Mitsubishi Express: Case of déjà-who?

Riley Riley


What is it?

First up it’s good to see the Mitsubishi badge on the back of a van again.

Second up it’s little more than a re-badged Renault, so don’t go getting too excited.

Mitsubishi is part of an ‘Alliance’ with Renault and Nissan which explains this turn of events.

Express may be “built to deliver” but so too is the Renault Trafic on which it is based.

Overseas the van is also sold as the Fiat Talento, Nissan NV300, and, until 2018 — as the Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro.

So, I guess the real question is: what’s the Mitsubishi got to offer that the Renault hasn’t, and how do the prices compare?


What’s it cost?

Express is priced from $38,490 plus on roads, the Trafic from $36,990 driveaway — not what you’d call a good start . . .

But of course it depends on what you get for your money?

Express comes in the one GLX grade, in short or long wheelbase, with a choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed twin clutch automatic.

Either is available with a 1.6-litre twin turbo diesel or 2.0-litre single turbo diesel engine, with a 25 litre AdBlue tank to reduce emissions — but the 1.6-litre engine is available only with the manual tranny.

Traffic is a little more complicated, with two grades Pro and Premium to choose from, and kicks off with a less powerful, single turbo 1.6-litre diesel.

To get an auto you have to take the more expensive, better equipped Premium grade.

Drive in all is to the front wheels, with Eco mode and “Extended Grip” designed to help with traction in slippery conditions.

Auto stop and go shuts the engine down to save fuel when the car comes to a stop, with an off switch thoughtfully supplied in case you find it annoying (many people do).

Express comes standard with twin, barn-style rear doors along with twin sliders, and seating for three across the front — a separate driver’s seat and two-person passenger seat (the latter lacks any form of adjustment).

Cloth trim, manual air conditioning, keyless entry, electric windows with one touch control, cruise control with speed limiter, rear parking sensors, daytime running lights, hill start assist and electronic stability control are all part of the deal.

Two-speaker audio includes DAB digital radio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, 2 x USB ports, 2 x 12 volt power outlets plus an AUX jack.

There’s also a mobile phone cradle, designed to fit a 4.7-inch phone — ours didn’t fit.

If you pop for the auto, you also get auto wipers, auto headlights, auto dimming rear view mirror, front fog lights and a rear view camera.

In terms of safety, Express comes with five airbags: front driver and passenger, curtain airbags, in addition to a driver side airbag.  

However, you won’t find any of the latest advances such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind spot alert or lane departure warning — though the passenger sun visor comes with an extra large mirror designed to give the driver a wider angle of vision.

Wheels are steel, 16-inch with 215/65 light truck tyres and a full-size spare located under the cargo floor.

What you don’t get that you really need at a minimum are:

  • rear view camera in the case of the manual ($1200)
  • rubber floor mats for the front ($100)
  • cargo barrier ($895)
  • wooden panels to protect cargo walls from damage ($985 or $1085 depending on model)
  • rubber floor mat for the cargo area ($365 or $400 depending on model).

What’s also necessary but apparently unavailable is a window for the passenger side slider.

Several option packs are offered combining some of these features.

Service intervals are 15,000km and capped price servicing applies for the first 3 years/45,000km.

Cost per service is $250.

Express is covered by Mitsubishi’s new 10-year/200,000km warranty, 10-year capped price servicing and 5-year road side assistance, provided you get it serviced with Mitsubishi.

In comparison, the Renault comes with a single, lift tailgate and only a single sliding door as standard.

In standard form it also gets LED headlights and daytime runners, rear view camera plus auto lights and wipers and even the base model scores a better audio system, with 4 x 15 watt speakers.

Trafic is covered by a 5-year/200,000km warranty, 5-year capped price service and 5-year roadside assistance, if you get it serviced with Renault, with longer service intervals of 30,000km.


What’s it go like?

We tested both short and long wheelbase versions of the Express, both with the 2.0-litre engine and automatic transmission.

In hindsight, one’s 40cm longer and takes a little more in the back. Other than that, they feel very much the same.

Unfortunately, the entry 1.6-litre twin turbo was stuck in Brisbane and unavailable at the time.

The 2.0-lite diesel with its single turbo produces 125kW of power and 380Nm of torque from a low 1500 revs.

Performance is sharp, even for a van.

Punch the accelerator and it takes off, with a little chirp from the front tyres before they grab.

Hills disappear and in a straight line it’s rapid, impressive even, with the twin clutch auto delivering quick gear changes and little or no loss of engine revs between gears.

But, like most twin clutch setups, it can be tardy when asked to do virtually anything else, becoming jerky in traffic, a jumping kangaroo in tight spots and positively demented when it comes to backing and filling.

In these situations, the transmission lacks the fine control offered by a traditional auto, over-responding to the throttle and forcing the driver to jump on the brakes.

Changing from forward to reverse and back again is also challenging, especially when making a quick three-point turn when time is of the essence.

Where the twin clutch system excels, however, is in the fuel consumption stakes, with the two vans returning almost exactly the same figures — 7.4 and 7.5L/100km (rated at 7.3L/100km).

As for the rest of the package, it’s challenging ergonomically.

The driver’s seat is short, hard and uncomfortable and set at a height that requires a step up and into the cabin, then a second swivel and sit motion.

Try doing that more than 100 times a day if you’re a courier.

Without grab handles you’re forced to reach for the steering wheel or A pillar for support, but the latter option poses a risk if the door slams shut.

The driver’s seat does, however, have height and lumbar adjustment and the steering wheel is both reach and height adjustable.

Further investigation of the cabin reveals that it lacks a driver’s footrest and neither cupholder available to the driver will fit anything more than a small cup of coffee.

Obviously they don’t drink water in Europe.

It makes one wonder whether the people who design these things have ever driven one for a living.

We have.

Down the business end, the short wheelbase offers 5.2 cubic metres of cargo capacity and the long wheelbase, 6.0 cubic metres.

In comparison, long wheelbase HiAce offers 6.2 cubic metres and Transporter, 6.7 cubic metres.

Short wheelbase is 4999mm long, stands 1971mm tall, and is 2283mm wide including the mirrors, with a 3498mm wheelbase.

The long wheelbase version is the same width and height, but 400mm longer at 5399mm, with a 400mm longer wheelbase.

SWB has an 11.8 metre turning circle, LWB 13.2 metres, with 3.2 turns from lock to lock.

The load area in the SWB is 2537mm long, 1662mm wide with a height of 1387mm, and 1268mm between the wheel arches.

The load area in the longer van is 400mm longer at 2937mm, but otherwise the same.

Maximum payload in either is 1150kg and it can tow a 2 tonne load.

By the way, if you want grab handles, they’re available as part of a $3400 Essentials Pack.


What we like?

  • Goes like stink
  • Good fuel consumption
  • Easy rear access and slider movement
  • Auto lights and wipers (auto only)
  • Digital speedo
  • Digital radio standard


What we don’t like?

  • Driving position too high
  • Driver seat uncomfortable
  • No grab handles
  • No foot rest
  • Jerky transmission
  • No side windows
  • Massive blind spot
  • Floor mat optional


The bottom line?

With so many small but nevertheless important nuances, you’ll need a spreadsheet to work out which brand offers the better deal.

Or maybe Mitsubishi’s recently announced 10-year warranty will get you across the line. It’s rare these things apply to commercial vehicles, then again a commercial vehicle is likely to hit 200,000km long before the promised decade comes to an end.


CHECKOUT: Renault Trafic: Too classy for couriers

CHECKOUT: Express due . . . or is that overdue?


Mitsubishi Express, priced from $38,490
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 8/10
  • Safety - 7/10
  • Thirst - 8/10
  • Practicality - 7.5/10
  • Comfort - 7/10
  • Tech - 7/10
  • Value - 7.5/10