First impressions: Mitsubishi Xpander GLS

How does the mid-level variant fare?
by Jason Tulio | Nov 24, 2018
PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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The Mitsubishi Xpander was launched months ago, but it took some time before Mitsubishi Motor Philippines was able to secure demo units for the media to try out over a long drive. We were able to drive the Xpander briefly in Japan back in 2017 and when it first arrived in the country, but we’ve been eager for a longer test for ages. Now, we finally got to take the much-hyped MPV on a road trip.

Mitsu’s media drive took us from Metro Manila, through Subic, then to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan. The drive was a mix of highway stretches and provincial twisties, giving us a decent amount of time to form our impressions. Our unit was a GLS variant, which is the second most expensive in the lineup.

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The first thing that stood out for me is how deceptively roomy the Xpander is inside. It doesn’t look like it from the outside, but the interior feels cavernous at times. You’ll really notice it when you sit in the second row, and you feel just how much head- and legroom is available. It actually reminded me of the MPV’s ancestor (sort of), the Adventure. And speaking of the second row, the additional aircon vents and charging ports are a welcome touch. Cabin noise reduction is decent bar some wind noise on the highway and one other noticeable thing, but we’ll get to that later.

Likewise, you get plenty of space to move about in the front two seats. From there, you get to admire the dash layout, which is simple and sensible while still maintaining a stylish edge. Though I’m not too fond of some of the materials used (the plastics in particular feel less than sturdy), I appreciated the thought put into the design. Worth noting is the 7-inch touchscreen display, which is intuitive and well-positioned. The information display, meanwhile, is neat and legible, and I dig its Montero-inspired look.

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As for the exterior? That will forever remain divisive, and I also feel conflicted about it. I like the slim LED headlamps, the sharp lines, the Dynamic Shield grille, and the two-tone alloy wheels. The L-shaped tallights and the big, boxy halogen headlights, I can do without.

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As for how it performs on the road, the Xpander provides a very comfortable and stable ride. The well-bolstered fabric seats are worth mentioning in that regard, too. Mitsu explains that its shock absorbers feature high-performance valves inspired by the Evo X. The vehicle stays level through turns with little body roll, while the electric power steering is weighted just right. There’s a tendency for understeer, but no more than what you’d expect from a front-wheel-drive MPV.

The 1.5-liter DOHC engine, which puts out 103hp and 141Nm, provides enough power and torque for most tasks. While it could do with a bit more grunt for steep climbs (the FWD doesn’t help matters), it still gets the job done. And it’s quite economical, too. Our drive from Subic to Bataan, which required us to put some pressure on the accelerator, netted us a respectable 10km/L.

My biggest gripe from our brief drive, though, was the transmission. The GLS operates on a four-speed automatic. Yes, only four gears. Unfortunately, it’s not the most perceptive system on the market. At times, it feels indecisive and skittish, unsure if it needs to downshift to help you on a hill ascent, or stay in the same gear and let the power come on gradually. It also tends to hold a gear longer than you’d like, resulting in a pronounced whir as the tachometer climbs—a sound that’s very audible from the driver’s seat. Paddle shifters, or even the ability to shift using the gear stick, would’ve been better.

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Also during this drive, Mitsu announced new prices for the Xpander. The MPV now retails for a starting price of P955,000, with this GLS going for P1,065,000. A noticeable jump, indeed, as the GLS was under P1,000,000 not too long ago.

We’ll put up our comprehensive review once we’re able to borrow a test unit. We’ll also try out the manual variant to see if having an extra gear helps improve performance. Stay tuned. 

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PHOTO: Jason Tulio
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