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Test Drives
16 Apr 09 17:53
Mitsubishi's New Breed of MPV
CarSanook.com
John K. Lindgren
Land Rover ... the classic name in cars for the extraordinary driver...

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The new Mitsubishi Space Wagon is it something out of Star Wars, perhaps?

mitsu_spwg_front_gt_w670.jpg

Actually, the Space Wagon is all about inner space rather than outer space (sic), if you prefer. It's not an estate wagon or a station wagon (nor a shooting brake, as the British landed gentry initially called this segment a hundred years ago) but a wagon with space. A space wagon.

Back in 2005, traditional station wagons were becoming a niche market, while the MPVs and SUVs were expanding, followed by 'crossovers' and other electrical hybrids. The new people-movers offer space and practicality at a price that is relatively cheap compared with their forebears.

This first generation Space Wagon (also known as the Mitsubishi Grandis in the Australian, New Zealand and UK markets) is Mitsubishi's answer to the Honda Stream, The Toyota Wish and the now dated GM Chevrolet Zafira.

gt_rear_w670.jpg
Styling
So far as the exterior styling is concerned, the Space Wagon looks fast even when it's standing stock still. My fourteen years-old daughter said the car reminded her of a lion! The main design features display a low, sleek, road-hugging profile with slanted headlamps, a raked back windscreen, low sides and big wheels (16-inch alloys) in protruding wheel arches. The posterior view is pleasing, with crimson vertical-stacked (stand up) brake lights allied to a notably wide stance.


Interior features
Inside the design manages to be both clever and practical. Big wide doors make for easy climbing in and climbing out. The dashboard, (the Brits call it fascia!) is of the starship command style, with blue circular instrument dials. The gear shift is mounted on the center console and thereby liberates plenty of front floor space.

The Space Wagon boasts three rows of seats, upholstered in firm leather. It's all top quality fit-and-finish and gives off the unmistakably aroma of luxury. These days, too many otherwise perfect cars are spoiled by mediocre "el-cheapo" seats which result in lower-back pain and muscular discomfort, Here, the driver's seat, front passenger seat and second-row seats all offer exceptional space and comfort, with armrests perfect for passenger DVD movie watching.

mitsu_spwg_interior_w670.jpg

Our demonstration model came loaded with features, including a 6.5 inch DVD entertainment system and 6-disc CD auto-changer. I was reliably informed by the teenage test passenger that the second row is and excellent place to be while watching Tom Cruise in the The Last Samurai � all high-resolution mode with captions, of course, and with crystal-clear Dolby surround sound.

The entertainment system is certainly a major highlight of the "Mitsu" Space Wagon if (as is normally the case) kids feature in the choice of this kind of vehicle. Cars, traffic jams, MPVs, SUVs, buses scenery and what-have-you seldom impress the little darlings at all. But two high-resolution DVD screens (one on the dashboard, one fold-down ceiling screen in the second row) plus a sound system that gives you shivers down the spice? The driver may not enjoy these things (except the soundtrack) to the full, but a notable absence of 'are we there yet' hockling is ample compensation.


In any case, the driver has his own toys. For example, a dashboard touch screen which automatically turns into a rear-view camera when reversing. A wide angle color image is transmitted by a tiny camera at the rear of the vehicle. This, plus the corner sensors, makes reversing in tight spots a piece of cake. Most bumps, dents and scratches do occur when reversing.

Five adults can ride in comfort in the Space Wagon. Seven can ride OK, but this may not be ideal for long distances (The ideal 'full loading' for a comfortable drive would be four adults and two kids). All passengers have individual 3-speed air vent controls a very important feature at the height of the hot season with the thermometer hitting 37 degrees centigrade! Naturally, all safety features are included: six airbags, plus second row curtain airbags, ABS,EDB (electronic brake-force distribution) the works.

mitsu_spwg_console_w670.jpg
On the tarmac
We put our Mitsubishi Space Wagon through its paces on the road to Nakhon Sawan the trunk road to the North. Here we had ample opportunity to overtake and brake.

I found the vehicle a tad long at 4.07 meters, but it handles well regardless, with precise steering and responsive brakes. The 2400 cc engine has sufficient power, and we later found that the McPhearson struts efficiently absorb all the cracks, ruts and imperfections to be found on the highways and byways of provincial Thailand.

During a short high-speed test, the Space Wagon managed zero to 100 km/h in 12 seconds and registered a top speed of 185 km/h. Petrol consumption is 12.5 kilometers per liter in highway mode, falling to 9 kilometers per liter in city mode. Pretty standard for this size of engine.


Engine room
The badge at the back indicates 2.4 MIVEC. In the engine bay we find a 2,400cc four-cylinder motor delivering 165 horsepower � and instant punch for swift overtaking. I found the four-speed automatic gearbox with manual option to be trouble free throughout, and positively delighted in the acoustics from the exhaust pipe - sporty, tight and delicious. The Space Wagon sounds much more like a sporty sedan than a traditional people carrier or MPV.



Carsanook.com verdict
So if you want to carry a half-dozen passengers in modern living-room comfort, but don't enjoy looking like a van driver, the new Mitsubishi Space Wagon GT is an option well worth considering great sleek, feline looks, and a lot of car beneath the skin. It will set you back 1.65 million THB, but one thing I can guarantee your kids will love this vehicle. Take one or two of the juniors along for your test drive and see.


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