If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Mitsubishi Motors is blowing a big kiss to half the car industry at this year’s Toyko Motor Show.
Cutting through the PR rhetoric – which is full of phrases such as driving pleasure, environmental performance, connected car – leaves you with the impression that Mitsubishi are merely playing catch-up.
First thought is Nissan’s Qashqai, a car which has stormed through the sales charts since first introduced in 2007, and is now the fifth bestselling car in the UK. The Mitsubishi Concept XR-PHEV is a compact SUV powered by a lightweight plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) system. They claim it offers nimble drivability with efficient performance, all contained within a sport coupé-like body style.
Of course Mitsubishi already produce a compact SUV called the ASX, which is offered with a range of engines from 1.6-litre petrol to a 2.2-litre diesel, but the XR-PHEV sounds a lot like a Range Rover Evoque competitor, albeit on a budget.
Mitsubishi will also be launching a full-size SUV, perhaps as a future replacement for the current Shogun. The Concept GC-PHEV is yet again a plug-in hybrid powered vehicle, using Mitsubishi’s Super All Wheel Control (S-AWC) system to deliver class-leading dynamic handling and stability, as well as all-terrain capability. S-AWC is the same technology first introduced on the Lancer Evo X, but presumably without the Active Centre Differential, Active Yaw Control and Active Stability Control used in the rally-derived sports saloon.
The Concept GC-PHEV is a connected car, which uses wireless LAN connectivity to share and stream information between devices, help prevent accidents and avoid traffic congestion. Many of the connected car strategies from other manufacturers now include an element of automated driving, remote activation of security and comfort systems, self parking and car-to-car synchronisation, however Mitsubishi don’t seem to be quite that far along just yet.
Finally, the Concept AR offers the mobility of an SUV with the space of an MPV – think Audi Q7 or Land Rover Discovery mixed with Renault Espace. There’s no plug-in hybrid on offer, instead there’s a down-sized direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine presumably powering the front wheels. It’s focus is on providing a relaxing space for occupants through a range of seat arrangements that provide comfort for all passengers – the same qualities offered by any other MPV, so it’s not clear where the SUV capabilities come in to play.
Mitsubishi don’t currently produce an MPV, so this is a completely new model, while the XR and GC represent a complete refresh of Mitsubishi’s model range covering the existing ASX, Outlander and Shogun.
As I said, it sounds a little me-too, but perhaps Mitsubishi’s new design identity, introduced by these three concepts, will draw sufficient attention towards their new range.