2023 Mitsubishi Delica review: Should it come to Oz?

With a few spare minutes at our disposal, we had a brief spin in Mitsubishi’s quirky off-road minivan

2023 Mitsubishi Delica Japan 2

It's never been sold new in Australia, but chances are you've heard of the Mitsubishi Delica – and there are plenty of them here.

In your mind, it’s also likely associated with some bizarre suffix and sticker pack – think Chamonix, Space Gear, Star Wagon, or Jasper.

Our Delica interest was piqued at Mitsubishi’s Tokachi cold-weather proving ground. Between experiencing a rally-spec Triton at full noise and being let loose in Outlander PHEVs, a Delica was the shuttle of choice. When a spare 30 minutes presented itself, we asked the brand's local boss of marketing and product strategy, Oliver Mann, if we could have a steer. Oliver said he’d see what he could do.

We then learned that Mitsubishi Motors Australia actually has a current model Delica hidden away at its Adelaide headquarters, as it was brought over for market evaluation. Don’t get too excited, though, because even if the Delica is green-lit for Oz, we’ll be waiting until the next generation debuts sometime after 2025.

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What is a Delica, and how much does it cost?

I guess you could call the Delica a minivan (or people-mover like a Kia Carnival), but with lifted suspension, rugged off-road tyres, selectable 4WD and a diesel engine, it’s not really a Volkswagen Multivan or Toyota Granvia rival. The Delica is its own thing. The evaluation car was sent to Australia to “explore as a concept, whether it would be of interest in the context of Australian market”, according to Mann.

It’s also a little long in the tooth. The fifth-gen Delica launched domestically in 2007 and sold for 12 years with only minor model-year updates until the deep facelift of 2019. It still rides on the same previous-gen Outlander platform (that can trace its roots back to the CJ Lancer) but is now powered by a 2.3-litre version of the Triton’s diesel powerplant.

We drove a mid-spec Delica G that costs JPY¥‎4,103,000 – about AU$46,300. Looking at equivalent Outlander pricing between Australia and Japan suggests a 10 per cent increase over the direct conversion once landed, putting this Delica at around AU$52,000 here.

2023 Mitsubishi Delica Japan 6

There are a few grey-import fifth-gen Delicas in the classifieds, and a 2021 facelift D:5 like ours will set you back over $70K.

Modified and high-spec examples push into the $80K region. Pre-facelift petrol CVT models are available, but for those looking to head bush, we’d recommend spending more on the diesel.

In Japan, the Delica is stung with consumption tax that makes it more expensive than the default transport, which is kei cars (or the train in Tokyo), so sales sit around 1000 per month. According to Mitsubishi’s local product planners, Delicas are typically bought by larger families and those who like adventure.

After sitting and researching the Delica over lunch, it was delightful to see Oliver come into the room at the end of the day’s activities with the keys to the latest D:5 Delica in the car park.

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2023 Mitsubishi Delica Japan 3

How's the interior?

It may look space-age outside with its LED lighting, reflective 18-inch alloys and Minecraft styling, but inside the design is very much current Triton – right down to the steering wheel, touchscreen and instruments.

Plastics are what you’d expect for this kind of price: not standout, but not overly scratchy or nasty. The Delica G’s upholstery is a fleece-like material that’s warm and snuggly in Japanese winters. Less sweat-absorbent leather is optional with the G-Power pack or P trims, which would suit Australia’s warmer conditions better.

Where the Delica really excels is space efficiency. For starters, it’s available in eight- or seven-seat configurations (with second-row captain’s chairs) and the third row is easily removable to free up more boot space. The second row is also on sliders, giving a minimum of 1.2 metres or maximum of 1.61 metres of load length behind (when in two-seat mode).

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If you want to take a nap, all three rows of seats can be squished flat in two configurations (see pictures) for front- or back-seat snoozing. There are plenty of clever storage spaces, including lots of bottle holders, luggage and clothes hooks scattered around the cabin.

A few taps into a search engine and you’ll unearth all manner of Japanese aftermarket accessories for the Delica. There’s even a flagship Jasper model that sends you on your way with red-stitched water-repellent upholstery, mud flaps, and requisite sticker pack.

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Delica Flat Seats 2023
Snazzy – Delica's seats recline flat, should you feel like a snooze

What’s it like to drive?

It was a brief experience through Tokachi proving ground’s ribbon-like transit roads with Ralliart chief (and Dakar racer) Hiroshi Masuoka riding shotgun, but there's plenty to like.

As Tokachi is a cold-weather proving ground finished in 1996, the asphalt has been subjected to many a harsh winter, and has the cracks to show it.

The Delica largely rides well, if a little on the firm side in typical Japanese fashion. The trade-off is good body control and little roll. We wonder if some more on-road touring-biased 18-inch rubber would improve the ride over the chunky winter tyres fitted. The steering is extremely light – perhaps emphasised by the four-spoke Triton/Pajero Sport wheel we’re used to putting more force through – but accurate and consistent.

What surprised most was the slick calibration of the eight-speed automatic that shifts delicately through its ratios to harness the 2.3-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder’s 107kW/350Nm outputs. Surprisingly, though related to the Triton’s vocal powerplant, the Delica’s 2267cc engine is vastly smoother, with excellent refinement levels for a diesel.

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It’s relatively efficient, too, rated at 7.4L/100km on Japan’s JC08 combined cycle (very similar to NEDC/ADR combined). With its 64-litre fuel tank, the roving range should be around 870km from a fill-up.

Safety is a little unknown for the Delica, as it hasn’t been appraised by Euro NCAP, ANCAP, or any American authorities. The latest car is equipped with driver aids such as front AEB, blind-spot monitoring, auto high-beam, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.

Another trick up the Delica’s sleeve is its torque-on-demand ‘AWC’ AWD system – the same found in previous-gen Outlanders. It’s not a rival for the Triton’s Super-Select II 4WD with its available locking rear diff, but the system is smart.

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In 2WD, 100 per cent of drive is sent to the front axle. You can then lock the Delica in 4WD, sending 50:50 drive to both axles as standard with the electronically-controlled centre diff staying responsive to traction losses.

For loose surfaces, such as snow or more hardcore off-roading, 4WD Lock apportions more torque to the rear axle to maximise grip.

The Delica won’t be as capable as a Pajero Sport, Triton, or Suzuki Jimny over rocky and testing terrain (as illustrated by the table below), but should be a sweeter drive on black-top.

MeasurementMitsubishi DelicaMitsubishi Pajero Sport
Approach angle24º30º
Departure angle21.5º24º
Rampover angle18.5º23º
Ground clearance185mm218mm

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Could it work in Australia?

Don’t hold out hope that Mitsubishi will introduce the Delica here, and it certainly won’t come this year.

Why? Well, the Delica doesn’t have a defined segment to play in, and – although big in Australia – Mitsubishi isn’t a power player in Japan so it doesn’t have bottomless reserves like Toyota does. Each model must therefore be chosen, and business case made, very carefully.

It wasn’t in reference to the Delica – rather the three-row ASEAN-market XPander – but John Signoriello, executive officer, global marketing and sales, offered insight into what Mitsubishi Australia needs to justify a new model with specific ANCAP and emissions requirements.

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“We used to sell Grandis; we could sell 50 a month. Maybe if we did [a campaign] we might sell a few more, but it would average around 50 a month…. for that sort of volume, there won't be a business case. Not for 50 a month… It just doesn't make sense when you're limited on your resource base.”

But unlike Grandis, XPander, or the electric eK X Kei car, the Delica nameplate already resonates with Australians. Probably only a few niche enthusiasts are dedicated enough to know right now, but a solid campaign positioning it as a practical, adventure-ready SUV alternative could be just what Mitsubishi needs.

The car is under consideration, but Mitsubishi Australia isn’t having regular discussions about its suitability. Given the length of the Delica's life cycle (Japan still gets the same basic vehicle as it did in 2007), and the fact a silhouette isn’t pictured in Mitsubishi’s mid-term business plan, we expect a new model after 2025.

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Perhaps the new Delica will be based on the new Outlander’s CMF-C/D platform, offering plug-in hybrid power and that car’s S-AWC AWD system. Who knows. Of the vehicles not sold in Oz, the Delica seems Mitsubishi’s most suitable for Australia's current go-anywhere zeitgeist.

But Mitsubishi has bigger fish to fry. Bringing the new Triton to market and positioning it correctly is hurdle one, and then it’s time to replace the aging ASX – seemingly a mammoth task – before new Pajero Sport arrives.

Delica fans, all you can do is keep your fingers crossed and pester your Mitsubishi dealer.

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Mitsubishi Delica G 4WD specifications
PriceA$46,300 (direct conversion)
Engine4cyl, 2.3-litre, DOHC, 16v, turbo-diesel, direct-injected
LayoutFront engine, transverse, AWD
Gearbox8 speed automatic
BodySteel, 5 doors, 7/8 seats
Track (F/R)1540/1535mm
Fuel/tankDiesel / 64 litres
Economy (combined ADR81/02)7.4L/100km
SuspensionFront: struts, coil springs, stabiliser bar. Rear: multi-link, coil spring
Steeringelectric rack-and-pinion
TyresYokohama all-season
Tyre size225/55R18
ANCAP ratingNA
0-100km/h5.3 seconds (claimed)

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