Mitsubishi Colt; photo by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge
By Paul Williams
When Mitsubishi first came to Canada four years ago, it did so riding a wave of successful advertising from the U.S. that promoted the brand’s “cool” vehicles and appeal to younger buyers. “Start the Commotion” was the theme-song in those heady days.
But it was at the showroom floor where the commotion crashed into the reality of an aging Mitsubishi model lineup that couldn’t live up to its hype.
Sales, to put it mildly, didn’t take off.
But slow and steady, right? Now with new management in Canada, and a greater understanding of the Canadian market by executives in Japan (not unrelated), Mitsubishi is making its move.
Led by the latest Eclipse and Eclipse Spyder, and followed by the racy new Lancer compact sedan and Outlander CUV, Mitsubishi’s sales are rising (so far, Mitsubishi is the top brand for year-over-year growth in 2007) and the company’s vehicles are now definitely worth a look. Soon the coveted, high performance, Lancer Evolution will debut: The jewel in the crown, so to speak.
Mitsubishi has a few other cards up its sleeve, in the form of interesting subcompacts, trucks and even a competitor for the Smart. But so far, no firm commitments or dates on when we might see these vehicles in our market.
Mitsubishi Colt; photos by Arne Glassbourg (top) and courtesy Mitsubishi (bottom). Click image to enlarge
The company’s Canadian management recently brought some of these “teasers” to Toronto for a quick spin by invited journalists, mainly to gauge their opinion of the vehicles, and how they might be received in Canada. Here’s what we drove.
What is called a “B” segment car is something many manufactures are crying for here in Canada. Examples are the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Chevrolet Aveo/Pontiac Wave, sales of which seem only limited by the number of vehicles available. Mitsubishi has a terrific “B” segment car in the various versions of its Mitsubishi Colt. Sold just about everywhere but in North America, the appealing Colt would probably sell here on word of mouth alone.
We drove a four-door, diesel powered Colt DID and saw a two-door Colt CZT with big wheels, roof spoiler and loads of charm. The 1.5 litre, three-cylinder diesel generates 94 horsepower and 155 lb.-ft torque through a six-speed semi-automatic transmission, and the snappy CZT uses a 1.5L, four-cylinder turbo making 152hp and 155 lb.-ft torque. In various markets, Colts can even be purchased with all-wheel drive or as a hard-top convertible, and after a half-hour in this unexpectedly roomy little vehicle (the rear seat moves fore/aft to
Mitsubishi L200/Triton; photo by Arne Glassbourg. Click image to enlarge
maximize cargo space or legroom), I’m convinced demand would be strong for it here as well.
Mitsubishi L200/Triton Pickup
Another appealing vehicle is the L200/Triton truck. It’s a midsize pickup truck with a full double cab and smallish box for a motorcycle, ATV, or similar gear. Sold mostly in Asia and Australia, we were told this truck is regularly used for commercial purposes in those countries. In Canada, I should think it would be regarded more as a sport truck, what with its athletic stance and chunky, rugged lines. The L200 we tested was powered with a 2.5 litre diesel engine making 134hp and 231 lb.-ft torque.
Mitsubishi Grandis; photo by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge
The Grandis is a seven-passenger minivan that is smaller than current minivans on the market here, but larger than something like a Mazda5. In this it seems close to the size minivans used to be. Of the vehicles brought by Mitsubishi, the Grandis seemed the least interesting. While comfortable and maneuverable, it is quite van-like, and it might be a challenge to move people towards a Grandis, just when they’re turning their attention to a sexy CUV. Grandis is fitted with a 2.4L, four-cylinder engine that produces 160hp and 162 lb.-ft torque.
The Mitsubish “i” is a competitor to the Smart currently sold in Canada, only with four doors. It’s referred to by Mitsubishi as, “The future of small.” Using a 659 cc, three cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine that makes 63 hp and 69 lb.-ft torque, the lightweight “i” is currently only sold as a right-hand drive vehicle. Based on a special deal with Apple, the “i-Play” version includes an Apple iPod that plugs directly into a slot on the dashboard.
Mitsubishi i; photo courtesy Mitsubishi. Click image to enlarge
That alone would be popular among consumers, but something like the “i” could find a niche here on its own merits. Mitsubishi built the Smart forfour at its plant in the Netherlands, and supplies engines for the Smart as well, so it has lots of experience in this segment.
When it comes to bringing vehicles like the Colt, LS200/Triton, “i” and Grandis to Canada, Mitsubishi Canada’s Director, National Marking Larry Futers says we’ll have to be patient. “Not the current generation,” he says, “But when the new models are released, they’ll be compliant with North American standards.”
The expectation, therefore, is that future versions of some, if not all of these models will be made available for North Americans. Hopefully Mitsubishi management will take into consideration the differences between the U.S. and Canadian markets when allocating them to our markets. In case it needs emphasizing: Canadians have no problem with “the future of small.”