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Magna starts Mitsubishi fightback

Sporting chance: Mitsubishi aims to boost interest in Verada with a sporting GTV model.

The Verada GTV heads Mitsubishi's Series II line-up

Mitsubishi logo23 Jul 2002

WHILE all the attention centres on Ford's upcoming BA Falcon, Holden's VY Commodore and the new generation 380N Camry, Mitsubishi is rolling out its updated Series II TJ Magna and KJ Verada this month.

While most of the changes are minor, the company has moved to bolster the interest in Verada in particular with a sporting GTV model, which goes on sale late August.

At this stage GTV (Grand Touring Verada) is a limited edition, but there is a chance it will eventually become a fully fledged member of the locally-built line-up.

Following on from the niche Ralliart Magna, this is the first sign of significant changes coming for mainstream Magna/Verada models, which will add all-wheel drive as an option before Christmas and then be facelifted around mid-2003.

That facelift is particularly significant because it has been overseen by Mitsubishi's new worldwide styling boss Olivier Boulay and must see the car out until an all-new replacement arrives in 2005.

It will also cap off a freshening of the Mitsubishi range which started in May with the launch of the Pajero DiD and should cover off the entire range, as well as add new models like the Airtrek cross-over off-roader.

The TJ/KJ Series II changes to Magna and Verada amount to little more than a basic cosmetic touch-up.

The biggest mechanical change is that the INVECS II Tiptronic-style automatic is now available as a four-speed for both the Executive and Advance Magna models as an option, while the Veradas now get the five-speed auto previously reserved for the Sports and VR-X models.

Recognising the balancing act the Magna and Verada must achieve to maintain sales presence, Mitsubishi Australia has introduced TJ and KJ series II without any price increases and is pushing the line that they are "the best value-for-money family sedans on the market".

After six months of 2002, Magna is running lineball in sales terms with 2001, while Verada is down 400 sales compared to last year.

Some of that is due to lack of supply as Mitsubishi looked after US and Middle East export markets.

"We would expect we would get some increased sales," said Mitsubishi Motors Australia product publicity manager Kevin Taylor.

"I can't quantify it exactly, but I know we are looking for a stronger second half of the year."Mr Taylor acknowledged a real sales kick was unlikely before the appearance of the all-wheel drive cars.

"That will be more of a reason for coming into showrooms," he said.

The AWD cars will be around a $4000 premium over the standard Magna/Verada models, but the initial range will miss out on VR-X and probably the Sports model because of engineering issues relating to wheel clearances.

GTV packs a sporty punch

FUNDAMENTALLY, the Verada GTV is a Magna VR-X without most of the bodywork, but with the hot 163kW version of the 3.5-litre V6 and the INVECS five-speed "Sports Mode" transmission.

It is also well equipped, offering some features as standard that are optional on the top-spec Verada Xi, yet at $46,990 actually sits between the Ei ($40,990) and Xi ($49,990) in price.

"Verada has traditionally been a luxury car I suppose and the GTV is something which has got a bit more life and is a bit more sporty and dynamic," said Mitsubishi Motors Australia product publicity manager Kevin Mr Taylor.

"There are people who just because they drive a Verada that doesn't mean they don't want a sporty feel."Apart from the top-spec engine and transmission, the GTV also gets sports suspension, unique 17-inch alloy wheels mated to 225/50R17 Bridgestone Grid II rubber, black brake callipers, a rear decklid spoiler, leather trim and Nardi wood gearshift knob.

Standard items that are optioned on the Verad Xi are a Nardi wood steering wheel ($350) and satellite navigation ($3365).

And what about that name? Does Mitsubishi expect challenges from Alfa Romeo considering how closely the GTV tag is linked to the Italian company's coupe?"Normally you have to register a business name and I assume we have done that and had no problems," Mr Taylor said.

What's changed

Across the range
  • Flame red paint (previously limited to Ralliart Magna)
Executive sedan and wagon
  • INVECS II "Sports mode" Tiptronic-style four-speed transmission now the standard auto
  • New grey interior trim
  • Grille now body-coloured
  • New wheel cover design
Advance sedan and wagon
  • Satellite navigation is a dealer-fit option for $3365
  • New grey interior trim
  • Grille now body-coloured
  • New wheel cover design
Verada Ei sedan and wagon
  • New style instrument cluster
  • Five-speed INVECS II Tiptronic-style replaces four-speed
  • Chrome automatic shift surround
  • New two-tone black/slate or black/sandstone interior trim
  • Powered driver's seat
  • Nardi wood steering wheel and gearshift option ($475)
Verada Xi sedan
  • New instrument cluster
  • Five-speed INVECS II
  • New two-tone black/slate or black/sandstone interior trim
  • Nardi wood gearshift knob
  • Nardi wood steering wheel option ($350)
  • Powered passenger seat now optional

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