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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Grandis - 5-dr people-mover

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, seat comfort, driving position, seat-folding functions, luggage space, performance, refinement, auto transmission, good ride/handling, brake feel, turning circle, safety credentials
Room for improvement
No lumbar support, audio ergonomics, lack of driver storage bins, hard dash plastics, lack of row two legroom, child seat anchor location, low tailgate, space-saver spare wheel, rough road tyre noise

Mitsubishi logo27 May 2004

By TERRY MARTIN

NIMBUS was one of the nicest seven-seaters around for a long time, but ‘nice’ didn’t always get the girl. Nice pricing, nice equipment, nice engine, nice ride - it wasn’t enough.

Starwagon, on the other hand, was a brick on wheels based on a commercial van and robbed of important features in a bid to get bums on seats.

Grandis is different. It isn’t a revelation – although Starwagon owners might beg to differ – however, it does represent the better crust of car Mitsubishi now want to be known for building.

Though divisive in nature, the curvaceous exterior is modern and striking and access is still made through convenient station wagon doors – no ‘slide rule’ is adhered to here – and without the need for children to climb into.

The driver sits in comfortable and supportive seats and is offered full-seat height adjustment (made via a useful ‘ratchet’ lever), good seat travel, a footrest, fair-sized wing mirrors and all the usual electronic conveniences, which are close to hand. Alas, lumbar adjustment is nowhere to be seen.

The backlit instruments are modern and clear, the cluster includes a transmission indicator and door-open warning graphics, the transmission lever is in a convenient position on the dash and the HVAC dials – as seen on the Magna – are well-positioned and effortless to use.

On the downside, Mitsubishi continues to persist with a non-integrated stereo – a small-buttoned single-DIN head unit with power/volume controls on the far left-hand side – and should have made more than a half-hearted effort at creating a ‘walk through’ between the front seats and row two.

On the latter score, one of the consequences of the centre console design is that there are insufficient lidded storage locations around the driver – the big dish on the dashboard is too shallow – and the cockpit should also contain softer plastics on the Tarago-inspired dash, steering-mounted stereo controls and, at least on the upgrade pack, a trip computer.

Could someone also tell us whose idea it was to hide the cigarette lighter behind the steering wheel?

Rows two and three have reasonable seat comfort – the third row is not designed for adults – as well as good storage solutions, air vents on the window-side headlining and a simple mechanism for each respective seat-fold function.

There is good access to the third row from the side doors, while the luggage area is capacious enough to hold a decent amount of groceries when the rear seats are upright.

But there are inadequacies.

In row two, the sliding rails do not extend far enough rearward to cater for adult legroom, there is no seatbelt sash height adjusters or automatic belt locking retractors for better securing child restraints, the tether strap anchorage points for child seats are on the floor in front of row three rather than on the seatback (and therefore a potential interference with other passengers) and the flip-up trays on the front seatbacks seem to us to be dangerous items in the event of a crash.

When folded, row three creates a ledge rather than a neat, flat floor through the cabin. The third row’s child seat anchor points, when in use, will eat into the precious luggage space. There are no power sockets astern of the front seats. The tailgate, when opened, will bonk six-foot-tall people on the scone. A space-saver spare wheel is used.

In sum, more attention to detail is needed.

As for the drive, a brief tour from Mascot to Katoomba in New South Wales showed the so-called 2.4-litre engine to be a considerable improvement over the old non-MIVEC (Mitsubishi Electronic Valve lift and timing Electronic Control) 2.4 in the Nimbus.

Grandis carries an additional 135kg over the 96kW/210Nm Nimbus, however, the weight is overcome with ease when unladen. Five or six bodies and cargo onboard will be the true test but the engine’s strong, smooth characteristics are evident.

The sequential manual shift mode works well enough, although the driver doesn’t often feel the need for DIY shifting when the smooth, responsive, intuitive INVECS II does such a good job. Sure, we’ve said it before, but this adaptive-shift auto is one of the best in the business – at this level.

A familiar combination of lightweight steering, benign handling (for this class), a comfortable ride and good braking feel also came to the fore in our first stint.

The turning circle is tight enough to make car park adventures trouble-free – alas, the rubbing strips from the Nimbus did not make it onto Grandis – and refinement levels are good save for a horrible din from the 16-inch tyres on coarse-chip bitumen.

Worried about the stain that ‘people-mover’ carries with it, Mitsubishi Australia is calling the Grandis an Active Recreation Tourer. ART? Well, it sure is a work of modern art. Not a bad tourer, either.

But let’s not overstate things here, nor lose sight of its most impressive feature – the ‘passive’ safety brought with six airbags fitted standard. That alone makes Grandis worth a closer look.

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