The First Fetching MPV?
Hide & Seat Is More Than Just A Gimmick
If Youd Like One, Better Wait For Financial Dust In Japan To Settle.
Rating: **** out of 5
Thank goodness I dont have to drive around in a people mover.
But if I had to, the Mitsubishi Grandis MPV would be a strong candidate.
You can see from the pictures that this is not a chip off the old block. It doesnt look like a cargo container on wheels. The lines are interesting, bold and elegant, almost exciting. The roof line is lower than the competition and the aerodynamic sweep from front to back gives it an urgent, eager look.
Inside there is as much space as anyone could need. And the third row of seats can be switched to face outwards so that you can sit in some comfort and protection from the weather for picnics and watching er polo matches. Mitsubishi calls this its Hide & Seat configuration, without a hint of embarrassment.
Carrying capacity is huge. Folding the 2nd and 3rd row of seats boost luggage space from 320 litres to 1,545 litres, and extends the boot to 1,600 mm in length.
The interior quality is fine, with hardy looking plastics. The dashboard has a swooping, curvy design with natty silver inserts. The gear lever is set in the central dashboard, freeing up space between the driver and front passenger. Theres plenty of room and the seats are firm and comfortable. The impression is that this will be a sturdy, durable vehicle.
Just Like A Car
Mitsubishi tells us that the Grandis drives just like a car, and is more car-like than any other MPV, and it does drive just fine. This is no longer a van with seats, says Mitsubishi. The plan seems to be to lure away some estate car buyers who have been put off in the past by the utilitarian appearance of most MPVs. The steering is very light, and designed to be so, to attract women buyers.
Grandis underlying design principal is to offer a combination of sportiness and unbeatable versatility, a balance of athleticism and carrying comfort, enhancing its appeal to those families that need more space but still want to enjoy themselves when theyre behind the wheel, is how Mitsubishi puts it.
My sampling of the car around the M4, and various country roads radiating away from it, was marred by a recent personal speed camera incident which induces a paranoia for anything painted yellow, or unmarked white vans parked nonchalantly. It is hard to believe, but there were two police camera crews on the M4 going west, past Swindon, within about 2 miles of each other. And this is a modern 3-lane motorway. I dont know what speed triggers a letter from these leeches, but even though I was doing a steady 80 mph in the middle lane, Ive been anxiously grabbing the mail from the postman when he arrives (can you believe, never earlier than 11.30 am!). So far, so good.
There is a five speed manual, or a 4-speed automatic gearbox costing an extra £1,000 (1,500 euros), to go with a 2.4 litre, 4-cylinder engine. A diesel will be available in the middle of next year. Mitsubishi claims a combined 30.1 mpg (9.4 l/100km) with the manual, and 28.2 mpg (10.1) for the automatic. To that I would say, in your dreams, but I will have to reserve judgement until I have the chance to test this myself.
There are 3 levels of equipment - Classic, Equippe and Elegance. Prices start at a very competitive £18,499 (27,600 euros) for the base Classic manual, and that includes ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution, climate control, remote central locking, 17 inch wheels, alarm and immobiliser, four-speaker CD stereo system and the Hide & Seat 3rd row of seats.
There is a double sun-roof option on more expensive editions, but the one over the front seats is an old-fashioned tilt and slide type.
Mitsubishi says that Grandis prices, with the standard equipment, undercut the opposition by about 6%, and its vehicle has a more powerful engine. The competition is said to be the Toyota Avensis Verso, Ford Galaxy, Peugeot 807, Citroen C8 and Chrysler Voyager. Theres no mention of the Renault Espace, which starts at £19,575, or the cheaper Mazda MPV, Volkswagen Sharan, Hyundai Trajet, or Kia Sedona.
Achtung! Wait for Final Package
The Grandis is a worthy, practical and elegant vehicle which makes a powerful case, even against the leaders in this class. There is one uncomfortable negative. The Mitsubishi parent company in Japans reputation has been tarnished by a recall scandal, which led to its partner DaimlerChrysler bailing out of a $4 billion financial rescue package. Any potential buyers would be wise to wait until a new package has been signed, sealed and delivered before buying a Grandis, or any other Mitsubishis for that matter.
Neil Winton July 2, 2004
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