How many Mitsubishis have an indicator stalk on the left-hand side in Australia? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it’s a short list. We can officially add one more, however, with the new 2020 Mitsubishi Express van.
In particular, we’re behind the wheel of the long-wheelbase Express van with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine and automatic transmission.
Why does a Japanese van have a Euro-style stalk set-up? Simple: this Mitsubishi is a Renault Trafic under the skin.
It might become more common now, as Mitsubishi has become part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and the three manufacturers continue to look over each other’s shoulders in a bid to save development costs.
Commercial vehicles are often a decision made based on numbers instead of emotions, using your head instead of your heart.
Let’s get the numbers down, then. Under the bonnet of this Express is a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, which makes 125kW at 3500rpm and 380Nm at 1500rpm. This runs through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to the front wheels.
If you prefer to shift your own cogs, the Express comes with a six-speed manual transmission as well. However, that sits behind a 1.6-litre twin-turbo diesel, which makes less power (103kW at 3500rpm) and torque (340Nm at 1500rpm).
We’ve got the long-wheelbase option in this test, which has a 3498mm wheelbase and 5399mm overall length. The short-wheelbase option is, naturally, shorter. There is 4999mm of overall length, with a correspondingly shorter wheelbase (3098mm).
The LWB Express van yields 6m³ of space, while the SWB variant musters 5.2m³. And with an unladen mass of 1920kg and GVM of 3070kg, you’ve got an effective payload of 1150kg. The towing capacity is 1630kg, accompanied by a 4700kg gross combination mass.
For those interested in really crunching the numbers, you’d be well served checking out the launch review of the Express range by Joshua Dowling. In there are plenty of numbers, graphs, tables and comparisons to pore over.
Claimed fuel economy for the Express LWB auto variant is 7.3 litres per 100km. In our testing, I saw that number exactly. However, most of our time was spent on the highway. So while it’s impressively frugal, a more balanced driving cycle would likely see that number creep up.
While the range starts at $38,490 before on-road costs, our example has a price tag of $44,490 before on-road costs.
Mitsubishi advertises drive-away pricing on Express vans for ABN holders starting from $40,890 for the SWB with the manual transmission and smaller engine combination, or $41,490 without an ABN. Business buyers aren't offered any extra additional discounts for an LWB automatic, but a drive-away deal from $47,490 for the spec we have here is available.
The interior of the Express is quite a basic affair, and lacks the more advanced specs and tech in comparison to something like a Toyota HiAce or Ford Transit Custom. There is no infotainment display, rather a single-DIN-style head unit. It’s got Bluetooth connectivity and can play MP3s via a USB port, and I was surprised to find digital radio stations on it.
Extra radio stations are a boon for those spending long hours behind the wheel in our big cities. But, the problem with this system is that the small screen and basic controls make it difficult and time-consuming to cycle through different stations if you haven't preset your favourites.
No centre screen means the reversing camera needs to find a new home, as well. When you engage reverse, a small part of the rear-view mirror becomes your eyes out the back. It’s handy, and better than nothing at all, although the display is small and a little pixelated.
It would be more practical if the camera view were switchable, like the Toyota HiAce, for when your boot is loaded with gear and you’re keen to see what’s lurking behind when not in reverse. Manual drivers go without the rear camera, too, but both auto and manual come with rear sensors at least.
The lack of an infotainment display is, in part, made up by a phone mount installed on the dashboard. It’s sturdy and held my phone securely. Even better, the USB point behind the mount keeps things neat, and has enough grunt to charge a phone that’s busy playing music and dishing out navigation. Although, larger-style smartphones might not fit.
These days, four buttons on a steering wheel feels kind of quaint. These operate your cruise control, and are joined by some driving-related buttons on the dashboard. There is an additional control stalk hidden perfectly behind the thick steering wheel spoke for the audio and phone functions. You need to learn it and pick buttons by memory, because you can’t see it at all when driving.
Additional interior storage spots include big cut-outs on the topside of the dashboard, along with a couple of small cupholders. There’s another larger flip-out cupholder near the gear shifter, and a spot for your wallet above the head unit.
The door cards have plenty of storage space, and there’s another small lidded glovebox near the driver’s knee.
Unlike some other vans, the Express has room for three up front, and the seat design leaves the driver with some extra space. We like the fold-down armrest as well, which would be handy for those long days behind the wheel.
Barn doors on the back give you full-width access to the load area, and sliding doors on each side of the van help with versatility. And props to the step designed into the rear bumper, which makes life easier on the knees.
The load floor, by the way, is big enough for a pallet (1662mm), including between the wheel arches (1268mm). However, squeezing a big loaded pallet through the sliding door could be tight.
Engine performance is good enough for the application of a van about town. Even on the highway, the 2.0-litre diesel revs out happily enough to around 4000rpm when you need, giving you enough shove for most merging situations. Plus, it’s fairly quiet and refined at the same time.
The suspension feels a little firm, even with a few hundred kilograms of load in the back. It’s not as smooth or refined as a Toyota HiAce, for example, but it feels up to the job of heavier loads.
The dual-clutch transmission is quite well behaved, giving you smooth control and responsive gear changes when you need them. Like most other dual-clutch transmissions, you’ll notice a difference at low speeds, and this Express van needs a bit of throttle to pop up driveways or steep impediments.
There is a noticeable amount of tyre hum and roar (depending on the surface) at highway speeds. Some roof lining throughout the cab might absorb some of that noise compared to bare metal in the load area.
With service intervals of either 12 months or 15,000km, Mitsubishi’s capped-price servicing program only covers your first three visits. They’re quite cheap at $250 a pop, but you’re in relatively open waters after that point. And service costs will likely increase.
The warranty offering, although in place for five years, feels a little short with the 100,000km limit. If this Express van is going to be belting down bitumen from nine to five, five days a week, that 100,000km (and servicing schedule) will get outstripped pretty quickly.
Toyota’s warranty offering of five years and 160,000km (for commercial use, unlimited kilometres for private use) is better, although six-month/10,000km servicing intervals could prove more expensive and time-consuming.
The Express van misses out on more advanced safety technology, like autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. For many buyers, such technology would be deemed essential, but not including them cements the Express as a value low-cost option against more refined and technologically advanced competition.
That's the overall business case of the new Mitsubishi Express van. There are better vans in the segment, but does that make the Express a bad van? Not necessarily, and that will depend largely on what your needs are. And, perhaps most importantly, how good a deal you can strike. Without segment-leading tech, safety or design, the Express will need to drive a hard bargain to be competitive.