We first saw Mitsubishi’s head-turning new MPV at the Indonesia International Auto Show in August last year and got to drive it in Japan as a sidelight of the Tokyo Motor Show last November. Both were right-hand-drive versions, although most of the mechanical specifications are identical to the Philippine version.

The Indonesia-made Xpander, which will roll off Philippine showrooms this May, comes in four variants with the following prices listed  the table below:

GLX Manual Transmission (MT) P885,000
GLX Plus Automatic Transmission (AT) P960,000
GLS AT P995,000
GLS Sport AT P1,060,000

Longer, taller, wider—roomier

Time was when an ASEAN-only MPV model (often charitably referred to as models for “emerging markets”) would mean an antiquated rear-wheel-drive platform suspended by a crude rigid rear axle. The Xpander blows away this ancient practice with its modern front-wheel-drive platform.

But that’s what the segment-leaders Ertiga and Mobilio offer already, right? Yes, but while Suzuki and Honda measure 4,265 and 4,386mm, respectively, the Xpander outstretches them both with its 4,475mm overall length. That’s practically four inches longer than the Honda and almost eight inches longer than the Suzuki. (The Xpander is almost a foot longer than the rear-wheel-drive Toyota Avanza and 10 inches shorter than the Innova, which means that the Mitsubishi slots in almost exactly between the two Toyota people-movers, in terms of size.)

In terms of width, the Xpander is the widest of the bunch—almost a whopping four inches wider than the Avanza, three inches wider than the Mobilio, and two inches wider than the Ertiga. The Xpander is three inches narrower than the Innova, however, again underscoring its “in between” sizing relative to the two Toyotas. Bear in mind, though, that the pricing of the Xpander is closer to its three smaller rivals. (The already very well equipped second most expensive Xpander GLS AT variant is actually priced almost similarly to the lowest priced entry-level Innova 2.0 J model.)

Length and width are nice, but in cars, wheelbase is often more important for legroom and, in this regard, the Xpander stuns all—including the longer Innova. The Xpander’s wheelbase outspans those of the Avanza and Mobilio by almost five inches (that’s the wheelbase difference between a BMW 3 Series and 5 Series), the surprisingly long Ertiga’s by an inch and a half and the Innova’s by almost an inch.

All this metal real estate translates to commensurately greater cabin space for both passengers and cargo.

A face as bold as a Lexus’

Mitsubishi’s Dynamic Shield design language is one of the auto industry’s boldest and most expressive ever rendered for a car’s front end. And as executed in the Xpander, it’s nothing short of a futuristic concept car’s wow factor.

The overall exterior communicates a dynamic and adventurous style. It flaunts the Dynamic Shield concept with a bold front grille, which will be available in chrome with clear smoke coating for the GLS Sport and GLS and gloss black for the GLX Plus and GLX. The Xpander’s compelling visage features LED position lamps arranged in crystal-like blocks and a unique headlight design with a lamp that improves visibility for both pedestrians and oncoming vehicles. This unique lamp layout also prevents the blinding effects of headlight glare. It also flaunts a distinctive L-shaped LED taillamps with the rear combination lamps extending onto the tailgate, which is a first for this class. To give the model a touch of sportiness, Mitsubishi equipped the Xpander with class-exclusive 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels with 205/55R16 tires for the GLX Plus, GLS, and GLS Sport (the entry-level GLX gets 15-inch alloys).

A boatload of clever features inside

A class-leading interior length of 2,840mm provides generous space for seven adults. It also features a layout that lets passengers enter and exit the vehicle with ease. Access to third row seats is also made easier with the tumble system for folding the second row seats. For an even more comfortable ride, the armrest in the second row is a part of the seatback which can be utilized as a large armrest to accommodate two passengers’ elbows or as a center space which can be used to load long items.

The Xpander’s high 205mm ground clearance results in a high seating position—almost like in an SUV. The front windshield with ample vertical and horizontal spacing provides excellent forward visibility. The Xpander’s front pillars are positioned wider to provide more visibility while the side mirrors ensures a clearer rear/side view. For luggage-carrying capability, the Xpander is the only vehicle in its class that has a flat luggage floor without bumps and gaps. Its maximum cargo capacity is 1,630 liters when both the second and third row seats are folded. The seats can be arranged in various combinations to accommodate different type of cargo. For normal luggage space, it has enough space to hold four gallon bottles even when passengers are seated on the third-row seats.

For infotainment the top three variants of the Xpander is equipped with a 2-DIN 7-inch touchscreen audio system which has GPS Navigation as well as Tuner/MP3/Aux/USB/Bluetooth connectivity and Easy Link features. The steering wheel is also equipped with audio and cruise control buttons.

You’ll also find several storages/pockets for valuables and various small items. 12V power outlets are also readily available for first, second, and third row passengers for more convenient trips.

Traditional yet modern drivetrain and suspension

The front-wheel-drive Xpander is equipped with an impressively silent and smooth-revving 1.5-liter 4A91 MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control System) DOHC 16-valve gasoline engine which delivers 105ps at 6,000rpm and 141Nm at 4,000rpm. Sadly there’s no six- (or even five-) speed automatic or CVT—just a four speed automatic (or the entry level five-speed manual).

The all-coil spring suspension uses MacPherson struts in front and a torsion beam at the rear. Braking is via front discs/rear drums with ABS and EBD.

Luxury car levels of safety

The Xpander features Mitsubishi Motors’ proprietary RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body which is reinforced to absorb the impact of a collision. When the driver brakes hard or activates ABS, the ESS (the Emergency Stop Signal System) activates and automatically flashes the hazard lamps to warn the drivers behind to help prevent rear-end collisions.

The flagship GLS Sport is also equipped with Hill Start Assist and Active Stability Control. Hill Start Assist automatically actuates the brakes to prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards when driving on a steep slope. Meanwhile, the Active Stability Control automatically apply brakes and suppresses the engine output at the same time in order to stabilize the vehicle during sudden maneuvers on slippery surface conditions. Equipped with these top-of-class safety features, the Xpander earned an impressive four-star safety rating in the ASEAN New Car Assessment Program (ASEAN NCAP). 

Expect a local test drive soon.