BY ANDY ENRIGHT
If you're in the market for a mini or supermini sized MPV, chances are you won't have Mitsubishi's Space Star in pole position on your shortlist. Why? It certainly isn't the quickest, the most spacious, the cleverest or the cheapest candidate around. What it does offer is a comfortable middle ground, a smartly styled appearance and an impressive range of engines. Most will overlook it in favour of more conspicuous offerings such as the Renault Scenic, Fiat Multipla or Vauxhall Zafira, but in truth the Mitsubishi is a smaller, less ambitious proposition more akin to a Daihatsu Grand Move. To ignore a used Space Star because of this is to pass a competent offering by, and one that offers 90% of the utility of mini MPVs at a modest price. If you want a nearly new micro MPV that does nothing badly and won't go out of fashion by the end of the month, then a Mitsubishi Space Star bears closer scrutiny. The post 2002 model offers improved build quality and a number of neat packaging tricks. With used prices as they are, it deserves your attention.
Models Covered: 2002-to date (5 dr Mini MPV 1.3, 1.6 petrol, 1.9 DI-D diesel [Classic, Mirage, Equippe])
Although the Colt Space Star had been marketed in the UK since late 1998, it remained largely beneath the mainstream radar despite the availability of the radical 1.8-litre Gasoline Direct Injection engine that aimed to make a petrol-powered car drive like a petrol but drink like a diesel. Few seemed to care. In July 2002, a new Space Star (minus the 'Colt' tag) appeared in the UK. Though the 1.3-litre and 1.6-litre petrol engines remained as before, the 1.8-litre GDI petrol unit was dropped in favour of the 101bhp 1.9-litre DI-D diesel unit used in the larger Carisma. Prices were realigned and the range refined to just two trim levels, Mirage and Equippe. A Classic entry-level version appeared in early 2003. Every exterior panel was new but you wouldn't have known it. Inside, the look and feel was much improved - there were even cupholders in the rear. It still failed to capture the imagination of UK buyers despite being a markedly better car than its progenitor. The last Space Stars were sold in 2006.
What You Get
Those who recall earlier iterations of the Space Star will appreciate the facelift that's been visited upon this model. With a colour-keyed front bumper, an integrated grille, black protective mouldings and revised headlights and indicators, the look is a good deal more contemporary. Squint hard and you can even make out design cues from the Lancer Evo models in the frontal aspect. Squint harder still and you can make it look like a Ferrari 360 but this isn't wholly recommended - your gurning mug may scare small children. The rear lights have also been smoothed over and every model is fitted with alloy wheels. The interior has also come in for a freshening. The upholstery is markedly superior to the 'old' Space Star, as is the quality of the plastics used about the cabin. The centre console has been redesigned to bring it into the here and now, as has the steering wheel. There are even cup holders for rear passengers. Whilst the seating arrangement doesn't mirror that of a fully paid-up member of the mini-MPV club, storage capacity certainly does. As well as being fitted with huge door bins, the Space Star also has stowage space beneath the passenger seat, in the back of the front seats and in the centre console. Locating a carelessly secreted Yorkie can detain you for some time.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Although a good deal more substantial than the old Colt version, the Space Star's interior still isn't what you'd describe as hewn from rock. Despite the decent equipment levels, the Space Star could do with some higher quality fitments. It's obvious where costs have been cut, and it could have been done in a cleverer way. Check the interior for tears, stains and snapped off fittings, and inspect the luggage bay and the seat backs for signs of damage when loading. Otherwise insist on a service history. Mechanically the Space Star benefits from Mitsubishi's usual reputation for extreme durability.
(approx based on a 2002 Space Star 1.3i) Spare prices for the Space Star aren't too meteoric, except for the black hole in your finances represented by a new exhaust system, which will require around £675 to replace if you factor in the catalyst. A new clutch assembly is around £170, front and rear brake pads retail at around £40 a pair, and a new alternator will be around £150. Finally if you're after a new starter motor, set aside £130.
On the Road
The 1.3-litre engine is one of the older ones on Mitsubishi's books, developing an unremarkable 81bhp. The 41.5mpg combined fuel figure looks impressive, but will be difficult to achieve in 'real' conditions, especially if the Space Star is fully loaded. The sprint to 60mph will take over 14 seconds, making this 1.3-litre model only marginally quicker than some tectonic plates but if you expect a racy drive and all that practicality then your expectations are probably going to have to be managed downwards. Far better to fork out a little extra and plump for the 1.6-litre version. This offers a choice of two very different transmissions; a regular five-speed manual or the intriguing INVECS II 4-speed automatic, which claims to 'learn' driving styles and adapt accordingly. The 1.6-litre engine will propel the Space Star to a top speed of 112mph and it'll notch off 60mph in 12.0 seconds if you change yourself and 14.5 seconds if you're relying on INVECS-II. The fuel economy is something worth crowing about, the Mitsubishi capable of nearly 40mpg combined. That INVECS-II 4 Speed Automatic Transmission system claims to be pretty clever. Its key advantage is what Mitsubishi call 'Adaptive Shift Control'. Here, a computer constantly monitors driving performance to learn your driving style. Even if you opt for the manual, however, you won't feel hard done by as the five-speed gearbox has a smooth, quality feel to the shift. Around tight car parks, a turning circle of just 4.8 metres is a boon, while out on the road; the slippery 0.33Cd figure means that wind noise is kept to a minimum. Producing 101bhp at 4,000rpm, the 1.9-litre direct injection diesel offers the sort of smooth refinement we've come to expect from contemporary diesels. Here is a car that emits only 146 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilometre travelled. A car that manages to eke over 51 miles out of every gallon of diesel and yet manages to accelerate to 60mph in under 12 seconds is proof indeed that you can have your cake and eat it too.
Depending on what viewpoint you take, the Mitsubishi Space Star is either a worthy competitor or a tough sell. Cars like the Vauxhall Meriva and the Honda Jazz offer a good deal more in terms of clever packaging and driver appeal respectively, but the Space Star aces them both in terms of affordability and, for the time being at least, used availability. Unremarkable in any obvious way, the Space Star quietly gets on with the job in hand. If you want a car that will operate with metronomic reliability and which boasts a commonsense hassle-free nature, a used Space Star could well appeal.