The Mitsubishi Chariot is a small multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) manufactured and marketed by Mitsubishi from 1983 to 2003. Based on the SSW concept car first exhibited at the 23rd Tokyo Motor Show in 1979, the MPV derives its nameplate from chariots used of the ancient Greek and Roman Empires.
Internationally, the MPV has been marketed as the Mitsubishi Space Wagon, Mitsubishi Nimbus and Mitsubishi Expo — and as the Dodge and Plymouth Colt Vista Wagon, as captive imports in North America, and as the Eagle Vista Wagon in Canada. It has also been manufactured under license as the Hyundai Santamo and Mitsubishi Savrin in Asia.
The first generation Chariot (D0#W-series) was produced from February 1983 to May 1991 with a choice of SOHC straight-four powerplants ranging from the 1.6-liter 4G32 to the 2.0-liter 4G63 petrol engines, or the 1.8 liter 4D65T turbodiesel (from October 1984), mated to a five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmission. It occupied the market segment previously served by the Mitsubishi Galant station wagon.
The Chariot's wheelbase was 2,625 millimetres (103.3 in), while overall length ranged from 4,295–4,485 millimetres (169.1–176.6 in) depending on market and equipment level, which was within compliance with Japanese regulations concerning exterior dimensions and engine displacement size.
From June 1984, a version with permanent four-wheel drive was also offered for the two-liter engined model, while Japanese customers could also get the 4G62 engine in the MR Turbo version from July 1983 until the 1987 model year (1795 cc, 135 PS or 99 kW at 5800 rpm). This version could reach 175 km/h (109 mph), and was also available with the 3-speed automatic.
In Australia, where it was marketed as the "Nimbus", it won the 1984 Wheels Car of the Year award in its debut year. The Nimbus model codes were "UA" (1984), "UB" (1986), and "UC" (1987).
A single 1.8-litre GLX version, with manual or automatic transmission, was assembled from CKD kits in New Zealand by importer Todd Motors (later Mitsubishi NZ Ltd).
The rebadged Dodge and Plymouth Colt Vista, or in Canada, the Eagle Vista Wagon (1989-1991), were introduced in August 1983 as a 1984 model and they were offered in North America until 1991. The Colt Vista was originally available only with front-wheel drive and the 2.0-liter 4G63 engine producing 88 hp (66 kW) in US trim. Transmissions were the "Twin-Stick" (4x2 gears), a five-speed manual, or a three-speed automatic. In later years, power crept up to 98 hp (73 kW) and four-wheel drive became an option. Top speed was 155 km/h (96 mph), 150 km/h (93 mph) for the 4WD. The Dodge/Plymouth Colt/Eagle Summit wagons replaced the Vista.
The second generation (1991-1997) featured a longer wheelbase as well as greater length, width, and height, while still remaining in the Japanese Governments regulations concerning vehicle exterior dimensions and engine displacement. It retained the 4G63B four-cylinder engine, but phased out the 4G37B and replaced the old turbodiesel with a newer and larger 1,997 cc 4D68T powerplant, and in 1993 a 2,350 cc 4G64 was added to the range. A five-speed manual, or four-speed automatic could be specified, and in high-end models an INVECS electronically controlled four-speed auto with "fuzzy logic" was also available.
A limited production 4WD and turbocharged version was offered only in Japan, called the "Resort Runner GT", which borrowed the powertrain from the Lancer Evolution and the Galant VR-4, offering the 4G63 engine, producing 230 PS (169.2 kW; 226.9 bhp) with the manual transmission, and 220 PS (161.8 kW; 217.0 bhp) with the automatic transmission. It was a continuation of the first generation 1.8MR, also installed with a turbocharged engine from 1983 through 1987.
It continued the previous seating arrangement of three rows of seats, capable of seating seven people. The middle row can be slid forward or back to accommodate multiple seating arrangements. The second and third row have solid bench seat cushions with seat backs that are split 50:50; the second row seatbacks can be both folded down upon the seat cushions or reclined completely flat with the third row seat cushion. The second row can also be slid forward to provide access to the third row.
Again, from 1992, a single GLX model was assembled in New Zealand, with manual or automatic transmissions, at Mitsubishi's Porirua plant. Due to the partnership that existed between Chrysler Motors and Mitsubishi Motors during this time period, this generation of Chariot shares a similar appearance with the sales leader Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, and was sold in North America as the Mitsubishi Expo. Mitsubishi's decision to offer a MPV instead of an SUV was also shared with the Mazda MPV without the increased ground clearance. This vehicle was also sold on a shorter wheelbase, in a version marketed as the Mitsubishi RVR.
In Korea, Hyundai Precision & Ind. Co. built a rebadged version of the second generation Mitsubishi Chariot between 1996 and 2002 that was called Hyundai Santamo and Galloper Santamo. According to the corresponding article on Korean Wikipedia, the Hyundai Santamo name was an acronym, meaning "SAfety aNd TAlented MOtor".
The third and final generation was introduced on October 17, 1997, and was larger and heavier again. It was now known in its home market as the Chariot Grandis, after the French grandiose, to emphasise the increase in the car's size and quality as it moved from a ladder frame to monocoque construction, using the company's RISE safety body. Mitsubishi discontinued all other straight-4 engines in favour of a single gasoline direct injection version of the 4G64, while introducing a new 2972 cc SOHC 6G72 V6 powerplant, also GDI-equipped. For Europe, there were also available 2.0 4G63 SOHC 16 valve engine, which is well-known on the 8th generation Galant. The INVECS-II four-speed semi-auto and 5-speed manual transmission were options. Four-wheel-drive version was only available with 2.4 GDI and 5-speed manual transmission. Rear viscous-limited-slip differential was an option. Center differential is also with viscous-coupling-unit. Gearbox and transfer box look similar to Lancer Evolution, but still are different. For Japanese market, due to the engine size exceeding 2000cc, and the width exceeding 1.7 m, this generation was no longer in compliance with Japanese regulations, and buyers were now liable for additional yearly taxes, which affected sales. The 3.0 litre engine also obligated Japanese buyers to pay more annual road tax which was also a consideration affecting purchases.
This generation was not sold in North America, as the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager were now sold in regular and extended length vehicles, with the longer models sold as Grand Caravan and Grand Voyager in addition to the Chrysler Town and Country. It was marketed as a large minivan as a result.
The Chariot Grandis was finally superseded by release of the Mitsubishi Grandis on May 14, 2003, although production of the older vehicle continued until the following year for overseas markets.