel the designer lost a bit of his bravado towards the rear end as it is a bit timid compared to the aggression shown on the front and the sides, however it is no great criticism as I love what Mitsubishi has done to this MPV.
Mech & Tech
Currently the Xpander is a one engine model and is fitted with the 4A91 Mitsubishi engine which is a 1499cc displacement 16 valve dual overhead valve unit with MIVEC variable valve timing. To give you its full Japanese mouthful idiosyncratic name it is Mitsubishi Innovative Valve Timing Electric Control, so much for acronyms.
The gearbox is a four step CVT unit coupled to the 105ps @ 6000rpm engine which also has 141NM of twisting force at 4000 rpm. The vehicle is equipped with electric power steering, electric windows and mirrors, hill start assist, rear view camera with park sensors etc. It is a great family vehicle as the seven seats have many seat variations and flexible loading arrangements.
Another great feature is the rear roof mounted aircon vent which is a boon to the third row passengers, There are plenty of cup holders and bottle holders and power sockets for all three rows with slim spaces for mobile phones and tablets, so it is indeed designed with the tech needs of the modern generation and will keep most families happy and connected on the move. The wide 2 DIN display panel is touch activated and provides the usual myriad of info that motorists demand and are accustomed to. The main panel also has a digital display with on-board computer to give you consumption/range and speed data etc.
The seats are full leather which is a surprise in this segment but lacks the power feature. The electric rack and pinion steering has a nice chunky leather covered wheel with multi-functional ability to enhance your tactile senses and convenience.
Keyless entry using a small touch sensitive button on the handle is again a luxury touch in this segment and provides easy ingress. The Seats are pretty commodious and comfortable and provide ample adjustment. The seat back adjustment has a millimeter roll and one can adjust very precisely to one’s seating demand. There is plenty of head and leg room all round.
The steering too is the telescopic variety and can be adjusted for height and rake. As the car is equipped with thick soundproof glass all-round with a special sound absorbing sandwich layer, you could hardly hear the engine on start up using the push start button. One might say that a four step transmission is rather outdated in todays” world of sixes, sevens, eights and more but you need different horses for different courses and this is one such case.
This is a people carrier with comfort and space and ergonomics and economy taking precedence over pace and quite surprisingly I found the Xpander very drivable and the power ample with the camera crew of three, maybe it might labour a bit if burdened with heavy baggage etc, but I didn’t find it particularly lethargic.
The CVT transmission is quite smooth and surprisingly adequate and delivers what’s needed, step down is rapid and the torque spread is about right though I would have preferred if it started at around 1500/1750 rpm.
Comfort and NVH levels are extremely good and the McPherson strut/coil and torsion beam suspension system delivers outstanding comfort. The ventilated disc/ Drum arrangement is over engineered to cope with the extra loads of passengers and cargo and feels reassuring.
On full blown acceleration the car progresses very smoothly without any reluctance to the legal speed limits and beyond, I saw an indicated 120 kmh in relative quiet without any wind noise etc and the manufacturer claims it will see off 160kmh at the top end. No acceleration figures are quoted for the 100kmh sprint and we couldn’t put a clock to it either, but I reckon it would be circa 13 secs. You might consider this rather pedestrian, but for a seven seat people carrier it is not that bad and believe me, when you drive it you don’t yearn for more power, though that’s always a bonus if available.
The MPV drives very much like a car and it corners way better than other people carriers based on ladder frames do. The steering feel is also very car like and tactile and pretty nicely weighted with the progressive electric assistance. Though one might expect me to say quite otherwise, I must say I quite liked the way the Xpander drives and handles and does what it has set out to do, which is carry medium sized families, in-laws included - in safety and comfort and in style, which it is capable of doing very competently. Full marks to Mitsubishi then, for a job well done.
Living with the XPander
With a bit of compromise on the second row seating, this vehicle can easily accommodate seven adults in comfort. Even with my six foot frame I could fit in the third row with plenty of head room available. Creature comforts are great with the roof mounted rear aircon vents and armrests and power sockets at hand and the facility to carry even one litre bottles on offer. Map pockets and parking ticket holders are the trivia that Mitsubishi have addressed.
If you feel like kicking your shoes off on long journeys there is a shoe tray under the front seats so that you don’t have to be stepping on them all the while. The second and third row of seats fold flat to provide you with a cavernous amount of cargo space, large enough, even to lug your washing machine or refrigerator or take a nap on an overnight trip. The four speaker audio system with DVD/MP3 player seems adequate enough in sound quality and seems par for the course.
With a ground clearance of 205mm the X pander could safely navigate all the urban rough and tumble that it confronts, much the same way as a small SUV would do and that’s a great versatility, worth having.
Since the Xpander is not yet exported to Europe no ENCAP ratings are available, but come with dual airbags and knee protectors, ABS and EBD. It has two useful ISOFIX points to carry your kids and babies safely. Parking sensors and rear camera and an immobilizer system also ensures ones’ own safety and those of passersby and pedestrians. Active stability control and traction control will also ensure safety in mobility. As it is a people carrier weighing almost 1200 kgs the hill start assist function would also be a boon for most drivers especially ladies.
Fuel Economy & Price
The quoted consumption is 9km/litre in the city and 14 km for the combined cycle, and with a 45 litre fuel tank, stops at the petrol pumps may be a rare occurrence. The engine is designed to run on 90 octane or above, so with the recent petrol price discounts and more to come as election bonanzas; your burden on the purse would be minimal. The ticketed price for the model is Rs 7,590,000 currently, and the price is valid till end December only, due to the price vagaries in our market. At this price point there are not many seven seat competitors, but it does pit it against other SUV offerings from gray importers. The price may be certainly attractive to the tour car operators as it affords both passenger and luggage capacity in excess of what’s available in this segment at this price.
Since its introduction, the Xpander has been voted Car Of The Year and the best family car in Indonesia and has accumulated nine motoring awards to date. It comes with a fabulous four year 100,000 km warranty, and three free services from one of the most reputable dealers in the country, which should give customers a great sense of security and peace of mind. It is attractively packaged with a choice of six body colours to choose from, and I would say should be the preferred choice for families with a few children as it caters to all of their needs.
As this is not a premium offering but one which caters as a utilitarian run about for medium families I would have preferred trading the leather seats option for electric adjustment and folding mirrors instead, if cost was a determinant for the choice. With growing families there is bound to be a lot of activity within the cabin, frolicking and stepping on seats especially with child seats mounted and spillage and exposure to sun and such abuse, so the manmade materials would withstand such extreme use, better than leather which would need some care, but that’s a choice one makes as leather certainly enhances your bragging rights to luxury.
With its car like steering and a 5.2 metre turning radius and 205mm ground clearance even Mom could handle this baby during the school and tuition run and navigate even through narrow lanes and monsoon puddles etc pretty comfortably. Other female friendly accoutrements like bag hooks and vanity mirrors too would enhance its appeal to the fairer sex.
As for me I quite like this vehicle as a great family runabout for all that it offers, it looks fabulous and appeals to my sense for customizing too. If dad was young at heart he doesn’t have to ditch his passion for modding and be dragged down by his family to embrace boredom as I have seen some really great customized Xpanders on forums. Certainly the MPV looks a bit under wheeled from a petrol heads view, especially with those widely flared wheel arches begging to be filled and I was envisioning what it would look like with a set of tasty 17 or 18 inch alloy wheels and a coloured graphic along the side feature line and some contrast paintwork on the grill slat with the diamond logo, hmmm wouldn’t that be a tasty family dish for dad to savour? Keep dreaming and check it out, as the Xpander offers you great possibilities to expand.
103bhp @ 6,000rpm
141Nm @ 4,000rpm
4 speed auto,
Rear: Torsion Beam
Front – Vent. Disc
Rear – Drum
Wheels & Tyres
205/55 R16 all round
Top speed 160km/h
Kerb Weight: 1,780kg
Fuel Tank: 45L
Boot Space: up to 1630L