Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Delica
Smooth driveline, comfort-focused ride, spacious interior and flexible seating, ease of cabin entry and exit, fuel economy, outward visibility
Room for improvement
Slow steering rack, dated switch gear and instrumentation, interior’s hard plastics, unknown safety credentials, it isn’t yet available in Oz
Is a Down Under Delica on the cards? We take a drive of MMAL’s latest evaluation model
17 Aug 2023
By MATT BROGAN
REMEMBER the 80s? People movers were cool in the 80s; and in some parts of the world, they still are.
Perhaps for good reason: They’re far easier to get in and out of, offer generous accommodation across all three seating rows, and cram a lot more into the same-size footprint as an SUV with less sheet metal lost to that unnecessarily long bonnet.
But, in Australia, at least, people movers just aren’t cool anymore…
The Toyota Tarago, Nissan Urvan, Holden Shuttle, Ford Spectron, Mitsubishi L300 are all forgotten nameplates; the only modern offerings coming in the form of the Kia Carnival, Hyundai Staria, LDV Mifa and Volkswagen Multivan.
Yes, the people mover is still around. But it sells just a fraction of its comparably-sized SUV rivals – 3.6 per cent to be precise, based on current sales figures.
But like stonewash jeans and hypercolour t-shirts, the people mover could be set for a fresh-from-the-80s revival in the form of the Mitsubishi Delica. Though perhaps not in the form sampled here.
The current-gen’ Delica on test is an evaluation vehicle sourced by Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) for market evaluation. It seemingly offers everything a soccer mum or dad could wish for – including selectable four-wheel drive and power sliding doors.
But it’s a dated model that at its core (i.e., ignoring a recent facelift) has been available in Japan for over a decade – having launched in 2007 – meaning any serious consideration for a Down Under Delica would not come to fruition until the next-gen model arrives in 12-18 months.
And that’s probably no bad thing… for as good as the Delica is, there are elements of its GS platform (for reference the GS platform is the same that underpins/underpinned the CJ-series Lancer, ZG-series Outlander, GA-series onward ASX and current YA-series Eclipse Cross) that feel their vintage and would need to change to justify the model’s relevance locally.
We also reckon the outgoing-generation Triton innards (driveline and dashboard, in particular) would need some serious modernisation.
Some of the tech offered in newer Mitsubishi models could bring a much-needed boost to the Delica’s dated cabin décor, ditto the upgrading of some of the hard plastics and dated switchgear the three-diamond brand has moved on from elsewhere.
That said, the Delica D:5 is generously equipped. There’s a massive assortment of cubbies and storage pockets, a large touchscreen with AM/FM/DAB radio reception and Apple CarPlay / Android Auto connectivity (via an aftermarket Kenwood unit), a basic trip computer, electric sliding doors and top-hinged tailgate, automatic fold-out step (on the kerb side), overhead ambient lighting, and multi-zone climate control with overhead vents through to the third row.
The D:5 grade of Delica sampled is powered by a familiar-to-Triton and Pajero Sport (4N14-series) 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. The unit develops 107kW at 3500rpm and 380Nm at 2000rpm and drives the front wheels full-time via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Mitsubishi’s three-mode AWC (All-Wheel Control) rear-on-demand system is also standard, the same as that offered in the previous generation Outlander.
While the Delica D:5 is not a hard core off-roader, it does offer decent credentials for tackling modest trails. Ground clearance is listed at 185mm, the approach angle 24.0º, break-over angle 18.5º and departure angle 21.5º.
The steering is electrically assisted and the suspension an all-coil strut (front) / multi-link (rear) setup. Braking is handled by discs all round.
Japanese specifications tell us the variant on test weighs in at 1930kg (kerb) and measures 4800mm long, 1795mm wide, and 1875mm high. By way of comparison, the Kia Carnival is 5115mm in length, 1995mm in width and 1775mm in height and tips the scale at 2136kg (kerb).
The 2023 Mitsubishi Delica does not have an ANCAP safety rating or EuroNCAP score, but it is equipped with much the same safety technology offered in the previous generation Pajero Sport, including AEB, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, stability and traction control, a reversing camera and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Mitsubishi Delica D:5 has certainly got a very Japanese flavour to its ride and handling balance, and that’s most noticeable when you compare it with some of the people movers we listed earlier, and in particular the Kia Carnival and Hyundai Staria.
It is not as taut as those models, meaning it has a little more body roll and suspension compliance than we’re perhaps used to here in Oz from cars that have been tuned to local conditions – or at least with Australian input.
The trade-off isn’t necessarily obvious in day-to-day running, and in urban situations the Delica points and steers rather well. But at higher speeds, and on lumpy, winding roads the disconnect between the front and rear suspension is obvious.
There’s a lot of lateral movement and float which makes for a somewhat unsettled ride on country roads. Head toss is evident, as is the variance in stiffness between the front and rear springs, the vehicle clearly better suited to having a full complement of passengers on board than it is driven empty.
Like many older vans, the cabin is also quite ‘boomy’ with drumming from the rear and all-round tyre noise an issue on coarse chip Aussie roads. We also noted a fair amount of wind noise over the boxy body, though perhaps that’s to be expected…
We sampled the Delica on loose gravel surfaces and found it to be quite forgiving. The softer ride pays dividends here, while the on-demand four-wheel drive system provides a helping of rear-end assistance, even if it is at times quite reactive.
Obviously, the Delica doesn’t have the clearance credentials for serious off-road work, but on unsealed roads or dare we say heading up to the snow, the level of grip available is more than ample.
The Delica’s steering is a bit of a mixed bag. There is a little bit of kickback noticed on larger bumps and, again when compared to more modern rivals, is a little too indirect. The rack is also a little slow, perhaps reflecting the flavour of other Mitsubishi models of the time (think Triton and Pajero Sport), but it is light enough to offer that all-important ease of use in urban running and turns sharply to make parking a breeze.
Under that stubby bonnet we find a smooth and relatively effortless powerplant that surprises in its pairing with an eight-speed automatic. The ratio spread is wonderfully matched to the diesel unit’s torque curve and shifts smoothly to provide easy acceleration and effortless hill climbing – even through some of the steeper grades encountered on our test loop north of Melbourne.
There’s little torque steer to speak of, excusing from a hard start, and engine noise is very well attenuated. Fuel consumption is another highlight, with two days of mixed conditions in city and country environments returning an average of 7.1 litres per 100km.
We did, however, find the braking action a little on the spongy side with a fair amount of pedal travel found before finding purchase. Given the hint of rotor shudder from the front-end, we’d suggest the MMAL crew have been pushing the Delica to its limits, and feel the braking action observed in this well-used evaluation vehicle may not be truly representative of a new vehicle.
Conversely, we were genuinely impressed by the Delica’s outward visibility, its upright glasshouse, considerable DLO area and sensibly placed mirrors offering an excellent view all-round. It is an easy vehicle to place on even narrow roads and when getting in and out of underground car parks. The camera system, while perhaps not as good as modern 360-degree technology, remains useful, the kerbside camera particularly helpful when manoeuvring into a parallel park.
Interestingly, and in contrast to some of Mitsubishi’s current crop of vehicles, we found the Delica’s headlight reach and spread to offer excellent performance, the auto high beam function likewise accurate and decisive.
The Mitsubishi Delica D:5 might be showing its design age in a few aspects, but on the whole is a very pragmatic and useful vehicle for family buyers. Sure, it mightn’t feel as sharp as its more contemporary counterparts and may lack the modernity of a vehicle you’d expect to retail in the high $40K to low $50K range.
Which is why it’s probably obvious that MMAL would wait for the next-gen Delica to launch before bringing the model Down Under – and we really hope they do. We genuinely enjoyed our time with the Delica and, as a seven-seat SUV owner, found it far more practical and ‘people friendly’ than the favoured form of family transport. Let’s hope Mitsubishi and its league of loyal buyers feel the same way.
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