Test venue: Wiltshire and Gloucestershire
Hot on the heels of Mitsubishi's new Outlander and Colt models, is the Japanese manufacturer's new MPV, the Grandis, which hits the UK dealer network on July 1st. The five-door, seven-seater people carrier is powered by a four-cylinder 2.4-litre petrol engine. although a 2.0-litre diesel unit will join the model range in mid-2005.
Mitsubishi claims to have been one of the first automotive manufacturers to introduce the MPV to British shores, when the Space Wagon was launched back in 1984. Management hopes that the Grandis will take market share from class leaders, such as the Ford Galaxy and Kia Sedona.
~We feel that we have introduced a striking car with an excellent design, not just a van with seats,~ said Lance Bradley, Head of Sales and Marketing at Colt Car Company. ~We are confident that the Grandis will appeal to estate car owners.~
Mitsubishi are looking to sell around 1000 units this year, when the car goes on sale in three trim levels. Bradley reckons that 40% of sales will be of the base Classic model, with 50% of cars sold fitted with the semi-automatic transmission. Mitsubishi hopes to sell up to 2,500 units when the diesel model is introduced.
The Grandis is a striking car. It has a presence on the road not normally associated with the rather dull MPV sector and has a lower centre of gravity than some of its rivals, an extended wheelbase and therefore better road holding and all-round handling.
The petrol engine is lively and responsive and delivers 162 bhp at 6,000 rpm. There is plenty of torque, although the performance from the optional INVECS automatic transmission was more appealing personally on an enjoyable test run laid on from the delightful Whatley Manor and on through rural Wiltshire and Gloucestershire during the UK launch in mid-June.
Mitsubishi claims that the Grandis fitted with a five-speed manual transmission will reach the speed limit in around 10 seconds and is capable of 30 mpg and a top speed of 124 mph. There's no doubting the car's estate car-like handling and stability on the road, but the four-speed automatic transmission with logic control option may be preferential, but a little sluggish on acceleration. It has a top speed of 118 mph and a claimed fuel consumption of around 28 mpg.
Despite the lack of a diesel version - around 75% of Ford Galaxy sales are diesel models - until next year, Mitsubishi management are confident that the car will sell well in three available trim levels - Classic, Equippe and Elegance, with on-the-road prices ranging from £18,499 to £22,999.
Standard equipment includes no less than eight air bags, ABS brakes with EBD, climate control, central locking, 17-inch alloy wheels, an alarm and immobiliser and an ingenious ~Hide and Seat' third row of seats. These fold into the floor to create additional load space and can also be turning around to face a rearward position to create an excellent seating area when the car is parked for a barbecue, picnic or a family outing.
An increase of £2000 on the base price gives you the Equippe option, with cruise control, a dual sunroof, leather steering wheel and gearknob, traction and stability control, a CD autochanger and a rear cargo shelf. The sunroof was a disappointing option. My test took place in the heat of a June afternoon and I discovered that the rear sunroof slides electronically, while the front sunroof only tilts manually. For an extra £1500 you can opt for the Elegance and full leather upholstery. All models are covered by a three-year warranty.
There's no doubting its driving appeal and practicality, but how does the Grandis stack up against its rivals? Mitsubishi compared the Classic model with five competitors in a similar price range. The Grandis was slightly cheaper than each of them, excluding dealer discounts, and its standard equipment levels far outshone the likes of the Toyota Avensis Verso, Citroen C8 and Chrysler Voyager.
It is also a better looking car than its rivals. Lance Bradley proudly boasts that when the car was first unveiled to a management team at Trebur-Astheim in Germany, there was spontaneous applause from the assembled throng. The lack of a diesel engine may affect sales in the short term, despite the obvious decision not to push the Grandis to a fleet market, but Mitsubishi is confident that it will meet its first year target of 1000 units. I wouldn't bet against it either.
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