There is really nothing wrong with being spoilt for choice and when it comes to the automotive marketplace, South Africans have a staggering array of options, especially considering how small this market is in world terms.
It does mean, however, there is a vehicle out there that should satisfy your particular need.
Adapting and changing to meet market needs and trends means automakers are regularly reconfiguring and updating product choices – and the Mitsubishi Xpander is just one such example, slotting into a niche in the framework where it is both a SUV and an MPV.
In the peer comparison it is only the Suzuki Ertiga and Toyota Avanza that fall into the frame, with the Mitsubishi edging slightly on standard specification, but also slightly more expensive than both the others. All are powered by a 1,5-litre petrol engine and all are automatic (manual is an option).
The Xpander is the largest of the three with an overall length of 4 475 mm and a width of 1 750 mm, translating into significantly enhanced rear seat passenger space, while not compromising on the actual carrying capacity that expands (see what I did there) from 781 litres to 1 608 litres with the seats folded.
The flexible seating can be configured to suit a variety of needs, ranging from carrying passengers and luggage to transporting lifestyle-focused items. The second and third-row seats have a 60/40 split, while the seats of the third row can be folded completely flat and stowed to create additional space in the cargo area. The latter also features a floor box with lid for safe storage of smaller items.
With a turning circle of 5,2 metres, the Xpander handles with the agility of a much smaller vehicle and the suspension in the Xpander has been solidly reinforced, which enhances the driving comfort.
The Xpander can fulfil multiple roles, not the least of which would be personnel transport for hotel guests and the like so comfort is an important aspect. Even though its primary role would be as an urban runabout, my time in the Xpander would easily have been comfy enough on a really long-haul trip.
As the newest of the three vehicles, the Xpander also has the lead in terms of looks, the slightly edgy styling coming from Mitsubishi’s so-called Dynamic Shield Design, which is intended to express not only performance, but also protection.
Front-face configurations of past-generation Mitsubishi models served to protect both the occupants and the vehicle. The new face with its black central area builds on this approach, but enhances it by adding a hint of sportiness and performance.
With sporty alloy wheels –16-inch of the automatic derivative – and wide flared fenders, the Xpander has clear headlights, daytime running lights and L-illuminated LED taillights that extend onto the tailgate add to the overall look.
Fully automatic air-conditioning with a manual rear overhead cooler, power windows all round, USB port in the front, 120-Watt power sockets to supply every row of seating and storage compartments under the seats come as standard.
Driver comfort is ensured through a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel that features Bluetooth voice control for hands-free communication and a multi-information display. The rear-view camera has a high resolution that delivers optimal visibility and a wide field of vision.
The 1,5-litre DOHC 16-valve aluminium block engine features Mitsubishi’s Intelligent Innovative Valve Timing Lift Electronic Control (MIVEC) system and ECI multipoint fuel injection and pushes out 77 kW at 6 000 r/min, with 141 Nm of peak torque on tap at 4 000 r/min.
Safety features include crash bags for the driver and front passenger, seatbelt pre-tensioners with force limiters, an anti-lock braking system with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), as well as an impact-absorbing structure at the front-end of the vehicle. Additional safety for young occupants is provided through ISOFIX child seat anchors.
The Xpander also benefits from an advanced all-direction collision reinforced impact safety evolution (RISE) body construction with side impact bars. Coming-home and welcome lights enhance the overall safety, security and practicality.
With a lot to like about the Xpander, fuel consumption is not one of them. Try as I might, I could not get the overall average on several runs through the cycle to below 7,9 l/100 km. Admittedly, this was a very new car with few kilometres on the clock and consumption may improve with a few more added.
However, Mitsubishi claims 7,0 l/100 compared to 6,2 l/100 for the Suzuki and 6,7 l/100 km for the Toyota so it does acknowledge its engine is a bit thirstier (and the Xpander is 60 kg heavier than the others).
Even with that, it is hard to be too critical – the Xpander is a pleasure to drive and the engine response to throttle input is quick and positive. Steering is nice and precise and the reverse camera makes parking a breeze.
The new Mitsubishi Xpander is covered by a 3-year/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty and a 2-year/30 000 km service plan. The price also includes 5-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance. Service intervals are set at 15 000 km/1 Year whichever comes first.