When a Dodge Grand Caravan or Ford Windstar mini-van pulls alongside you atthe stoplight, you have to pause and wonder what's so mini about a vehicle that stretches from your front to rear bumper and holds seven people?

The mini-van label has been awarded to a slew of vehicles. As evidence thatmini may be a misnomer on most of those vans, you need only check out the 1994Mitsubishi Expo LRV, which holds five people, not seven like other mini-vans do.

Mitsubishi calls the Expo a sport wagon even though it looks like a van. Truth be told, with a sliding side door, Expo is a mini-van built on a 99.2-inch wheelbase and only 168.5 inches long. Those dimensions make it a true mini, considering the regular Dodge/Plymouth mini-van is built on a 112.3-inch wheelbase and is 178.1 inches long, and the extended-length versionis built on a 119.3-inch wheelbase and is 192.8 inches long.

Whether you call it a wagon or a van, the Expo is a weird-looking bird. Theonly way you can lose an Expo in a parking lot is if you are legally blind. Like the Mitsubishi Montero sport-utility vehicle, the Expo roof line seems to tickle the clouds.

While Montero styling comes across as outdated and ugly, Expo is novel and borders on cute.

The tall roof line means ample head room, yet you don't feel the raised center of gravity when behind the wheel trying to maneuver the streets.

In fact, Expo performed admirably on snow-packed surfaces.

While the roof line reaches for the clouds, the LRV features low step-in-and-out height for easy entry and exit. The LRV held five in comfort, and the storage space behind the rear seat takes on an ample serving of groceries, luggage or golf clubs.

The one styling drawback is you don't see the sloping hood from the driver's seat. That leaves you with the impression that there isn't much crushspace between you and anything ahead.

The LRV is offered with a 1.8-liter, 113-horsepower, 16-valve 4-cylinder and 5-speed manual; or, new for '94, a 2.4-liter, 136-horsepower, 16-valve 4-cylinder and automatic; or in the Sport version with the 2.4 and the choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. We tested the Sport with 5-speed.

The 2.4 is rated at 22 m.p.g. city, 27 highway, though the tortoise-like movement of the gas needle made that seem a bit low. The 5-speed shifted smoothly.

Standard equipment includes driver-side air bag (new for '94), plus air conditioning (with chlorofluorocarbon-free refrigerant), AM/FM stereo with cassette, power windows/door locks, remote keyless entry, power remote mirrors, cruise control, tinted glass, rear wiper/washer/defroster, four-wheelindependent suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars, 14-inch all-season tires, power brakes and steering, tilt steering, cloth seats, reclining front bucket seats, foldable/removable rear seat and stainless steel exhaust.

Another drawback is that anti-lock brakes are a $976 o ption, though it's the only option on this rather fully equipped vehicle that you really need unless you add automatic transmission at $840.

Base price is $16,799. With anti-lock brakes and a $445 freight charge, theExpo listed at $18,220. With so many discount packages being offered on the domestic mini-vans, you'd have to weigh $18,220 very carefully against an OldsSilhouette, Pontiac Trans Sport or Chevy Lumina, for example, which offer more interior room and a plastic body that won't rust, plus a V-6 engine, traction control and a power sliding side door.