It's been two years since Mitsubishi first launched the Xpander in the Philippines. Surprising isn't it?
Over the years, we've tried out the mid-spec GLS and the soon to be replaced range-topper, GLS Sport. We liked them for their daring exterior design, smart details on the inside, and its value for money. Thousands seemed to agree with our sentiments, and it quickly became the country's top-selling small MPV during its first year here.
But has time been kind to the Xpander? To answer that question, we thought we'd take the variant most seem to get, the GLX Plus. It's also a variant we haven't tested yet either. Perfect timing then.
When the Xpander first came out, there were a lot of comments about its styling. But whether you like it or loathe it, you have to give props to Mitsubishi for making it look, well, different. Sure, there are loads of them nationwide now so you'd be pretty much used to the look of it, but it was a totally different reaction the day it was launched.
There's the quirky headlight arrangement for instance. The lights themselves are on the bumper, which looks like an oversized set of fog lights. Meanwhile, the slim bit of lights at the top is actually the daytime running lights. Think of its front end design like the Nissan Juke's, albeit less polarizing. The space-age theme of the exterior might not be to everyone's taste, but it's certainly out of the ordinary.
The rest of the body is more conventional. As you'd expect in an MPV, it's fairly slab-sided with tall, upright flanks. The windows are large and the ever so trendy 'floating roof' look is present here too. At the back, the taillights are of interest, and the tailgate has some form of 'X' theme going on there too. I mean, Mitsubishi did call it the Xpander.
But the thing about the GLX Plus variant is that it doesn't look entry-level from the outside. There's no badge at the back signifying it the most affordable one with an automatic, but there are subtle hints here and there. The biggest giveaway is the grill as it's gloss back and not chrome as seen in the GLS. In fact, it's mostly devoid of chrome but from the side, it's hard to tell one from another. Even the wheels are the same as the higher-spec variants. It's nice that Mitsubishi didn't make the base model look, well, basic.
Sweeps, lines, and curves greet you when you get inside the Xpande. It's certainly in tune with the whole theme of the exterior. But despite that, everything is laid out logically; buttons, switches, and dials are exactly where you'd expect them. What amused me in the Xpander is the look and feel of some of the panels. On the surface, you think it's soft-touch materials and when you touch them, you've given the impression that you're in something more expensive. It's when you start tapping it when you realize that it's actually hard plastic. It's pretty clever how Mitsubishi made a cabin feel more upmarket without resorting to using more expensive materials.
This being an MPV, you expect loads of space from front to rear and the Xpander delivers. Being the longest, widest, and tallest in this class, you can stretch out a bit in here despite the (still) relatively small dimensions. The second-row, in particular, is a nice place to be in with its well-padded seats. Plus, I like the fact that there are loads of storage pockets which should keep the cabin as clutter-free as possible. There's even a fair amount of space in the third-row too, more so if you slide the second-row forward. That's something even the Montero Sport doesn't have.
Speaking of things the Montero Sport doesn't have, the Xpander has a great third-row seating mechanism. Simply pull a tab and, well, that's it. No more fumbling around with seat bottoms and backrests; it's an easy, one-step thing to do in the Xpander. How I wish the next-generation Montero Sport would adopt the same thing.
There's something about the Xpander that reminds me of an older Mitsubishi model. It's got a relatively small footprint, it seats seven, and it has pretty space-age styling. I'm reminded of the Space Wagon of the early '90s because of their similarities.
Like most, if not all, of its peers, the Xpander is powered by a 1.5-liter engine. It makes a shade over 100 PS (105 to be exact) while torque is rated at 141 Nm. Transmission is a rather antiquated four-speed automatic, but it's surprising how it bodes well with the entire package, as I'll explain later.
Despite that four-speed transmission, the Xpander still delivered a fantastic fuel economy. See, fewer gears would typically mean less efficiency but it's not the case here. In extremely light traffic, it managed 18 kilometers per liter while steadily cruising at 50 to 60 km/h. In heavy traffic, it's still an impressive 9.8 kilometers per liter. Even when I reached gridlock levels, the Xpander simply refused to dip below 8 kilometers per liter. If Mitsubishi could make the Xpander this efficient with a four-speed, I can only imagine how much more of a fuel sipper it will be with a six-speed or a CVT.
As for the driving experience, well, it's honestly nothing to write home about but that's perfectly fine. This is a family MPV after all and fun isn't exactly the priority here. The steering is light, almost devoid of feel and feedback. Not good news for enthusiasts but that also makes it such an easy MPV to drive around traffic and park. Handling is good for what it is with a good amount of road-holding when the going gets a little bit twisty. Driving the Xpander is as stress-free and effortless as they come, making it a great daily runabout.
Then there's the ride and it's not harsh or choppy at all. In fact, it's a bit on the soft side. Given how bad our roads can get, it's good to know that you're not going to feel tired after spending hours in one. Some may find the Xpander a bit on the wallowy side though, but I'd rather have that than get my back getting constantly pounded by road imperfections.
It's comfortable, fuel-efficient, easy to drive (and park), and hugely practical. However, there's one thing that did bother me about this base Xpander: the price.
When it was first released, it started at Php 960,000, making it an absolute bargain. Fast forward two years and that's shot up to Php 1,075,000. That's a price bump of over Php 100,000. It came as a bit of a shock for me to be honest. It's more expensive than its equivalent competitors, namely the Honda BR-V S at Php 1,035,000 and the Toyota Rush at Php 1,008,000.
But here's the thing, the Xpander GLX Plus is relatively well equipped and the entire car is well thought out and put together. I wish it did have stability control to make it an even more compelling package and further enhance its value proposition. It's really up to you if you're willing to put down the extra cash. Alternately, you can save up a little bit more for the variant above it, the GLS, for an additional Php 35,000.
However, if you take price out of the equation, what you get is one of the best small MPVs you can get out there. I think you'll find that thousands of owners will agree.