The Mitsubishi Xpander Cross wants to give you your money’s worth

The MPV to beat
by Niky Tamayo | Mar 11, 2020

“The Xpander Cross only comes in one flavor: fully loaded”


It’s exceedingly hot under the noonday sun, out here surrounded by towering stacks of shipping containers at Mitsubishi Motors PH’s new stockyard. In the six years since the Japanese automaker moved into its new South Luzon production facility, it has expanded quite a bit. Behind the new stamping plant, hidden behind rows and rows of brand-new G4 sedans, down streets that wind around and between warehouses and utility sheds, the company’s latest addition provides a discreet location in which to shoot today’s subject.

While we’d much rather be doing this on a winding mountain road, Mitsubishi is eager to keep its new car under wraps until the official introduction. A valid concern, given the car has been eliciting sidelong glances and excited questions since the tarp came off inside the factory this morning. Because there is nothing on the road quite like the Xpander Cross, Mitsubishi’s all-new seven-seat crossover-MPV.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

Well, nothing except the original Xpander. Thanks to its quirky looks, a modern, all-new unibody chassis, a frugal 1.5-liter engine, and surprisingly good space, this small seven-seater has come to dominate a market awash in small seven seaters. Last year alone, it accounted for 30% of Mitsubishi’s sales, establishing itself as the best-selling subcompact multipurpose vehicle on the market.

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But with customers increasingly drawn to crossovers and sport-utility vehicles, a race has begun to develop crossover-MPVs. It’s a party which Mitsubishi is arriving fashionably late at with the new Xpander Cross, which replaces the old Xpander Sport. While the Xpander Sport had a ride height trumping that of many so-called crossovers, Mitsubishi couldn’t market it as one. Not without the visual kit and accessories that buyers have come to associated with the label.

Well, it can now.

PHOTO: Christian Halili

The Xpander Cross takes the basic Xpander formula and adds a touch of machismo. Square and chunky black plastic side cladding and over-fenders add 50mm to the car’s width and provide some welcome protection from dings and dents. The rising character line of the cladding also helps give the vehicle a sleeker profile. Chunky front and rear fender over-riders provide the Cross a more square-jawed presence than the regular Xpander, adding another 25mm of length in the process.

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And finally, a suspension lift and bigger 17-inch wheels shod in 205/55 tires add an extra inch of clearance. Yes, all that kit isn’t just for looks. The Xpander Cross’s 225mm of ground clearance is higher than the ground clearance of many full-size SUVs.

PHOTO: Christian Halili

This is nothing new for Mitsubishi. The brand has a history of making quirky vans and MPVs, like the four-wheel-drive Delica that was such a hit among Subic importers back in the day, and the locally sold Space Wagon, which was a common fixture on local roads in the ’90s. The Space Wagon, which shared a lot of mechanicals with the Lancer of the time, even came with turbocharging and all-wheel drive. Unfortunately, not here.

The Xpander Cross doesn’t feature turbocharging and all-wheel drive. None of its competitors do, either. It does use a Lancer engine, though—a 103hp 1.5-liter variant of the four-cylinder gasoline engine in the Lancer EX. Mated here to the same long-legged automatic as the regular Xpander, it doesn’t feel underpowered, not even with a full load. The four-cylinder 4A91 develops 141Nm of torque (more than most of its competitors) at a relatively low (for a gasoline engine) 4,000rpm, giving it good off-the-line pickup.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

Despite the rear drums, braking power is strong and easy to modulate, and there’s standard stability control now to rein in any tail-wagging tendencies. Not that we expect any here. The big Dunlop Enasave tires are reasonably quiet and grippy, providing nice and flat handling as we scoot around the container yard. There’s precious little body roll, thanks to a suspension stiffened to cope with the bigger wheels and extra travel. But thanks to the 2,775mm wheelbase (longest in class), the Xpander Cross has a more settled ride than the average small seven while still maintaining a relatively tight 5.2-meter turning radius. Combined with a tall seat height and a short, square nose, this makes the Mitsubishi much easier to U-turn in tight spaces than many other long-wheelbase cars.

That long wheelbase also gives the Xpander best-in-class legroom, making it a realistic proposition for seven-up seating. As with all small sevens, it’s a tight fit in the second row for the wide of girth, but the ceiling-mounted rear blower makes up for it by keeping the cabin cool, even in this searing heat. All familiar stuff from the regular Xpander, as are the fold-flat rear seats and the large cargo area—big enough for our clunky camera gear, even with the third row up—but the two-tone chocolate leatherette seats and the matching cabin accents are new. The seats finally give family-type owners a spill-proof cabin—one that is also equipped with multiple Isofix child-seat mounting points in the rear.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

The Xpander Cross only comes in one flavor: fully loaded. As it replaces the top-of-the-line GLS Sport in the Xpander hierarchy, it gets all the bells and whistles, and more. On the infotainment side, this means a high-mounted seven-inch screen with an integrated parking camera function, built-in GPS, Bluetooth connectivity, and the same EasyCon smartphone mirroring system as in other Mitsubishis.

While not quite as seamless in operation as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto—lacking on-screen touch control for some apps—it does boast good response time and excellent screen-mirroring quality and video playback, as well as decently powerful sound. It does take some fiddling to tune that sound to your liking, but there’s a multi-band equalizer function that allows you to get it just right. Radio reception also gets a boost thanks to a new shark-fin antenna up top—an unexpected bonus on top of a goodie package that also includes tiller-mounted controls, cruise control, keyless entry, and push-button start.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

None of this comes cheap. The Xpander Cross will retail at P1,255,000. That represents a modest price jump over the old GLS Sport, but you do get so much more, inside and out. We thought we’d have to wait until the launch to get the price—Mitsubishi was understandably tight-lipped about it during our shoot—but as we wrapped up shooting for the day, word came down that the event was canceled over COVID-19 concerns in the city. A shame, we were so looking forward to it.

But such news can’t dampen our enthusiasm for the Xpander Cross. Sure, it’s just an Xpander on stilts. But it offers the same unmatched utility, powerful drivetrain, and modern comfort that other competitors have yet to match—only now with more kit, more presence, and that little extra layer of security that comes from the crossover treatment. We must admit, we were skeptical coming into this shoot, but at the end of the day, the Xpander, ‘double-crossed’ or not, is still the MPV to beat in 2020.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili
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