The Mitsubishi L300 is an old but reliable cargo and passenger van that was available from 1980 to 2003, which is a little more than two decades. The van was initially introduced by Chrysler Australia as the Chrysler L300 Express. However, Mitsubishi Motors took over operations of the company within the same month, and Mitsubishi Motors Australia was launched by October 1980. As a result, the L300 Express was one of the first cars offered by the Japanese carmaker under its name.
The Mitsubishi L300 was available as a 3-seater and an 8-seater commercial van with a 1.6L engine and 4-speed manual gearbox. Side rear windows were available as an option. The van was another version of the Mitsubishi Delica, which was also available as a ute, but this body style was not offered with the L300. Instead, the Mitsubishi L200 was introduced to fill the gap. The payload capacity of the Mitsubishi L300 was 925kg at the time.
A year after its introduction, the Mitsubishi L300 SB series was introduced with larger radial tires that increased the payload capacity to 1,000kg. By the beginning of 1982, the L300 Deluxe trim was also introduced with a higher roof, electric sunroof, and cloth upholstery. The Deluxe model was renamed the Star Wagon by the middle of 1982, and it got a larger 1.8L engine that was combined with a 5-speed overdrive manual gearbox as standard and a 3-speed automatic as an option. This new engine was made available to other trim levels as well after some time, but only with the automatic transmission, long-wheelbase, and tall-roof versions.
In 1983, the Mitsubishi L300 got new rectangular headlights as well as some exterior chrome elements, along with a newly adjusted front suspension for better handing and ride quality. The four-wheel drive model of the Mitsubishi L300 was introduced later the same year and dubbed the L300 4WD. It came with the same 1.8L engine and a 5-speed manual gearbox. This model could carry 7 passengers only because the floor-mounted transmission replaced the centre seat up front.
A facelift in 1984 saw the introduction of the black trim around the headlights on the 4WD and Star Wagon models and the shift from SB to SD series. This year also saw the introduction of the 2.0L engine for the L300 4WD and the standardization of the 1.8L engine.
The second generation of the Mitsubishi L300 was introduced in 1986 with a full model change. The new L300 was more fluid and aerodynamic and got a monocoque body with extensive safety features. This new look, called the soft cube styling by the Japanese carmaker, was a huge difference from the box-like shape of the first generation. The passenger vans were now marketed as the Star Wagon while commercial cargo vans were called the Express. This generation remained more or less the same throughout until 1990, when a naturally aspirated diesel engine was introduced.
The third and last generation of the Mitsubishi L300 Star Wagon began in 1994. This generation is the most aerodynamic, but the Express model was discontinued, and only the passenger model was available in four trims: GL, GLX, GLS, and 4WD. The van was discontinued in 2003.
Through its production life, the Mitsubishi L300 was available in various engine options. The first two generations had a 1.4L, 1.8L, and 2.4L petrol engine along with a 2.5L diesel and turbodiesel engine. Several body styles were available in long and short wheelbases, and the power could be delivered through a rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive model of the Mitsubishi L300 was actually based on the Pajero, although only a few parts were interchangeable.
During the second generation from 1986 to 1994, the base model GL got a 2.0L, 4-cylinder engine that delivered 87kW at 6000rpm. Meanwhile, the GLX got a fuel-injected 2.4L, 4-cylinder engine and the GLS got a 3.0L V-6 engine. Both these engines had 5-speed manual gearboxes and optional 4-speed automatic transmissions. Post 1996, only the GL and GLX trims with their respective engines were available.
The Mitsubishi L300 has a utilitarian interior with very few creature comforts. The features are few, and the interior has lots of hard plastics everywhere, but most people get this kind of a van even today for the same price. Moreover, the utilitarian cabin is also quite durable. All the plastic components and the hard vinyl floor at the rear are meant to last for decades and withstand constant punishment over a long time without any complaints. Even the doors and hinges are long-lasting. Another positive aspect of the Mitsubishi L300 is its incredible visibility. The A pillars are rather thin, and the driver enjoys great all-around visibility irrespective of the model chosen.
It is no secret that the Mitsubishi L300 isn’t the safest van you’ll find around, but it received a few common sense features such as side impact-resistant beams on the sliding doors to protect passengers and cargo. The chassis is built to withstand impact too, with Y-beams at the front engineered to absorb the energy of a collision.
The Mitsubishi L300 is meant to be a basic, utilitarian workhorse, and it plays that role to perfection. Its competitors include the Nissan Elgrand, which is known for a more refined interior, and the Kia Sportage, which comes stocked with safety features like driver and passenger airbags, traction control, and electronic brakeforce distribution. There are lots of rival vans that offer more refinement and all the bells and whistles, but the L300 is preferable for those who want a no-frills transport van that is easy to repair and offers decent, reliable performance.