When you’ve made something truly great, more often than not, it’s hard to improve it even further —take Krispy Kreme with their honey glazed donuts for example. The donut shop has kept the same recipe for their honey glazed donuts for the longest time. Today, it remains a favorite in most households and is no doubt their best seller.
If you’re wondering why I’m suddenly talking about food in a car review, that’s because the same logic applies to cars — cars like the Mitsubishi Xpander.
Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) first launched the Xpander back in 2017, and it became an instant hit with motorists all over the ASEAN region. To give you an idea of how popular the model is in the country, it even outsold the Mirage this 2020. It wasn’t until we finally got to review the popular MPV (in GLX Plus, GLS, and GLS Sport trims) did we see what the fuss was about. Some of us reckoned it was even close to perfect as far as MPVs were concerned.
Two years after the Xpander’s global debut, MMC launched an upgraded version called the Xpander Cross. Now, we’ve finally got our hands on it. Did Mitsubishi make an already great vehicle even better with this new model? Well, I suggest you read on.
Let’s start with the styling. Whether you like the look of the standard Xpander it or not, you have to commend Mitsubishi for being different. The Xpander Cross enhances by getting a more rugged look. There's a new bumper with an integrated (plastic) skid plate together with a new dark chrome grille. Together with the thick black body molding, 17-inch wheels, roof rails, and new rear bumper, the Xpander Cross now looks like a baby off-roader as opposed to an MPV for the city. Also, the new Sunrise Orange Metallic color will certainly get heads turning, which this tester sadly doesn't have.
No doubt the best upgrade on the Xpander Cross would be the new LED headlights and fog lights. While the halogen units on the standard Xpander were already good as is, the LEDs light up the road better. It even gives a nice, dynamic touch to the Xpander Cross.
I do have a small gripe with the new design of the Xpander Cross though – the wheel fitment. I wished Mitsubishi used better fitting wheels on the model. Because of the thick fender moldings, the wheels, especially the rear, sit deep inside the fenders. It makes the car look somewhat like Hot Wheels or Tomica toys with its tall stance.
On the topic of stance, one of the reasons the Xpander Cross looks like a rugged SUV is its tall ride height. It's 10 mm higher off the ground compared to the standard Xpander. According to Mitsubishi, it has 225 mm of ground clearance which is “class-leading”. We don’t doubt that claim since it does look the part.
While the exterior might look a lot different, step inside the Xpander Cross and you’ll find a very familiar cabin — assuming you have been inside the regular Xpander. The design has been carried over from front to rear. If you are upgrading to the Cross, you’ll find everything is in its original place. Even the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system appears to be the same. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but hey, at least you have Bluetooth and screen mirroring via Wi-Fi.
As we see it, the only changes are the seats which are now lined in black-brown leather and matching brown accent on the dashboard. Though it may be hard to tell, the steering wheel also gets matching brown stitches. And yes, all the space to put your stuff has been retained including the undertray.
Interestingly, the leather seats of the Cross feel a lot more comfortable as compared to the fabric lined seats found on the standard Xpander. This isn’t the case for just the front pair of seats — even the second and third row of seats feel more comfortable to sit on, especially when driving through pothole-filled roads of Metro Manila.
If you happen to carry cargo more often than people, the Xpander Cross can deliver on that front. The third-row seats can be folded flat and the second row can be tumbled forward for additional space. Meanwhile, the tray hidden underneath the trunk has been retained and can be utilized to carry smaller items.
Despite the rugged exterior, it's still an Xpander. There is no four-wheel drive for sure, with power still being sent to the front wheels. Under the hood, it still uses the same 1.5-liter inline-four engine which produces 105 PS and 141 Nm of torque. Even the transmission is the same: a four-speed automatic.
Because it uses the same engine as the Xpander, power delivery is still linear and the transmission feels responsive. But the best news here is its frugal fuel economy. Driving around Metro Manila with quarantine traffic, the trip computer displayed an average of 10.4 km/l (32 km/h average) in the Xpander Cross. If anything, it almost matches the standard Xpander.
But adding ride height did affect a few things. First, the ride feels stiffer as compared to regular Xpander. Driving along EDSA, you feel more road imperfections even with the more comfortable leather seats. I assume this has something to do with Mitsubishi tweaking the suspension to raise the ride height.
Mind you, the bumpier ride doesn't make it unbearable, but it is noticeable if you have driven or owned the "original" Xpander. On the flip side, you do get a lot more ground clearance similar to an SUV - making it perfect for passing through floods during the rainy season and for traveling on provincial roads that aren’t fully paved. The stiffer suspension also suggests that it can carry heavier loads over the standard model.
The extra clearance also had an impact on handling. While it still feels stable, body pitch and roll are more noticeable. While the Xpander Cross wasn't designed for high-speed cornering, the body pitches can unsettle some passengers. Thankfully, there's stability control to reel it all in when things get a little sketchy.
Apart from a (slightly) bumpier ride and nitpicking on the wheel fitment, Mitsubishi did well in improving its popular MPV. The interior looks a lot more upscale with the brown accents and leather seats. Outside, it looks tougher and now gets LED headlights, not to mention more ride height. But these improvements do come with a price; the Xpander Cross retails for PHP 1,255,000 which makes it expensive when compared to its closest competitors. It is also close to PhP 130,000 more than the Xpander GLS which now retails for PHP 1,128,000.
At that price, I expected more changes and improvements inside, apart from just the leather seats and new brown accents. An upgraded infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay would have been nice, along with an automatic climate control system. Speed-sensing door locks should have come standard as well.
Still, the Xpander Cross retains everything we liked about the original Xpander and enhanced it a little bit more. However, the cost of that improvement isn’t cheap, and its price is creeping dangerously close to SUVs and crossovers. It's not the perfect upgrade, but it is a sensible one given how crossover-crazy the world has become. If the price doesn't put you off, then, by all means, get the Xpander Cross.
Now, if only Mitsubishi would release a four-wheel-drive version of the Xpander Cross — that would be a real game-changer.