Evolution is such a fascinating thing to watch.
I'm not talking about the Lancer, but more of the way things constantly change around us. Like how the NBA went from a big-man game to small ball, and how we went from keypad phones to full-screen smartphones. One moment you consider something worthy of the “evolutionary” term. Then after a short while, that same thing faces a competitive battle against those that have adopted similar tricks.
That's the way I see Mitsubishi and what it's facing with the Xpander Cross.
To be honest, I'm not really quite sure whether or not to call the Xpander Cross old because it's only been three years since it was born. But since Honda and Toyota came up with the all-new BR-V and Veloz, the Xpander Cross is here as the not-so-new model in the compact 7-seater MPV/SUV segment.
Mitsubishi decided to refresh the Xpander Cross instead of going all-new. But after spending a week with it, it turns out Arnie got his words right. Just because it's older doesn't mean it's going obsolete.
They really stepped up with the SUV styling in this update. The SUV bits now look a lot more integrated, like it's really a part of the original design rather than a tacked-on feature. That is most noticeable in the front fascia. The lower part reminds me of older SUVs with bull bars and steel bumpers, so it does have a more rugged look than ever.
I also like the way Mitsubishi improved the design of the fender flares/overfenders/moldings. Whatever you wanna call these, Mitsubishi made the parts slimmer. The result is better wheel fitment despite the new 17-inch alloys having the same size and offsets with the pre-facelift model. The way I see it, these changes made the Xpander Cross evolve its identity on the road. It looks more like a baby Montero Sport now, rather than looking like an Xpander with wide fenders.
Speaking of the Montero Sport, you'll see some familiar things once you get inside the updated Xpander Cross. Together with the refreshed Xpander, it gets a new dashboard design that looks more upscale. There are new soft-touch materials on the door cards and the armrest, and the seats are wrapped in a nice shade of blue.
But what I'm talking about is the Xpander Cross' digital instrument cluster and the four-spoke steering wheel that Mitsubishi grabbed from the Montero Sport's parts bin. It's a plus in terms of features inside, though I feel like there are things Mitsubishi could have done more to make the interior equipment step up higher than the standard Xpander.
For one, they share the same 7-inch touchscreen unit. It has Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and a reverse camera. Functionality-wise, it's okay, but it could have been better. If you take a look at the Indonesian market Xpander Cross, over there it has a bigger 9-inch screen plus a 360 camera.
The rest of the interior is pretty much standard 7-seater MPV stuff. There's a 2nd row A/C blower, cupholders, storage pockets, and allotments for gadget charging on all three rows. In terms of space, there's generous legroom for my size (5'9”) in the second row even without sliding it backward.
However, the third row, as with other 7-seater MPVs, is best occupied by kids, or adults in short trips. While it has good head and elbow room, the knee room is somewhat cramped for people my size. That is even with the second-row seats already moved forward.
But if you're using the Xpander Cross to carry stuff, that's where it remains great. You can fit things up to 40 inches wide inside the MPV. With the third-row seats folded flat, we measured 41 inches of cargo length. If you need more, then the cargo length with the second-row seats folded is about 66 inches long.
Powering the Xpander Cross is the same 1.5-liter 4A91 inline-four MIVEC engine, making 105 PS and 141 Nm of torque. It drives the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission. Power figures-wise, it's pretty close to what the Veloz and Stargazer are making. Also, it's making a bit more power and torque than the XL7, but it's behind the BR-V by quite a few horses.
But in terms of driving, the Xpander Cross feels just as good, or maybe even better than some of those all-new models.
The brakes are nice and progressive. The steering is light and gives a great turning radius for maneuvering in tight spaces. The NVH is still good – this has been one of the strong points of the Xpander Cross ever since because of the suspension, the monocoque, and the sound deadening.
Those things say a lot about how Mitsubishi engineers their cars. You see it with the likes of the Montero Sport, the Strada, and even the older Adventure AUV. Those all had longer model runs than its competitors, and I believe one of the factors is that Mitsubishi does a great job in nailing the driving dynamics part.
However, one thing that I think the Philippine spec version may have missed out on is the new transmission of the Xpander Cross in other markets.
Truth be told, there's nothing wrong with the Xpander's four-speed torque converter automatic. It's simpler, and the general perception is that it's easier to maintain. It delivers good fuel economy, but we reckon it could be better with a CVT.
During my time with the Xpander Cross, I got around 8 km/l in the city, and about 14 km/l on the highway. So still, quite respectable numbers. But in highway speeds, other MPVs I've tested with CVTs can easily do around 18 to even 20 km/l. So that's quite a big difference in terms of highway efficiency. I think it's because the CVT does a better job at lowering the RPMs at cruising speeds than the four-speed. When you get lower revs, you burn less fuel.
But other than that, I see the Xpander Cross as the modern-day version of the Adventure Super Sport. It's not the most impressive on the spec sheet, it's not the most advanced or the most powerful, and it's not the newest in the bunch either. But in terms of how it ticks the MPV boxes in terms of space, comfort, and functionality, it simply delivers.
In the compact 7-seater MPV/SUV segment, the Xpander Cross still offers good value at PHP 1.328 million (PHP 1.353 million for Sunrise Orange two-tone finish) when you put it against the Veloz and the BR-V. But considering the Xpander GLS has almost the same equipment bar the Active Yaw Control (AYC), the bits from the Montero Sport, and the more rugged SUV styling for PHP 130,000 less, the Xpander Cross is not just locked in a tight battle with all-new vehicles from other brands, but also against its own twin.