Mitsubishi has always been strong in the people mover market. The people mover class of vehicles, also known as the multi-purpose vehicle, is built to move large groups, a tonne of cargo, or a combination of the two. Where the Mitsubishi Starwagon was unabashedly huge, seating as many as eight, the Mitsubishi Nimbus made its own way as more of a compact people mover with the feel of a conventional 4x4, station wagon, and minivan.
The Mitsubishi Nimbus is the Australian export of the Mitsubishi Chariot. The Nimbus had a long run from 1984 to 2002, barely shy of the Mitsubishi Chariot’s run from 1983 to 2003. It started off with a big splash, clinching a Wheels Car of the Year award right out of the gate. Key features that made it distinct included the high roofline, an elevated ride, a smart cab-forward design, and a 3-row, 7-seat arrangement.
Based off of the Mitsubishi Chariot’s first generation (1983 to 1991), the UA model Nimbus began as a compact 4x4 crossover. The Chariot’s second generation (1991 to 1997) prompted the UF Nimbus model to become a compact station wagon. For the Chariot’s third generation (1997 to 2003), the 1998 UG Nimbus model based off of it became a large, extended minivan. The Nimbus was retired in 2002, and shortly after, the Mitsubishi Chariot was superseded by the Mitsubishi Grandis and formally retired as well.
One area where the Mitsubishi Nimbus delivered was in its performance. The initial UA model engine was a carburettor-fed, 1.8L, single-overhead camshaft 4-cylinder with power of 70kW and torque of 140Nm. It also featured gearbox choices of a 5-speed manual or 3-speed auto. Fuel consumption got worse quickly with a full load, but it’s not much different from standard station wagons with a more moderate load.
The next major upgrade in the Nimbus mirrored the shift to a second generation in the Mitsubishi Chariot. With the 1992 UF model Nimbus, the wagon-like vehicle featured a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine with power of 103kW and torque of 200Nm. Fuel consumption was also quite impressive for a vehicle in the people mover class, with 10.5L/100km in the city and 7.2L/100km on the open road.
The final significant upgrade to the Nimbus occurred in 1998 with the UG series. While maintaining the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine, this model had a slightly lower engine power of 96kW, but a nice bump in torque to 210Nm. As for its fuel consumption rating, the UG Nimbus stayed about the same, ranging from 10.5L/100km to 7.4L/100km.
One of the most attractive parts of the Mitsubishi Nimbus was how fully featured it was. The initial 1984 UA Nimbus started with standard equipment like a fully adjustable steering wheel, a four-speaker radio, and power steering, with the option to have a 3-speed automatic transmission in place of the 5-speed manual transmission.
As it progressed, new kit was added. The second generation, starting in 1992, added new engine and transmission options, including a new 4-speed automatic transmission. It also made the driver’s side airbag and the alarm system standard by 1995. Other notable new standard features included the central locking, power windows, and mirrors, and rear door locks, adjustment for head restraints, and a left footrest for the driver.
The third generation added dual airbags, air-conditioning, dual climate control, trip computer, a CD player, and remote central locking to the standard kit. Anti-lock brakes were touted as an option.
Seven-seater people movers like the Mitsubishi Nimbus are still highly popular and not all that easy to come by. Chief competition includes the first-generation Toyota Tarago and the Kia Carnival, as well as Mitsubishi’s own Starwagon, which was produced alongside the Nimbus. The competition was mainly either due to storage capacity or fuel consumption, with the Tarago getting 9.5L/100km and the Carnival getting 11.3L/100km. One of the major draws in favour of the Nimbus over its competition though was how compact it was for its class.
While it seems like a contradiction in terms to describe a people mover as compact, the Nimbus succeeded in packing a lot of space and features inside without making the vehicle take up too much space on the road or in a parking spot. In addition to its size, it featured excellent standard kit and retained its value better than almost any vehicle in its class.