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Mitsubishi Airtrek Turbo


Generally I'm no great fan of the current vogue for monobox car styling.

The slab rear-ended, high-roofed, short-nosed, long cabin look doesn't ring to many bells with me.

But after a few days and a lot of kilometres with Mitsubishi's monobox-styled Airtrek Turbo I have to confess to rather liking the way it looks.

The four-wheel drive five-door has a muscular, high-shouldered look, enhanced by its semi-SUV layout. An almost chopped look about the roof and side glass emphasises the wedgy lines; the bonnet scoop for the intercooler and the 16-inch diameter alloy wheels reinforce the impression of power and purpose.

The Airtrek Turbo is a high-performance boosted 2.0-litre that joins the rather anaemic front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive naturally-aspirated Airtrek 2.0s.

It's chalk and cheese between those non-boosted cars and the 177kW Turbo.

Its basic powertrain comes from the automatic gearbox version of the high-performance Lancer Evo 7.

The 16-valve, intercooled turbomotor delivers hefty peak torque of 343Nm. Mitsubishi says that's good enough to tow 1500kg loads.

It's also good enough to supply very rapid acceleration and sparkling open road passing power.

The car launches smoothly and instantly from rest.

Though there's a little turbo lag and a hefty push when the turbocharger comes on boost, the lag isn't great enough to be really annoying.

The five-speed INVECS II Sport Mode automatic transmission can be left in Drive to make its own decisions or be shifted manually using either a lever which sprouts from the bottom of the dashboard or up and down buttons which are duplicated on each side of the steering wheel.

It shifts smoothly if left in Drive, and has good, smooth and instant kickdown.

Used manually, as we did on twisting country roads, the shifts are equally smooth though the downshifts are not quite as instant as you'd get in, say, a Ford Falcon.

We preferred the dash-mounted lever rather than the buttons, and found it pleasant to use. The gearknob is of a similar size and has a similar feel to a cricket ball.

The car rides on sports suspension and that adds up to a rather jiggly ride around town and somewhat bumpy progress on uneven open road surfaces.

Handling is generally good, though biased towards understeer.

We were impressed by the level of grip and the tidy way in which the Airtrek tackled demanding roads.

We also liked its behaviour on gravel where it felt stable, secure and predictable.

The steering was not so impressive. We thought it too light and too lacking in feel. But once you adjusted to the lightness, the car could be punted along quickly.

We found the accommodation excellent with comfortable, well-shaped seats that gave sufficient support during brisk cornering. The seat trim was an attractive blue velour pattern.

What is it, though, that Mitsubishi puts in seats and which conspires with your clothing to build up static electricity during hot weather. The Airtrek Turbo became a little shocker when you touched the metal as you got out of the car. It wasn't as bad as the jolts I got from a Lancer rental car, but it was still annoying.

Rear seat room is good and there's good cargo space, though I think a cargo area cover should be standard.

Standard equipment includes a Compact Disc player, air-conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes, ABS anti-skid system with electronic brake force distribution, a body kit and front foglights.

With its higher than usual sitting position - the Airtrek is sort of half-way between a car and a SUV - the Mitsubishi gives a good view of the road.

The Airtrek Turbo is pleasant to drive, with secure handling and grip. It's also pleasant to travel in and is a good long-distance conveyance. Fuel economy? Not a strong suit. We averaged 27 to 28mpg with the driving mix biased towards the open road.

What is good, though, is the Airtrek Turbo's $41,990 pricetag.

AutoPoint road test team: story by Mike Stock.

Auto Trader New Zealand