Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia (MMM) is gearing up for the launch of the Xpander, set to debut later this year. The seven-seater MPV is quite a stylish departure from its humdrum rivals, but did you know that the car is a production version of a concept?

Yes, way back in 2016, Mitsubishi introduced the XM Concept at the second Gaikindo Indonesian International Auto Show (GIIAS). This was the Japanese carmaker’s big bet on the ASEAN region – an affordable three-row people carrier that’s ever-popular here, given the in-vogue crossover treatment. Its name, after all, was an abbreviation of crossover (X) and MPV (M) – and what a looker it was.

The bright yellow show car featured a bold interpretation of the company’s Dynamic Shield front end – it was the first to feature the split headlight design now found on the Triton, with slim upper lamps and larger main lamps down below. The distinctive chrome bars that frame the grille and air intake are now a classic Mitsubishi signature.

The Xpander (left) is a relatively faithful rendition of the XM Concept (right), both from the outside…

The sleek cab-forward side profile was typical MPV, but there was nothing typical about the way it was dressed. The pronounced fender bulges and chiselled side surfacing gave the XM Concept a solidity that was missing in most MPVs of the type, while the roof rails and raised ride height added some SUV-style ruggedness. The blacked-out D-pillars, meanwhile, provided a “floating roof” look that is still all the rage.

Moving to the rear, the XM Concept continued the unconventional theme, with vertical L-shaped tail lights and an X-shaped design that mirrored the front end. Inside, there was a modern, minimalist cabin, sporting a horizontal dashboard design, a clean vertical centre console with a high-mounted infotainment touchscreen, and an aesthetically-pleasing instrument cluster.

At the time, Mitsubishi told us that the XM Concept would be 80% representative of the production model, but with such outlandish looks, we had a hard time believing them. So imagine our surprise when, just a year later, the company rolled out the Xpander, looking every inch the descendant of the XM.

…and on the inside.

Sure, we lost the fancy side-view cameras, loud yellow paint and white interior, but otherwise, the Xpander gave away little in terms of visual drama. Better yet, the large, spacious interior meant that Mitsubishi did not sacrifice practicality in the pursuit of aesthetics. The last time Mitsubishi managed to productionise a concept car as close as this was when the Concept-X from 2005 evolved into the Evolution X.

We may be a little late in getting the Xpander, but the striking design means it will still stand out on our roads. We’ll also be receiving the latest facelifted model, which comes with an updated grille design and new LED headlights for an even more modern look. The delayed arrival does also mean that the Xpander will have any teething issues or reliability problems sorted out, plus a whole host of accessories developed for it.

Malaysian models will likely be powered by a 4A91 1.5 litre four-cylinder engine, producing 105 PS and 141 Nm of torque. It should be paired to a four-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive. So, when was the last time you could say that your car looks like a concept? Soon, you can.

GALLERY: Mitsubishi Xpander facelift in Indonesia

GALLERY: Mitsubishi XM Concept