What exactly is the Mitsubishi Expo? It's not really big enough to be a minivan. It certainly is not a station wagon or sport-utility vehicle. You won't mistake it for a hatchback. And there's no way the Expo will be confused with a sports coupe. Yet the Expo LRV Sport has elements of all these vehicles. Because there are no other vehicles quite like the Expo, you can't really compare it to anything else in terms of size, price and performance. Our test vehicle, a 1993 model, came fully loaded, sporting such things as a power sunroof, radio-controlled door locks, air conditioning and a host of power accessories. The '94s, on sale now, come with a driver's side air bag but are mechanically identical to the test vehicle. After a 642 mile test drive, I feel as if the Expo LRV is worth every dime of its asking price, though there is room for a minor improvement or two. PERFORMANCE The Expo packed two major surprises. One was the terrific 2.4-liter overcam engine. The other was the suspension system. More about that later. With 136 horsepower on tap from the smooth and responsive engine, the Expo has more than enough power. In fact, the Expo is downright fast. Our test vehicle came with a five-speed manual transmission. With this transmission, you can take advantage of the sheer muscle of the Expo, which is nothing short of astonishing for a vehicle of its type. With little effort (and some fancy footwork on the clutch) you can squeal the tires easily in first and second gears. You can embarrass people driving base model Ford Probes, Nissan240s and other cars of that ilk. The clutch pedal is easy to operate. Even in heavy traffic the Expo is not tiring to drive. Shifting is a smooth and easy task because the lever clicks easily into each gear. Our test vehicle delivered a solid 27 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving. And the air conditioner was on most of the time. HANDLING You never really can let loose and push the Expo very hard, because its four-wheel independent suspension system just can't handle the engine's power. The ride is too soft. And the body leans considerably in tight corners. Also, there may have been something wrong with tires on our test vehicle. The front tires squealed in protest on virtually every slow turn. I wondered what the Expo would be like with a stiff, sports-tuned suspension system, like the one in the Mitsubishi Eclipse coupe. The Expo came with power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering and power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes. The Expo is easy to turn, and it can make a fairly sharp turn as well. The turning radius on the LRV Sport model is a respectable 33.5 feet. FIT AND FINISH It's hard to find fault with the way the Expo is put together. It's a tight and well-assembled vehicle that feels solid and sturdy. Getting in and out of the front seats is as easy as entering and exiting a mid-size car. There's plenty of room, and you never have to step up. You just slide right in. However, entering through the rear door is a bit trickier. Like a minivan, the right side rear door slides open. But it doesn't slide all the way back. The rear door, even when fully open, partially blocks the rear seat. Once inside, though, rear passengers will find ample room and plenty of comfort. The gray cloth-covered seats - front and rear - were a bit firm, but they hold occupants in place and are comfortable for long journeys. The dash generally is easy on the eyes and hands. A few minor switches are buried on the dash behind the steering wheel, but the analog instruments are clear and easy to read and the rest of the switches are easily accessed. If the Expo had a better suspension system, I would rank it as one of the better vehicles I have driven in 1993. It has the heart, but not the legs. Truett's tip: The Exp is a sporty, peppy and comfortable vehicle, but it needs a better suspension system.
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