Science has proven that siblings share about 50 percent of the same DNA on average. Each brother gets one half of his DNA from each parent, since the father and the mother only donate half of their DNA.
The shared DNA can produce some similarities in the appearance of the siblings, like – in the case of celebrities—the winsome toothy smile of the Osmond brothers or the handsome sexy look of the Baldwin brothers. But each sibling gets to shine on his own merit, like when Donny Osmond became a pop icon in the ‘70s or when Alec Baldwin became the male sex symbol of the ‘90s.
The Baldwin brothers: William, Stephen, Alec and Daniel.
In the automotive industry, the DNA of vehicle is determined not just by the designer, but also by the marketing direction of the manufacturer. The more familial the vehicle looks, the better the brand recall. Take the case of the trio of Mitsubishi utility vehicles – the Montero Sport sport utility vehicle (SUV), the Strada pickup truck, and the Xpander compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). They possess the same familial design language with a modern chiseled look but each with its own individual characteristics.
For the purpose of our test drive review, let’s focus on the 2019 Mitsubishi Xpander 1.5 GLS AT. Mitsubishi Motors wanted to project an adventurous and futuristic style with the application of the Dynamic Shield design concept on their contender for the MPV market. Judging by the number of units we see on the road today and the number of envious looks we get while driving our GLS on the road, a lot of Filipinos are attracted to its futuristic styling. The front end of our GLS features a chrome grill with clear smoke coating combined with the LED position lamps arranged like crystal blocks and a unique headlight design. The factory claims that the lamp layout improves night time visibility for both pedestrians and oncoming vehicles and prevents the blinding effects of headlight glare. During our evening drives around the metropolis, we can only agree with Mitsubishi’s claim.
Many are taken by its modern looks and balanced proportions.
The Xpander carries its two-box (engine and passenger compartments) proportions and its character lines over its 4.5-meter length very well. We would have preferred a bigger wheel and tire combo to fill up the wheel wells better, but those four 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Ecopia 205/65R-16 tires already provide an ample combination of grip and comfort. At the rear, L-shaped LED tail lamps with the rear combination lamps extend to the tailgate that opens wide to accept tall, bulky or wide stuff. In an ode to its futuristic styling, the rear view of the Xpander looks like a space pod from a science fiction movie.
Getting inside the Xpander is a breeze. The four doors open wide to provide easy access to the three seating rows proportioned over 2.8 meters of interior space, which can seat seven adults comfortably. Folding the 60/40-split second row seats accesses the third row, although we noticed that the smaller 40% split seat is on the left side of the vehicle, perhaps due to the fact that the Xpander is assembled in Indonesia. Mitsubishi engineers thoughtfully installed a large armrest in the second row that folds forward into a center space to hold long items. The seats can be arranged in various combinations to accommodate different type of cargo. There’s ample space for luggage with the third row seats up and because of its flat luggage floor without bumps and gaps, the Xpander’s maximum cargo capacity is 1,630 liters when both the second and third row seats are folded.
Taller drivers might need to bend a little when entering or exiting the Xpander because of the windshield angle, which is slanted aggressively to minimize wind drag. Once inside though, the driver faces an ergonomic cockpit with a comfortable and relatively high seating position, clear forward and side visibility. He or she grips a steering wheel equipped with remote switches for the infotainment system and cruise control, and an instrument panel with an 8,000rpm tachometer and a 200 km/h speedometer sandwiching an LED screen that displays the odometer reading, fuel mileage, fuel range, average speed, and a unique “Economy” driving indicator. A 7-inch touch screen monitor features a navigation system, MP3 player, AM/FM radio, auxiliary port, USB port, Bluetooth connectivity and Easy Link feature. We particularly like the numerous cubbyholes where we can store various small items, the slots where we can place our mobile phones, and the 12V power outlets for first, second and third rows.
Driving in Metro Manila Traffic
Unfortunately, we didn’t plan for an out-of-town drive when we got the Xpander. The two times we drove it on highway was when we got it from the MMPC plant in Santa Rosa, Laguna and when we returned it a week later. Despite its 1.5-liter 4A91 4-cylinder engine, which is equipped with the Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control (MIVEC) system, double overhead camshafts (DOHC), 16 valves and an “Eco” mode setting, we can only squeeze an average of 5.32 kilometers per liter (18.8L/100kms as shown on the onboard computer) with an average speed of 9 km/h. When we stretched its legs on the highways, we were able to improve our fuel mileage to 9.17 km/L (10.9L/100kms) with an average speed of 20 km/h. It only goes to show that getting stuck in crawling traffic is a horrendous waste of fuel.
While our driving style with the Xpander may not win any fuel economy challenges, it won us over with its numerous safety features. We learned that Mitsubishi’s proprietary Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) body is designed to absorb the impact of a collision while its anti-lock braking system (ABS) and emergency stop signal (ESS) system, which activates and automatically flashes the hazard lamps in case of sudden stops, helps prevent collisions from happening. We also found out that the Xpander was awarded a 4-star safety rating in the ASEAN New Car Assessment Program (ASEAN NCAP). That it has several airbags protecting all the occupants is another reassuring point to consider.
Slot above the glove compartment can hold passenger’s phone and other small items.
When the Xpander was first launched, we immediately dismissed it as the smaller, more affordable MPV version of the Montero Sport. After our week-long test drive, we realized that despite having the same Mitsubishi DNA, the Xpander has its own identity. While the Montero Sport is the Mitsubishi’s highly desirable SUV, the Xpander is their highly versatile MPV. Judging by the number of Xpander MPVs that we now see on the Philippine roads, we can say that its DNA is becoming wired into the Filipino’s motoring subconscious. Like what Donny Osmond was to the ’70s and Alec Baldwin was to the ’90s, the Mitsubishi Xpander may become the Star MPV of its time.
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