The Mitsubishi Xpander has been finally revealed in Malaysia, with a media preview coinciding with the revelation of specs and opening of order books. Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) will be officially launching the seven-seater next month.
A single Pekan-assembled CKD variant will be offered here, to be priced below RM100k and competitively against the Honda BR-V and Toyota Rush, which are also people carriers with SUV-inspired styling. Behind the bold Dynamic Shield face is a 1.5 litre naturally-aspirated engine with 105 PS and 141 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. The 4A91 MIVEC unit sends drive to the front axle via a four-speed automatic gearbox.
As for equipment, the facelifted Xpander comes with bi-LED reflector headlamps and LED daytime running lights. The LED eyes mark this out as the facelift (the original car had halogen lamps), along with U-shaped louvres that replace the triple slats on the grille. Also fitted are LED tail lights and 16-inch two-tone alloys.
Inside, a black interior with quilted leather seats, a 9.0-inch touchscreen head unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a 360-degree camera system and dashcam are unique-to-Malaysia features. Elsewhere, the Xpander also comes with keyless entry with push start, a 4.2-inch colour multi-info display, six speakers and four roof-mounted rear air vents. Safety-wise, there’s two airbags, ABS/EBD, stability control, hill start assist and Isofix child seat anchors. Read more in our media preview report.
We caught up with MMM CEO Tomoyuki Shinnishi and senior VP Hoffen Teh at the media preview and posed some burning questions to the bosses. On why it took them so long to introduce the Xpander in Malaysia (the model made its debut in August 2017 in Indonesia, and word then was that it would reach Malaysia the following year), Shinnishi said that the Malaysian market is such that if a car is to be competitive in price, it has to be CKD, and the delay was due to preparations for local assembly.
He added that the decision to put the Xpander together at Pekan was a business one. DRB-Hicom, which owns the automotive complex in Pekan, is also a shareholder of MMM, and “we highly utilised DRB facilities to make the product more competitive,” Shinnishi said, hinting at cost savings and a win-win for all parties. The Mitsubishi Outlander and ASX SUVs are contract assembled at Tan Chong Motor Assemblies’ Segambut plant in KL.
MMM has planned initial sales of 500 units per month, but with over 7,400 names in the registration of interest exercise, Shinnishi said that MMM might have to revise its sales planning and production capacity to meet demand.
Moving to the product, Hoffen explained that there are slight changes to the Xpander for Malaysia. Our country has unique regulations compared to other ASEAN countries, and one example is the rear fog lamp requirement. He said that the lifestyle and expectations of Malaysian customers also differ from their regional counterparts, and changes to the interior colour scheme reflect this – our Xpander gets a black theme with silver trim, while Indonesia prefers a more “luxury” beige and wood combo.
On top of that, MMM has included quilted leather seats, a 9.0-inch touchscreen head unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, an around-view monitor and a dashcam. “We’re aware of market demand and requirements, the preference of Malaysians,” Hoffen said, while conceding that they couldn’t do much about the Xpander’s airbag count, which is two.
“We have to admit that this vehicle was originally designed mainly for the Indonesian market, and then it expanded to Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. As far as vehicle engineering is concerned, as of now, they (the other ASEAN countries) represent the major markets and there’s no real market demand for more than two airbags,” he said.
As for why now, and why this product, Shinnishi pointed to Mitsubishi Motors’ mid term business plan, which was announced in July. As it’s no longer the wide-ranging carmaker it once was, MMC declared that its the company will focus on the ASEAN market, where it is relatively strong, while concentrating on pick-up trucks, SUVs and MPVs. Passenger cars from the three diamond brand are history. The Xpander Cross? Under consideration.
The MMM chief summarised by highlighting the Xpander’s three major points – good design (the Dynamic Shield look is powerful, macho and robust), a spacious body (full size, seven adults can sit in comfort), and features customised for Malaysian customers (large head unit, around view monitor, dashcam). He also pointed to the brand’s good after sales record in Malaysia – top in the JD Power Customer Service Index (CSI) study for two consecutive years, and second in the Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) last year.
Check out the video above for the full interview, and the video below for a walk-around tour of the Xpander.