BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Buying a used full-sized MPV can be fraught with all sorts of troubles. These vehicles often lead a hard life and buyers are often so anxious to find something in pristine condition that they'd often be better advised to buy new. One vehicle that does tend to shrug off the worst excesses of unruly children and big mileages is the Mitsubishi Grandis. Although it's only been on sale since 2004, dealers report few problems and strong demand. You may not find any super cheap bargains but you'll certainly find value for money.
You're probably used to Mitsubishi building rather square, uninteresting MPV style vehicles with names like the Space Wagon. The Grandis is rather different. Long, sleek and beautifully detailed, the Grandis has been marketed in Japan under the Space Wagon badge but UK imports finally got the nod in May 2004. First seen in Europe at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show and in the UK at the 2004 Birmingham Show, the Grandis created a stir but, unfortunately, Mitsubishi fell into a trap that really should be on page one of 'MPV Marketing 101'. They brought the Grandis into the country without offering a diesel-engined variant. With only a relatively thirsty 2.4-litre petrol engine on the books, most buyers instantly dismissed the Grandis as an interesting but ultimately impractical curio. The 2.0-litre DI-D diesel unit was added in July 2004 but by that time, the initial novelty had faded and Mitsubishi were forced to accept they'd missed the boat. That's something of a shame, as the Grandis has a lot to offer. If you can track one down it's well worth a place on your shortlist. Most buyers will never have even heard of it.
What You Get
At 4,755mm long, the Grandis is a good 10cm longer than a Ford Galaxy. It's also a good deal narrower, its wasp-waisted 1,795mm width making it less broad in the beam than a Ford Fiesta. That swooping roofline also means that it's low slung, never reaching more than 1,655mm off the deck, making it low for an MPV. That's about 14cm lower than a Toyota Previa. If headroom in your garage is an issue but you need seven seats, the Grandis is an interesting option. It's not the only option, however, as Honda's even more compact and low-slung Stream also seats seven and offers sparkling driving characteristics.
The Mitsubishi certainly scores over the Honda in terms of sheer space available inside and by the innovative nature of its seating arrangements. Their 'Hide & Seat' concept involves a rear row of seats that can be individually folded away into the floor in a simple operation that takes seconds. No longer will you have to fold and tumble seats, leaving ugly, greasy mechanisms exposed, nor will you need to risk a herniated disc by lugging these bulky units into the garage only for the cat to spend a penny on them whilst you're out.
With the second and third row of seats folded in place, there's 1,545 litres of cargo capacity available. Park it in a salubrious inner city neighbourhood and you could almost rent it out as a studio flat. The third row of seats isn't just a crude bench as in most vehicles of this ilk. Both seats can be reversed to provide a rear facing vantage point - ideal when viewing an outdoor event as the rear tailgate provides an excellent rain shelter. What's more, both these seats can be individually reclined for additional comfort.
What's less of a surprise is that the Grandis comes very well-equipped. Anti lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution and twin front and side airbags are fitted as standard to all models, although a black mark has to be awarded for only fitting curtain airbags for the first two rows of seats. Four trim levels are offered, Classic, Equippe, Elegance and Warrior, although such is the capricious nature of Mitsubishi's marketing effort in the UK that by the time of going to press, these models may well be named something completely different. The Classic includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a CD player, keyless entry and alarm, automatic air conditioning, front fog lamps, a rear spoiler, electronic door mirrors and a height adjustable drivers seat with armrest. That's a fair roster for an entry-level vehicle.
What to Look For
Firstly, you'll need to make sure the Grandis you're looking at really is a Grandis. You may see some very inexpensive looking Grandis models advertised in small ads. When you turn up you'll doubtless be greeted by an old shape Japanese import Space Wagon, so be careful about 2004 model year cars. Make sure you know what you're travelling to look at.
You need a full service history on these, as maintenance can be expensive and parts pricey. Check for school run knocks and signs of family abuse in the interior. Otherwise, build quality is good and the engines will go round the clock with care.
(approx based on a 2005 2.4 Classic - ex Vat) A clutch assembly is around £345 and an exhaust system about £440. Front and rear brake pads will be in the vicinity of £45 a set. A radiator is about £200, an alternator about £150 and a starter motor £155.
On the Road
Although Mitsubishi did drop a clanger by initially importing the Grandis with no diesel option, thankfully that faux pas was rectified by the DI-D unit. This Volkswagen-sourced oil-burner is only offered with 6-speed manual transmission but there are two different gearboxes to choose from if you go for the petrol. As well as the conventional manual transmission, there's also Mitsubishi's innovative INVECS-II four-speed automatic. Equipped with a sports mode, this gearbox attempts to learn a driver's style and can rapidly adapt to offer intelligent shifting patterns. The 2.4-litre engine isn't quite as thirsty as expected, managing a combined fuel consumption figure of 30.4mpg. Naturally, the automatic version is a little less fuel-efficient but even here 28.5mpg is still a fair return.
The Grandis is no slouch either, accelerating to 60mph in less than ten seconds and on to a top speed of 124mph. The automatic car is a little tardier off the line, registering an 11.5-second sprint to 60 and a top speed of 118mph. When you learn that the diesel can return an impressive 43mpg, you start to understand why it was such a big miss when the Grandis first arrived on these shores. Family buyers like good fuel economy and they may also be pleased to learn that the DI-D is fairly nippy. 0-60mph takes 10.8s and there's a 121mph top speed.
The Grandis isn't the most obvious option but for some buyers that will be half the appeal. With sleek styling, an excellent reliability record and plenty of standard convenience and safety kit, the Grandis is an MPV that has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, there's a bit of maths involved in ownership. The models that are available to buy relatively cheaply - the 2.4-litre petrol models - are quite costly to run so may not be the bargains they at first appear. The diesel versions will save you fuel bills but the entry level cars are priced way higher. If you plan on covering modest mileages, the 2.4-litre model could be a good choice. Higher mileage buyers should save their pennies and bag a diesel. Some will be playing the waiting game for the car to get past the steepest part of its depreciation curve.