Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Verada - Xi sedan
Refinement, subtle chassis updates, smooth and willing engine performance, stability, transmission
Room for improvement
Polarising front-end styling, lack of steering feedback, torque steer, no split-folding rear seatback, smallish boot, no steering wheel reach adjustment, frugal interior changes
24 Sep 2004
By TIM BRITTEN
THE fact remains, despite all the doubts and controversy surrounding Mitsubishi – locally and globally – that the Magna/Verada range which represents the staple diet for the Australian company is still a good car, more than merely competitive when aligned with its competition from Holden, Ford and Toyota.
The Mitsubishi is, for example, the only locally made car offering an all-wheel drive sedan. And its general dynamics and road behaviour always have been, and remain, more refined in many ways than the two totally indigenous products.
Basically the Magna/Verada is suffering from the fact it’s been around, in its basic current form, for way too long. The TF model that arrived here in 1997 looked pretty smart when it was first launched, with hints of Euro-cred in its styling as well as a nicely balanced chassis and a smooth and quite powerful 3.0-litre V6.
But that was 1997 and, by the time 2003 rolled around, it was clear that what once looked smart was now becoming a little jaded.
Enter the TL/KL Magna/Verada range which, under the skin, remains essentially unchanged but adopts the now-controversial body style that some say goes too far, others say hasn’t gone far enough, while others contend it doesn’t even belong on the current body.
Styling might be a subjective matter, but if market acceptance is an indicator of public taste, it would appear not many people like the looks of the TL/KL Magna/Verada.
But whatever people think of the styling by Mitsubishi’s former global styling chief, Olivier Boulay, the Magna/Verada certainly is distinguishable from the previous TJ model.
Unfortunately the money seemed to run out once the team had completed the front-end. The new look is finished once it reaches the A-pillars, leaving the rest of the car a virtual replica of the previous one.
The rear-end might be slightly tidied up with a fiddled bootlid (smoother and flatter than before) and bumper, as well as revised badges, but you need to look close to pick the differences - which is something you hardly need to do from the front.
As we’ve already said styling is one of the most subjective things we deal with in everyday life, but this writer has no problem with the new front-end at all. It’s certainly a huge leap beyond blandness and, like we said, there’s no way of confusing it with the previous Magna/Verada.
Perhaps the most disappointing visual changes are to the interior – always somehow a little downmarket-looking in previous baseline Magnas and hardly any different in TL.
Changes to things like audio and air-conditioning controls (on Magnas), new rear-seat air-conditioning vents and, on Magna only, relocation of the power window switches to the centre console are not cause for great celebration. But at least the basic design has always been sound.
Our test car was the most expensive in the range, the front-drive Verada Xi that is even dearer, at comfortably over $50,000, than the (less specced-up) Verada all-wheel drive.
There’s very little left wanting in the Xi. It comes with a full leather-clad interior, power seats for driver and front passenger and a power sunroof. It also gets a 10-function trip computer and a 10-speaker sound system with six-disc in-dash CD changer, but then again so do all Veradas.
Also like all Veradas it gets fake rosewood trim scattered around the cabin to imbue a touch of class.
There are some important changes to be found in the KL Verada and TL Magna though.
For starters there’s been some work done to improve safety, via general body strengthening and the fitment of seatbelt pretensioners across the range.
The suspension has been given a workover, with rear stabiliser bars (on sedans), new spring and shocker rates and revised steering that aims to improve general feel and wheel response. It’s the same basic car, but improved in invisible but important ways.
All the usual strengths are thus complimented: the Verada’s 3.5-litre V6 does a smooth, efficient job and the five-speed Invecs II "Smart Logic" auto transmission is a smooth shifter offering a sequential function. Magnas still make do with a four-speed Invecs II transmission.
With 163kW at its disposal the single-camshaft (per bank), 24-valve engine hauls the 1603kg Verada along with ease. The car is very responsive off the mark, although it’s not especially economical with a quoted around-town consumption figure of 11.5 litres per 100km and a highway figure of 7.6 litres per 100km.
About the same as a base Falcon but not as good as a six-cylinder Commodore Executive. But it’s certainly smoother and more refined than either.
The Verada also rides and handles with a certain front-drive sense of stability that proves quite confidence-inspiring, especially when it’s assisted by traction control and standard anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution.
Electronic stability control has yet to find its way into locally made cars and as far as Mitsubishi is concerned we’ll be looking for the all-new car due in 2005.
Ride quality remains competent rather than outstanding and despite the upgrades there’s still some noticeable body movement as the Verada forges its way around a corner.
And the steering is not as precise as it could be – well, not exactly imprecise but a little dead and lacking in feedback to the driver. With a prod of the accelerator through a low-speed corner, some front-drive torque steer also intrudes.
On the other hand, the traction control has struck a nice balance between over-intrusiveness and virtual non-existence. It operates effectively and usually without any driver awareness.
The Verada interior remains quite spacious, although rear-seat legroom is not up to Commodore or Falcon standards and the boot is more medium than large size, with a capacity of 470 litres. And in Verada there’s no split-fold seat, just a central ski-port.
In the Xi there’s little of the Magna downmarket feel, which you’d expect given the BMW 3 Series pricing. The seats feel well shaped although there are some reservations about what sort of comfort they would deliver on a three hours-plus country trip.
And the driver, although provided with a fully power adjusted seat, is faced with limited steering column adjustment in which it can only be moved on a vertical plane, not for reach as well.
Overall the Verada Xi is a well-sorted, quite refined and competent car saddled by the fact that it’s basic design is almost of another era, especially when compared with more modern Japanese-based product such as the latest Toyota Camry.
But it still speaks to the average driver in a more direct and predictable way than rear-drive local product.
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