Car Reviews

2020 Mitsubishi Express SWB and LWB review

2020 Mitsubishi Express SWB and LWB review in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.

We were excited on hearing news that Mitsubishi’s Express van nameplate was re-entering the market after a seven-year hiatus.

But it’s not quite the Japanese load mover we envision. Rather, it’s based entirely on the Renault Trafic courtesy of the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance and the synergies that brings. In fact, we can expect more of this badge-engineering in the future, though each brand says it will bring some sort of identity to its sheet metal.

In this instance, Mitsubishi’s Express was an express project, changing only the front bumper, grille and badges from the French product, and both come out of the same factory in Sandouville. Still, the Renault van is a good thing, and so by design, the Mitsubishi shouldn’t vary much from what we’re already familiar with.

How much does it cost and what do you get?

There are only four grades of Mitsubishi Express available and all four are barebones base grade models, save for a different engine option.

The pity is that Mitsubishi misses a touchscreen entertainment system like all its rivals can tout – the Renault Trafic, but also the Hyundai iLoad, Ford Transit and top-selling Toyota Hiace. This is actually the only model in the Japanese brand’s stable that doesn’t have a touch screen available at all – a bit unusual for value-packed Mitsubihi’s usual offering.

And pricing is pretty close to the Renault too. All grades are GLX – Mitsubishi for entry-level – and come in either long-wheelbase or short and with a manual or automatic. If you get a manual, you get a lesser-powered 1.6-litre twin-turbo diesel engine, the auto, a six-speed dual-clutch, is mated exclusively to a more powerful 2.0-litre diesel turbo.

2020 Mitsubishi Express pricing:

Mitsubishi Express GLX SWB (1.6-litre diesel manual) – $38,490

Mitsubishi Express GLX LWB (1.6-litre diesel manual) – $40,490

Mitsubishi Express GLX SWB (2.0-litre diesel auto) – $42,490

Mitsubishi Express GLX LWB (2.0-litre diesel auto) – $44,490

For that money, all variants carry the same gear, except the autos have a reversing camera (shown in the mirror) and automatic wipers and headlights. The standard equipment across the range includes a three-row front seat with fabric trim, lumbar and manual seat adjustment for the driver, 16-inch steel rims, Bluetooth radio and CD player, air-conditioning, power side mirrors, and keyless entry and locking. Physically, there are two sliding doors and two-stage 270-degree opening barn doors on the rear.

Mitsubishi also offers a five-year, 100,000km warranty for the Express van with roadside servicing and capped-price servicing ($250 each visit).

What’s the interior like and how practical is it?

The front-row seats are comfortable and this is a terrific full-time service van. The lumbar for driver is supportive and the seats cushioning underneath are well dampened for a long day sitting on your behind. The pilot’s armrest is a nice touch and matches well to the long, grooved door armrest. It’s the sort of seating position that suits long journey’s and sitting in city traffic.

The one blight is the lack of a better infotainment system, which might arrive in a later upgrade spec if this Express is a success. The default stereo is clear for calls through, and it has Bluetooth and uses USB to charge and connect for music. But it doesn’t deliver sat-nav and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto which can be crucial for some delivery drivers. Luckily, there’s a good area on top of the dash to mount a device for such uses, and there’s also a factory phone cradle. But the latter only just fits a modern iPhone, and won’t handle a bigger ‘phablet’ phone.

Other connections include a second USB charging port, 12-volt socket (front and cargo rear) and auxiliary sound inputs. There is also a stereo control mounted to the back fo the steering wheel, and while it’s a different approach from how just about every other manufacturer does it, they work well when you only have one hand to control the wheel and change call volume at the same time.

Around the cabin for convenience are three cupholders, two-door pockets with deep bottle holders, a twin glovebox, and some storage on the dash for paperwork. The cupholders for driver and passenger, mounted on the dash, fit a medium coffee cup fine, but the centre cupholder can’t and isn’t good for much more than small cups.

On the move, vision through the glasshouse is clear and mostly unobstructed with the twin flat and convex mirrors providing a good amount of adjustment for rear side vision. Reversing in the manual-equipped van is obviously more painful due to the lack of a reversing camera. It’s a very upright seating position as you’d expect from a van.

Around the back, we have one of the lowest step-up floors in this segment and a sliding door on each side with glass window. At the back are dual-stage barn doors that can be easily unlatched to open from the default 90-degree-lock position to swinging around flush with the side. In the back was the optional floor cover for out test car and a 12volt sock with some tie-down points dotted about.

As far as capacities, the short-wheelbase holds 5.2 cubic metres and the long-wheelbase 6 cubic metres. Both are 1956mm wide, and the LWB will fit two standard Australian pallets in. On that point, the payload capacity is up to 1200kg (roof holds 200kg with appropriate mounts).

What’s the engine like?

There are two different engines and both perform well.

The 1.6L unit is a twin-turbo diesel producing 103kW at 3500rpm and 340Nm at 1500rpm mated to a six-speed manual transmission. It has enough grunt to skip the wheels moving up a gear and, while we haven’t yet tested with load, it felt more than confident to lug along strongly. On the highway at 110km/h it was also comfortably idling along in sixth at a bit over 1200rpm.

The bigger 2.0-litre turbo diesel produces 125kW at 3500rpm and 380Nm at 1500rpm and shifts its motivation through the six-speed dual clutch auto. It’s certainly a more lively engine and better suited to the longer wheelbase, which will predominantly be used for heavier loads. It also cruised comfortably at 110km/h and was smoother around urban environments, with the manual’s notchy gate feel the biggest detraction over an otherwise fluid driveline.

The manual vans, however, are rated to a braked towing capacity of 2000kg, while the autos are limited to 1700kg.

At the bowser, Mitsubishi claims 6.2L/100km for the 1.6-litre engine and 7.3L/100km for the 2.0-litre unit on the combined cycle rating.

Interestingly, Mitsubishi requires a shorter distance interval on its van servicing than Renaults, with Mitsubishi stipulating 15,000km/12 months against the Trafic’s 30,000km/12 months. However, Mitsubishi’s services are cheaper at $250 than Renault’s $599.

What’s it like to drive?

In a word: breezy. The Express, like the Trafic, is built for serious workers. You can sit in it all day and not tire, obviously crucial for this segment. The auto is certainly the better overall, though there’s nothing wrong with the manual and it operates well enough. But with a bigger engine, added reversing camera and automatic wipers/headlights, the auto is a solid choice.

The steering is light and the turning circle okay considering its front-wheel driven underpinnings; 11.8m for the SWB and 13.2m in LWB. It makes reasonably quick work of city streets for vans measuring 4999mm and 5399mm long – not imposing even in the LWB really.

Our LWB tester had 200kg in the back and it was sure-footed yet comfortable over bumps and coarse roads while maintaining good stability around corners. We drove on gravel corrugated roads and it held up well. The SWB, bare, was nimbler in dynamic ability and the suspension felt a little livelier over speed humps. Both certainly feel more polished than the Express van of old.

Both are also a bit noisy on the open road (not unusual for an open cabin van), and the crew cab option the Trafic has is not available in the Express. That buffers out sound and adds three more seats (and sacrifices cargo capacity). The optional cargo cage was fitted to both of our vans.

Under brakes, both vans pull up quickly and are sharp enough, though there’s no AEB or any other modern safety tech in the Express/Trafic like the top-selling Hiace has, though it does have a digital speedo.

How safe is it?

The Renault Trafic scored a three-star ANCAP rating which comes in part from the lack of aforementioned AEB (automated emergency braking). 

The Mitsubishi Express does come with five airbags, emergency brake assist, rollover mitigation, and trailer stability assistance. Manual’s also get hill start assist.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the value?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?

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Alex Rae

Alex Rae