MITSUBISHI is back in the van market after a six year hiatus, thanks largely to the fact the company is now part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, a factor which has given it access to Renault’s Trafic van as the basis for a reborn Mitsubishi Express.
The differences between the Mitsubishi and the Renault are minimal and pretty much confined to a new grille, bonnet and badging, with a delete option on the steel bulkhead which separates the cargo area from the front passenger cockpit.
Apart from that, the Mitsubishi has a distinctly French accent and Australia is the first market to get the rebadged Trafic as a Mitsubishi Express.
“Most fleets of less than 100 light commercials are made up of around 50 per cent light vans, so it is a reasonable slab of business that we wanted to be a part of again,” Mitsubishi’s product chief Owen Thomson said.
Mitsubishi was always a very strong player in the light van market and so without one it has been missing out on a chunk of sales, albeit potentially a smaller slice of what has become an even more competitive market since it left.
That includes the arrival of a new version of the market leading Toyota HiAce van, the strong performance of the Trafic, Peugeot’s re-entry to the segment with its Expert, and the surge in sales for Hyundai’s capable iLoad models.
Throw in Ford’s popular and capable Transit, and Mitsubishi will be in for a battle.
Asked how it will differentiate the Express from the Renault model it’s sourced from, Thomson said Mitsubishi will lean on its larger dealer network, as well as upping the warranty to five years and 100,000km. Capped price servicing will also be offered.
Mitsubishi will offer the Express in four models with two short-wheelbase and two long-wheelbase versions, with a choice of four colours, including the standard and very popular white as well as silver, red and black.
The Express, like its Renault sibling, can be had with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto, with the manual using a 1.6-litre four cylinder twin turbo diesel with 103kW and 340Nm of torque.
The auto is coupled to the larger and more powerful 2.0-litre turbo diesel with 125kW of power and 380 Nm of torque. All variants are configured as front drive. Dual sliding doors are standard across the range, as are wide opening barn doors at the back.
Pricing for the Express is slightly higher than that of the French brand, despite the fact the Mitsubishi doesn’t get the benefit of the Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The 1.6-litre twin turbo GLX SWB manual starts at $38,490 plus on road costs.
The standard equipment list is reasonably impressive though, with remote central locking, air con, cruise control, a digital dash display and plenty of charging ports. There’s also a very convenient standard phone holder.
All versions of the Mitsubishi Express come with rear parking sensors (as does the Renault Trafic, Hyundai iLoad and Volkswagen Transporter). The Toyota HiAce and Ford Transit Custom have sensors front and rear.
In terms of safety, the new Express comes equipped with five airbags. Neither the Trafic or the Express have undergone ANCAP testing, but the Trafic carries a 3-star EuroNCAP rating from 2015.
Given most of its main opponents are either four or 5-star rated, safety ratings may colour the decision of some buyers. In terms of payload, the Express can handle 1,115kg in the auto SWB model, and 1,150kg on the manual models.
It has a braked towing capacity of 2,000kg on the manual and 1,715kg on the auto. The LWB models get the same tow capacity on the manuals and 1,630kg on the auto models, with a 1,200 payload for manuals and 1,150kg for autos.
The rest of the Mitsubishi line up includes the 1.6-litre twin turbo GLX LWB manual at $40,490, the 2.0-litre turbo GLX SWB auto at $42,490 and the 2.0-litre turbo GLX LWB auto at $44,490 (all plus on roads).
A relatively low safety rating and the lack of Apple CarPlay/Android Auto may steer some away, but it is still worth a look, particularly given Mitsubishi’s extensive dealer network, strong warranty and cap price servicing offerings.