With the recent arrival of child number 2, it seemed reasonable to throw in the towel, get rid of the wife's Nissan Micra, and buy something bigger to go with the Nissan Primera we already had. Also, we needed an automatic. I got the brochures out, scoured the magazines and internet, and test-drove both small and big MPV type things. Tried Renault Scenic 1.6, Nissan Almera Tino 2.0, Ford Galaxy 2.3, Seat Alhambra 1.9 TDI, Honda Stream 2.0 and the Space Wagon. Looked at prices via dealers, imports and brokers. I found the Space Wagon to be the best 'drive' of the above (surprisingly). despite it's size, it's as easy to steer as my wife's old Micra, and doesn't feel it's size at all. Has a small turning circle, and good brakes. I was lucky enough to have a 50 mile test drive, and that made all the difference. At first, the engne seemed sluggish, and not up to handling the size/weight of the vehicle, but I floored the accelerator often enough to convince the automatic gearbox that I wanted something a bit more nippy. And... it worked. All of a sudden it became more responsive, and really had a bit of a nip to it. I've since learned this is common with the INVECS 'learning' type of gearbox. The specs. indicate fuel economy of 28mpg. I'm currently driving it 60 miles a day on a round trip to work, and I'm getting 32.1mpg. With v conservative driving, I've had it up to 32.9, but that's with being a bit too restrained for my tastes. I prefer straight into the outside lane on the A14 and M11 on the way to work. A nice thing about the engine is that it's got enough go at junctions to get you across the gap from standstill, alhough, as with most auto's, you need to be 'in-tune' with the engine to get the best out of it, otherwise you may find yourself embarrassed. More on the engine; This is a 2.35 litre GDI, which is a direct injection pe
trol **not** diesel. Power output is about 147bhp, which, for the engine size isn't brilliant, but is sufficient. The GDI (Gasoline Direct injection) is, apparently, the next big petrol technology, and Mitsubishi are at the forefront with it. More information on the workings can be found at the Mitsubishi www site (look it up!), but the gist is that the engine can work in a lean-burn mode, for econony, or a no-hold-barred power mode. When in the former mode, a little green 'GDI Eco' legend in the instrument cluster becomes illuminated. If you drive with gentle accelration, you can keep this light more or less illuminated all the time. After hard accleration, just back off the pedal a mite, and the engine will change modes back to 'eco'. When I drove the Galaxy 2.3 Zetec auto, I was surprised by the lacklustre performance. Everything was painfully gradual. As I recall, the fuel consumption for the Galaxy is quoted as 26mpg in What Car, so I think the Space Wagon wins there. Basically, it's a far better engine. Yes, if you want the ultimate economy, you can go for a Galaxy TDI, or if you want the handling, the Sharan with the sports suspension, but the auto transmission will have a big hit on the economy, which is why the GDI auto is impressive. The inside of the car is as bland as can be. Functional, rather than fashionable. The up-front storage space isn't as great as they might lead you to believe in the blurb, and I's rather have larger bottle-holder cut-outs than the ones provided. Glove compartment is just that, no more. The Hi-Fi, sound-wise, isn't as good as the one in our top of the range Primera, but, so what. I find that, with no passengers, I'm sitting too high up to get good stereo, as my right leg obstructs the right hand door speaker, which is set down quite low. - This requires me to adjust the balance, and give the right a bit of a boost. Having said all that, the integration of the unit with t
he LCD display is realy nice, and I've grown fond of the various options for display. That, and the RDS adjusting the clock automatically when we went on holiday to France. A word of warning; The're are no steering wheel controls for the audio, and, having arrived at a comfortable seating position, I find it necessary to stretch forward a bit to hit the console buttons. The seating is fine. All the seats are comfortable, with the driver and passengers having innermost folding arm-rests. The rear seats have to be man-handled out to accommodate a big load, but that's not very often. For more frequent lugging journeys, the rear seats can be tumbled forward, providing more boot space, and the middle seats can be slid forward and folded up against the front seats. - The latter is v good thing to have. for holiday mode, with rear seats dumped in garage, leg room for second row is really good, as the seats can be slid all the way back on their rails. also, unlike some, the car is provided with a tonneau cover, so there is the illusion of security to be had. Additional features worthy of note? all doors have lights in them, and they open very wide, which is useful when throwing, sorry, carefully placing, the children in their car seats. Another word of warning; not all baby seats will fit, due to the length of the seat belt on the buckle side. Britax Club Class Extra, with it's various fitting options is OK. - I had this tested by Bush Babes in Ware, who won't sell you a baby seat unless they're satisfied it fits OK. The lack of a transmission tunnel is an excellent idea, as there's so much more space inside the car for it. Only don't put anything slidey there, or it'll try and pay a visit to the drivers footwell while you're ambling along at the legal speed limit (or other). There's a 'hidden' tray thing in the boot, but it's really only useful for things you need to keep the foreign law happy, such
as spare bulbs, warning triangle etc. There are metal luggage fastening 'hooks' in the boot area, and, combined with the genuione Mitsubishi cargo-net (I had it thrown-in as part of the deal), means the take-away stays upright. Oh, and not to forget the van-like wing mirrors, which, although they generate wind-noise, ensure you are all-seeing. Ok, you feel like Dumbo, but they do the job, and are big enough to be give you sight of car-park box-lines down below, as well as the cars behind. Overall, we're very pleased with it. The inside is anonymous, but the outside isn't. The engine/gearbox combination is a winner as far as I'm concerned. It's more economical than our Primera 2.0 SE auto, which is why I get to commute in it! It swallowed all for our holiday to France, with room to spare, and those roof-rails are crying out for a roof-box! The seats look built to last, and the material has resisted all thrown at it (literally) so far. Disadvantages; Well, the felty type velour trim on the inside was a stupid idea. It marks very easily. Additionally, some of the add-ons you might want will cost a bit. By these I mean front fog-lamps, cruise-control and parking sensors. Apart from that, very happy.
When baby number three was expected last August (2000), I knew that the days of my Saab Convertible were numbered, so in May 2000, I went searching. Something bigger was needed to move us around - unless it's legal to carry babies around in the boot. So, on the trail I went for something a bit bigger. My experiences with dealers have never been too positive and my initial shortlist took me to local Volkswagen (Sharan), Ford (Galaxy), Renault (Espace) and Vauxhall (Zafira) dealerships. I ruled out Ford and VW immediately. They didn't have any cars available due to a model change. Too late for me I'm afraid - I was in a hurry. I test drove the Vauxhall first. It seemed nice enough and was worth considering - but somehow, that stupid nerdy advertising campaign kept springing to mind and I'm afraid the leap from Saab convertible to nerdy Zafira was just one leap too far! The Espace looked like a nice roomy car, but a bit van-like. I didn't drive it because no-one at Renault Birmingham seemed interested in even taling to me. Their loss - and a common story around the Birmingham dealerships I'm afraid. Sales trainers, please note. I went home feeling fed up and frustrated. I took out the Yellow Pages and looked for alternative car dealers. That's when I saw an advert for a Mitsubishi dealer. I called and asked if they did anything like a people carrier. I was invited along for a look at their new Space Wagon so off I went with my pregnant wife in tow. I was amazed. They just handed me the keys and suggested I take a drive - for a couple of hours. It was a good investment of their time - because I've never been so positively impressed by a car before. An automatic gearbox was essential - my wife only drives "point and go" cars. This one was easy to manouvre, nice an nippy - with a 2.4 engine an
d it had big comfortable seats. Most impressive though, was the flat floor. It's just great to drive something that doesn't have a transmission tunnel and a space limiting gearbox lump. I ordered one on the spot on a 3 year contract-hire deal. It's been over a year since I got mine and I've had no problems with it. Adding a roofbox was a good idea - and the Mitsubishi one is huge! This is an all-purpose car and there are so few of them around that people always comment on it! More so than that flash Saab I had. The seat configuration is extremely flexible and although putting the rear two seats back is a bit of a struggle (until you remember that there's a left and a right seat), the fact that the entire middle row just slides forwards and backwards is a great advantage. I've had loads of cars and without question, this is the most useful of the lot. It doesn't break down either - and the dealership always offer me a courtesy car at service time.