Real world family car driving

Posted on April 21st, 2007 in Mitsubishi,Opinion by Julian Edgar

2960_6mg.jpgIt seems like only yesterday that the Mitsubishi 380 was released, but time is no friend to a car company – not when the Toyota Aurion and VE Holden Commodore have both since seen the light of day. Throw in the still highly competitive Ford Falcon and the pretty-well-just-as-big-inside Toyota Camry – and of course the highly impressive Hyundai Sonata V6 – and you have what can only be called a very difficult market for the Mitsi. Not to mention the fact that public uncertainty over the future of the local manufacturing plant has assumed almost TV soap opera proportions…

The result is not unexpected: at the time of writing, you can buy a Mitsubishi 380 with less than 10,000km on the clock for under AUD$24,000. Expect that to soon dip below $20K – and for a fearful rate of depreciation to follow. To put this another way, if you expect to keep a car for a long time (say 10 years), you can now step into a fast, excellently handling, and near new family car for what can only be described as an astonishing bargain price. Well, that’s what I think the car is.

But what’s it actually like in a family role, child seat in the back and mostly doing the humdrum duties of urban travel and shopping centres, with just an occasional longer country trip thrown in? My wife, Georgina, recently spent three weeks in a 380 ES 5-speed auto, a car with 30,000km on the clock. She drove the car with Alexander, 2, in the back. Georgina normally drives a Toyota Prius and has driven the current Sonata, Falcon, Commodore, the last of the Magnas, and many other cars.

Here are her comments.

Julian Edgar

“The engine is powerful but sounds noisy and coarse when revved out. But normally, like when cruising, the engine noise and vibration are low.”

“It went OK but where these days can you drive fast? I punched it a few times away from the lights but only up to the 60 kilometres speed limit and it did seem to get there fast. But performance isn’t really a priority to me these days.

“I did notice that there was plenty of power for overtaking – you didn’t need to manually use the [auto] gearbox because of the quick kick-down. The gearbox also picked gears well when going up hills but the gearbox seemed to change into too high a gear when going slowly. It didn’t feel like the engine was happy and it happened with a bit of a jerk.

“I thought that the handling was fine and there was never any harshness in the ride. But I didn’t want to push the handling because without traction control, I felt insecure. A car like this should have traction control.

“The steering is better than the Magna used to be but I felt kickback through the steering wheel once.

“The instruments are clear and the controls are all within reach, even for a smaller person. But I didn’t like the boot release being in the glovebox – I kept reaching down to the side of the seat – and the steering is only height adjustable.

“For someone carrying a pram, the boot is too shallow. It looks big but it’s too shallow to easily fit in a jogger pram. But it was fine for two big suitcases. I also didn’t like the fact that it’s only got a ski-port through the rear seat – the seat doesn’t fold down. Once you get used to having a car where the seat folds down, you really notice it when the car doesn’t have it.

“Lot of cars I drive have interior trim that marks really easily or is hard to clean. I was in a [current model] Astra the other day and the seats had grooves that just collected crumbs and fluff and the leather marked really easily. But the 380 had a durable and easily cleaned interior – the seats, doors and carpet.

“Something I didn’t like was that you couldn’t turn off the rear vents – sometimes you want to do that when the air conditioner is running but your child is asleep and you don’t want cold air blowing over him. But there was lots of leg-room and foot-room in the back.

“I also thought that the doors shut nicely – it felt well made. I noticed the lack of a passenger side lumbar adjustment but I liked the electric up/down and tilt adjustment on the driver’s seat. The trip computer was also good with lots of functions including a speed alarm.

“The fuel consumption was poor. It averaged 11.5 [litres/100km] with the air [conditioner] on and mostly 100 km/h country driving; there was just some city driving. When I was in the city a lot, [consumption] was 13.5.

“It’s an easy car to get into and just drive but I think its fuel consumption should be better and it should have traction control because you could easily lose it on a country corner with gravel spilled on the road.”

The Mitsubishi 380 was hired for this drive.

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