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New Car Test - Mitsubishi KL Verada GTVi

An accomplished sports luxury sedan at a very competitive price...

By Michael Knowling

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If you want a family car that can cope with virtually anything you throw at it, the Verada GTVi can do it. If you want a car with enough luxury to impress the neighbours and/or business clients, the GTVi can do it. If you like going for a squirt on the weekend, the GTVi can, once again, do it. This really is a 'can do' car.

With the release of the TL Magna, Mitsubishi Australia has gone upmarket with the standard fitment of power windows, climate control, electric driver's seat, ABS and, interestingly, front and side airbags. What's more, cost has been kept down to $33,790 for the base Magna ES auto.

So what else does the Verada GTVi give you for its $46,130 price tag?

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Well, if we look to the interior there's one obvious advantage - standard leather trim. Both front seats feature adjustable lumbar support and offer excellent comfort, you get the generic Verada backlit instrument binnacle (containing the speedo, tacho, fuel and temp level gauges), remote alarm/immobiliser with central locking, rear compartment heating, a leather wheel and selector knob and a 10-way electric driver's seat (6-way adjustment is fitted to lesser models). A trip computer, power windows and mirrors are featured on even the base model Magna these days, so they're nothing to get too excited about.

The new Magna/Verada analog climate control set-up is wonderfully easy to use and intelligent in operation - the air conditioning is automatically switched on whenever you set the system to demist the windscreen, for example.

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The Premium sound system is also a quantum leap over that found in the previous model. The 6-disc in-dash CD/tuner (with 10 speakers) offers enough bass to blur what you can see in the rear view mirror and sound clarity remains excellent up to very high listening levels.

Unfortunately, the fake woodgrain trim surrounding the audio and ventilation controls is quite simply dreadful - a ghastly yellow 'timber' that doesn't match anything else in the cabin. A carbon fibre (or even carbon fibre look) centre trim would appear much more in keeping with the rest of the cabin.

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The front-end styling of the TL/KL series is still struggling for widespread approval, but the Verada attracts your eyes to its stylish set of 17 x 7-inch alloys and purposeful 225/50 Bridgestone Grid II tyres. The body is further enhanced by a standard rear spoiler, full colour coding and fog lights. Overall, the GTVi is presented nicely enough to compete with rivals from other manufacturers (namely Ford, Holden and Toyota).

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The GTVi is pokier than any other Verada and certainly it responds when you give it some stick. Throttle response is razor sharp (it can take some getting used to if you've jumped out of a turbocharged car) and it doesn't really matter what gear you're in because there's immense torque at all revs - great for plugging last-minute gaps in traffic.

The engine is the same 6G74 3.5-litre, 24-valve, SOHC, V6 as used in any other Magna/Verada but with the free-flow exhaust upgrade and ECU revisions from the Magna VR/VR-X you'll enjoy a solid 317Nm of torque at 4500 rpm and a peak of 163kW at 5200 rpm. Our only criticisms are a slight throb at idle and a lack of recent engineering development (no electronic throttle control, variable intake manifold or cam timing etc).

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The only transmission available in the Verada range is a 5-speed automatic, which features Mitsubishi's brilliant Sports Mode sequential shift option. Knock the selector to the left (out of its conventional Drive mode) and you have +/- style shifting at hand. This works great when downshifting for a brisk corner entry. However, on some occasions, you force a downshift at the exact moment as the trans computer, so you end up with an unintentional double downshift. Not good for maintaining chassis poise...

At present, the GTVi comes only in front-wheel drive guise - only the Verada AWD scores constant all-wheel-drive traction and security. Nevertheless, the GTVi's TRC system is effective in quelling what would otherwise be rampant off-the-line wheelspin and helps maintain your cornering line. The TRC system can be deactivated with an on-dash switch, but we can't see why you'd ever want to.

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So with traction governed by the TRC system, the 1602kg GTVi can't get off the line as quickly as the AWD version, but it can still howl to 100 km/h in just over 8 seconds. Pretty good, but not awesome considering the performance of, say, the Ford XR6 Turbo/XR8/Fairmont V8 or the V8-powered Holdens.

Driven sedately in urban conditions, the GTVi returns respectable fuel economy in the 12 litres per 100km range. Don't expect better than 14 or 15 litres per 100km during a Sunday mountain blast, though; at least the 3.5's relatively low 9.0:1 compression ratio means you don't have to pull alongside the expensive premium unleaded fuel bowsers.

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The Verada rides on relatively firm MacPherson struts with lower A arms at the front, and a multi-link IRS with upper and lower control arms. Ride is well controlled without ever being uncomfortable, even over large potholes. NVH is kept very low, with the exception of a sporting (and occasionally boomy) exhaust note.

The natural tendency of the Magna/Verada FWD chassis is to understeer, but the GTVi is always responsive to mid corner throttle lift-offs (which effectively tighten the cornering line). Powering out of a tight corner, though, the GTVi struggles to get its torque to the road and the TRC system is working overtime to prevent front tyres turning to smoke.

The steering is much improved over Magnas and Veradas of just a year or two ago. There's added steering weight along with greater feel at straight-ahead - no more need to correct the steering angle through constant radius corners.

Braking performance - using 276mm ventilated front discs and 258mm solid rear discs with ABS and ABD control - was well up to standard during out road test.

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The build quality of our test vehicle was fine - with a couple of irritating exceptions... There was an intermittent buzz emanating the front left of the car at certain load and rpm (perhaps a heat shield) and, worse, the security system seemed to have a mind of its own. Over the duration of a week, the security system false alarmed three times (with all of the doors properly closed, no nearby movement or wind).

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Like the TJ Verada GTV we previously tested (at "New Car Test - Mitsubishi Verada GTV"), the $46,130 KL GTVi shapes up as good value when compared to the more basic Verada Ei. For just $3640 extra you pick up the VR/VR-X spec engine, 17-inch wheels, beefier tyres and a standard leather trim. The only parts that are missing from the Mitsubishi parts bin are the electric passenger seat adjustment, sunroof and steering wheel audio controls from the $51k+ Verada Xi (which, incidentally, gets only 16-inch wheels and the base Magna power output).

Let's take off those blinkers, though, and look outside internal Mitsubishi comparisons.

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Ford will gladly offer you a Fairmont 4.0 auto for $42,030 - plus the $1770 cost of the five 17-inch wheels necessary to compete with the GTVi - Holden offers the Calais (with a 171kW supercharged V6) at $49,790 and you might decide to jump for the $48,990 Camry Azura from the Toyota range. So at just over 46k, the Verada compares well to its rivals - if you're in the market in this segment, we recommend first test-driving the Fairmont 4.0 but make sure you don't overlook the very accomplished GTVi.

Why You Would...

  • Very low NVH
  • Extremely comfortable with a much improved sound system, easy-to-use climate control and standard safety
  • Only $3640 more than a Verada Ei and you get the VR/VR-X engine, 17-inch alloys with 225 tyres, rear spoiler and full leather trim
  • Good overall value

Why You Wouldn't...

  • Horrible fake woodgrain centre trim
  • Doesn't have the chassis balance, stability and handling limit of Verada AWD
  • No recent engine development - should have more than a 8kW advantage over the base Magna

The KL Verada GTVi was provided for this test by Mitsubishi Motors Australia.

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