Still a strong contender
A lot of great products remained successful because their manufacturers stuck to the original recipe, and that's what I think Mitsubishi did for the Xpander.
As far as MPVs are concerned, many consider the original Mitsubishi Xpander as one of the most impressive in its class. Back when it was launched in 2017, the small 7-seater became an instant hit not just in the country, but all over ASEAN. It's the MPV that showed everyone that family cars don't have to look boring with its bold styling and demonstrated driving dynamics that make you want to drive it on a daily basis.
As expected, Mitsubishi's rivals took notice. Five years had already passed, and new competitors have already emerged. Not to mention, some of the Xpander's old rivals have evolved into totally new models, adopting much of the Xpander's proven traits. In cases like these, an older vehicle could find itself on the back foot, but with this model refresh, Mitsubishi took care of most (take note, most) of the areas that the Xpander needed to improve upon.
Let's start with the looks. Mitsubishi stuck with the “Dynamic Shield” grille for the refreshed model and now offers an unobstructed view as the license plate has been repositioned to the lower part. In my opinion, the busier look still remains a love-it-or-hate-it affair, but it has nevertheless made the Xpander look fresh style- and equipment-wise with the T-shaped LED headlights.
When you look at it from the side, the difference between the pre-facelift model and this new one would likely be down to the bigger 17-inch wheels and the taller ride height. It now has 225mm of ground clearance; the effect is something I would discuss in a few paragraphs from here.
Meanwhile, the rear end has a new set of LED taillights with some sort of smoked effect on the lenses. Sharper lines and creases have made their way to the tailgate, while the rear bumpers get a wider look with the reflectors placed vertically on the edges.
Mitsubishi may have updated the dashboard, but it still has a well-thought-out layout. They chose simpler lines and shapes for the refreshed model's dashboard, which I think gave the cabin a more upscale look along with new soft-touch materials found on the door cards and center armrest. Instead of the pre-facelift model's knobs, the 2022 Xpander now has toggle switches for the A/C controls. Functionality-wise, I think both are just as easy to use, and it looks like Mitsubishi only did it for a more cohesive look.
The instrument cluster has updated graphics, but I think the most important update is in the infotainment system. The new unit has improved graphics and interface, plus it now has smartphone connectivity such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The seats, aside from a new stitch pattern, have larger bolsters compared to the previous one, while second-row occupants get cupholders on the center armrest.
Aside from that, the rest has been largely carried over from the pre-facelift model, and I'm saying that is a good thing. From the ease of folding the seats to generous amounts of cubby holes, Mitsubishi really didn't need to change much inside as it's already such a well-thought-out interior.
Powering the refreshed Xpander is the same 1.5-liter MIVEC gasoline engine with 105 PS and 141 Nm of torque. Now back when it was first launched, most would have preferred a diesel; but given today's fuel prices, the small-displacement gasoline engine makes a lot more sense.
However, while Mitsubishi got away with putting in a four-speed auto in 2017, it's a different story in 2022. Having driven newer small 7-seater MPVs and 1.5-liter engined crossovers with CVTs, the Xpander's four-speed auto shows its age in terms of fuel economy. In our previous tests with the pre-facelift model, we averaged around 9 km/l in the city, but now with the refreshed model, I can barely do 8 km/l.
So what would have made it worse? Luckily, I found the answers. In the same week, I had the Xpander, we were also reviewing its Nissan twin, the Livina. As we all know, the Livina was based on the pre-facelift Xpander, so I was able to tell the difference between the two.
From a standstill, the Livina was able to get up to speed quicker, and with less throttle effort than the Xpander. The reason behind this is down to the smaller wheels on the Livina. With the new Xpander, you have to be a bit more liberal with the throttle to get going, and that means more revs. More revs, equals more fuel burned. Hence, the lower fuel economy numbers.
But despite being more thirsty in the city, the new Xpander returned better fuel economy numbers on the highway, averaging around 16 km/l. So how did this happen? Thirstier in the city, but more frugal on the highway?
Well, it's also because of the larger wheels, and overcoming the thing called rotational inertia. Indeed, it is easier to get a smaller wheel and tire moving than a larger one. But once moving, the engine has to work harder to make the smaller wheel cover the same distance as the larger one. It's a tradeoff that Mitsubishi has gambled on, which I think also benefitted the Xpander more.
The new Xpander exhibited better driving manners, as the added ride height and bigger wheels soaked up road imperfections better and made the MPV more stable at high speeds, adding to the Xpander's refinement that's already considered one of the best in its class.
With that said, I'm still asking a bit more from the Xpander, as I believe it could do better with a CVT. The four-speed auto has its revs up to almost 3000 rpm while doing 100 km/h. The CVT is miles ahead of a conventional slushbox when it comes to keeping revs down. And when you have your revs lower, that means the engine can sip less fuel.
That's pretty much what I see as the lone chink in the Xpander's armor, as Mitsubishi kept its interior equipment up to date while retaining the versatility and driving manners that make it a very good reference on how a 7-seater MPV should be. At PHP 1.180 million, it still offers a well-rounded package with the amount of equipment compared to its newer three-row MPV rivals.
Sure, there are other options out there that have better safety tech, equipment, and amenities. But when it comes to engineering and build quality, the Mitsubishi Xpander is still very hard to beat. Its long waitlist, speaks for itself.