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Mitsubishi Express 2020 confirmed: Launch timing set for reborn Toyota HiAce van rival

Looks like a Renault Trafic, right? Imagine a Mitsubishi badge on it instead and you have the new Express.

Mitsubishi Australia has provided its best indication yet of when it will return to the van segment for the first time in seven years, with the reborn Express mid-sizer officially locked in for a mid-year launch.

When the company initially announced its plans to rebadge alliance partner Renault’s Trafic in November 2018, it expected the Express to launch last year, but its return was pushed back to 2020 within a few months.

Either way, the new Express is closer to launching than it’s ever been, and while it’s yet to be revealed, let alone priced and specified, the mechanically related – and recently facelifted – Trafic provides a few clues of what to expect.

Until November last year, the Trafic was only available in manual form in Australia, which didn’t really lend itself to significant volume, but that changed with the November introduction of a dual-clutch automatic (DCT) alongside its mid-life facelift, albeit only in the flagship Crew Lifestyle.

It then stands to reason Mitsubishi Australia was holding out until it could offer both manual and automatic versions of the Express, which would allow it to better compete with the segment-leading Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad, the former of which upgraded to a new-generation model in May.

Significantly, the addition of the DCT also came alongside the exclusive introduction of a third engine option for the Trafic, a 125kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder.

Manual variants of the Trafic were previously and are still available with a 1.6-litre unit offered in 85kW/300Nm single-turbo and 103kW/340Nm twin-turbo guises.

Short- and long-wheelbase variants of the Trafic are on offer, so the Express could follow a similar formula.

Like the Trafic, the Express will be imported from Renault’s Sandouville plant in native France.

For reference, Mitsubishi Australia removed the previous-generation Express from sale due to its lacklustre one-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

The company will also launch facelifted versions of the Pajero Sport large SUV and Mirage light hatch in the first half of this year.