Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted July 31, 2012 11:56
Not just an illusion
The Mitsubishi Mirage nameplate dates back to 1978 when it first debuted as a front-wheel drive subcompact car. It was the Japanese automaker's answer to the 1973 oil crisis where small fuel-efficient cars were favored due to the escalating fuel prices. The Mirage also saw action in the Philippines in the early 80's through Canlubang Automotive Resources Company (CARCO), which enjoyed brisk sales of the model during that time.
Fast-forward thirty-three years andMitsubishi finally lifts the covers off its top-secret subcompact model at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show – a revival of the Mirage name. It was followed by an ASEAN reveal at the 2012 Bangkok International Motor Show as an ‘eco-car’ for Thailand; a country offering tax incentives for small, low displacement cars which can meet a minimum fuel consumption of 20 kilometers per liter, and EURO 4 emission standards. With the main selling point of ‘world-class environment performance’ (as Mitsubishi calls it), the Mirage was to fill in the shoes of two vehicle segments, slotting in the middle of both A and B car segments for the ASEAN market. It also succeeds the European-made Colt, which will cease production this year.
Production of the new Mirage will be centralized at the newly built Factory 3 expansion at Mitsubishi’s Laem Chabang facility in Chonburi, Thailand. The factory has a capacity of 150,000 units a year; a production run that nearly totals number of vehicle sales in the Philippines in a year. We were given a brief tour of the state-of-the-art facility, which was currently working at full capacity building right-hand-drive units for our ASEAN neighbors and other markets. Philippine-bound left-hand-drive units are scheduled for the next production batch to commence by September. Mitsubishi states that 3,400 units will be arriving in the country over the next seven months.
Mitsubishi brings the new Mirage into the global market as a simple city car with cost clearly in mind. To put it simply, the design for the new Mirage is very basic and utilitarian, unlike its dynamic predecessors and stablemates that were purposely designed for both lightness and performance; models like the outgoing Colt, which we really think they should’ve kept. The design however helps the Mirage achieve a low drag coefficient figure of 0.29 cd. I did, however, find the door handles awkwardly placed, situated a bit lower than they normally should.
Light and solid engineering
The subcompact tips the scales at a featherweight 830kg for the base GLX model and tops out at 865kg for the fully loaded GLS Limited. Being light doesn’t mean that it's soft, as the Mirage was designed with Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Safety Impact Evolution) body construction, featuring the use of high-tensile steel in key parts of the car’s body for safety and structural rigidity. RISE architecture was first introduced in the 1996 Mitsubishi Galant.
Small but able
The new Mirage is powered by a newly developed 1.2-liter 3-cylinder MIVEC engine coded ‘3A92’. The engine produces 78 PS at 6,000 rpm and 100 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. From the very brief experience we had with the car, I can say it’s a pretty able engine despite the small displacement. It is mated to either a 5-speed manual gearbox or an INVECS III CVT with a ‘sport’ mode in place of manual selectors and paddle shifters.
Advanced features like auto-stop and go (ASG) or ‘idle-stop’ and regenerative brakes present in the 1.0-liter Japanese version will not be included in ASEAN versions. Sans the electronic fuel aids, the 1.2-liter engine powered lightweight Mirage still managed to do 22.4km/liter in the highway and 17.7 km/liter in the city. It also has a low carbon footprint by emitting only 120 g/km of CO2.
Comfort and handling
While navigating through the test course, I managed to jump the berms and go through rough patches of the circuit to try out the comfort of the car. It seemed to absorb bumps well enough to handle Philippine roads. While trying to tackle some corners at a ‘spirited’ pace, I noticed some lightness on the steering but the car still goes where you want it.
Despite being a low-priced economy car, the Mirage is not totally devoid of features and amenities. The base GLX variant will come equipped with power windows, power adjustable door mirrors, USB input, AUX input and CD capable radio with 4 speakers, driver’s side airbag, ABS with EBD, and even keyless entry.
The top-spec GLS Limited will come with more features like a rear spoiler, 14-inch alloy wheels, an extra airbag for the front passenger, and additional color accents for both inside and outside, fog lamps, automatic climate control, smart keyless entry with engine start/stop button, Bluetooth, USB and AUX input, as well as a touchscreen DVD navigation system.
While it may seem odd for many that the new Mirage now seems like a step down being a car looking very safe with minimal features, I think Mitsubishi is playing their cards right by targeting emerging as well as re-emerging markets hit by the global financial meltdown; areas where price conscious buyers would turn to smaller and cheaper Chinese and Korean cars.
The new Mirage will be on stage for public preview next month at the 2012 Philippine International Motor Show and actual sales units are expected to arrive in November. Rumors indicate that the pricing for this upcoming segment buster by Mitsubishi will be very aggressive as with its class leading Montero Sport SUV.
Although MMPC officials will not officially confirm it, the Mitusbishi Mirage should start below PhP500,000 for the base GLX M/T variant and top out at less than Php700,000 for the top-spec GLS Limited variant. The target market for the Mirage will be mainly first-time car owners and companies who need small and fuel efficient cars to move from point A to point B. And if this were truly so, the car’s Korean and even Chinese competitors should be very, very worried.