There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that Mitsubishi is sorely missing the Adventure.
It's a fair assumption: ever since the implementation of the more modern Euro-4 emissions standards, we knew the Adventure's days in local production were numbered. The hit was felt by Mitsubishi who had built a very strong and loyal customer base around the formula of the basic, non-CRDI, body-on-frame AUV.
Together with the loss of the L300, the drop in sales showed us just how much of a factor those two were for Mitsubishi's prospects in the market.
There was, however, a light at the end of the tunnel: it's called the Xpander.
Launched in Indonesia (where it is also made) in late 2017, the Xpander was definitely hotly anticipated by our market. But the good reviews in Indonesia also ramped up demand there, delaying the release of the first customer units of the new seven seater by months; a critical period, given that a new direct competitor was launched by the market leader: it's called the Rush, and it's made by Toyota (well... Daihatsu). It's also made in Indonesia as a rebadge of the Daihatsu Terios.
Thankfully, there's now a steady supply of units of the new Xpander, a development that can help boost not only Mitsubishi's sales, but also their morale. Maybe the Xpander can truly help them move on.
The Xpander is as far away from an Adventure as it gets. Instead of engineering a basic AUV (Asian Utility Vehicle) from a truck-like platform, Mitsubishi went in another direction by building a new unibody (monocoque). The potential was there: combine the practicality of a seven seater with the ride and driving feel of a sedan.
On paper it seems impossible. Seven seaters are generally tall and heavy, and their suspension is tuned to carry more load (read: stiffer), be it passengers or cargo. Meanwhile, sedans are often low-riding and have softer suspension in order to provide better comfort.
Mitsubishi, however, seems to have done just that - create balance. At least that’s what I felt when I drove the new Xpander from traffic-laden Metro Manila to the beautiful resort of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan.
From the start of our journey, I expected that the ride of the Xpander would be similar to that of the Toyota Rush or other MPVs available on the market. I mean, it had the same ingredients a usual MPV in its segment would have: seven seats, tall ride height, large trunk space, so on and so forth. That thought of the Xpander being just another Asian B-segment 7-seater changed the more we progressed into our journey, and was a refreshing change from the Adventure of decades past.
We quickly encountered the usual EDSA traffic heading to NLEX. At that point, we didn’t really have a chance to get to know the vehicle fully. Unlike the Adventure, the Xpander has a gasoline engine: a 1.5-liter MIVEC four cylinder. It seemed more than sufficient for the journey, but we hit the expressway however, though, we did feel some limitations of the powertrain.
Compared to other models in the segment like the BR-V (120 PS, FWD) and the Rush (104 PS, RWD), the Xpander only has 105 PS with power being sent to the front wheels. More so, the GLX Plus (and other A/T variants) only come with a 4-speed automatic. This made overtaking slow vehicles like trucks and buses a bit harder as power would only come in at a higher RPM. Thankfully, deactivating the overdrive button in the 4-speed automatic transmission did help somehow.
Thanks to the Xpander’s electronic power steering system (EPS), steering was very light, so much so that you could even use just one finger to turn the wheel from lock to lock. This made it easier to navigate the usual EDSA gridlock we encountered during the start of our trip. But it was the comfortable ride that impressed. In fact, you could even say that it rides more like a traditional sedan would as you couldn’t feel the usual Asian MPV/SUV characteristics we expected, especially after trying the Rush. Thanks to cruise control, you could even relax for a bit as you can keep a steady pace on a long stretch of road.
We made a quick stop over at Subic Bay Freeport Zone, allowing us to get a feel of the Xpander in a more urban setting. A short stretch of EDSA during a traffic jam isn’t enough time to get to know the vehicle especially since you’re barely moving. As mentioned earlier, power was more than sufficient in city streets with plenty of torque available at the lower rev range. The rear-view camera also helped in parking along the tight slots.
After lunch, we set out for our final stop of the day – Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan. Coming from our midway point in Subic, we took the twisty mountainside roads (fun route) going to the Las Casas rather than through the main provincial highway. It was here that the driving characteristics of the Xpander impressed me the most.
Despite its large shape and size, the Xpander handled more like a sedan than a high-riding MPV; a far cry from the driving manners of its not-so-direct AUV predecessor. Driving the Xpander didn’t feel like a chore. In fact, I actually enjoyed it – and would have felt the same joy should I have driving a regular sedan. Body roll was also well managed, allowing me to take corners faster than a regular 7-seater would. Despite the rough roads, it also didn’t have the unsettling body motions larger vehicles would have.
Arriving at Las Casas, I didn’t feel tired despite the long driving hours on the road. While the short breaks and driver change along the way did help, I’m sure that the Xpander’s comfortable ride and enjoyable handling played a bigger role in doing so.
While sedans are still popular in the country, crossovers and MPVs are already starting to take over the market, and I can't blame people for choosing them. They are practical and are great for simply going from point A to B. However, most models in the market still face the usual problem – their handling, ride and driving characteristics. These may sway people from getting one as some would choose comfort and handling over practicality.
The Xpander indeed has some exceptionally big shoes to fill for Mitsubishi. The loss of the Adventure cannot be overstated, but judging by our drive of the new MPV, they've got a smaller but capable successor, one that can hopefully give them the shot in the arm that they've been looking for.