What do you really need out of a car?
Don't get that confused with what you want out of your car because nowadays, many car manufacturers are cramming their latest models with so many high tech features that, in all honesty, are unnecessary. Plain and simple: the answer is mobility, you know, that thing about getting from Point A to Point B or doing the daily runabout between home, school, work or otherwise.
Enter the Mitsubishi Mirage.
This is, without a doubt, one of the most anticipated models from Mitsubishi; so much so that during the Philippine launch late last year, the guest of honor was the President of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation. Mr. Osamu Masuko. The Mirage is a highly important model for the brand, as it is clearly targeted at emerging markets worldwide, and would play a significant role in moving the masses.
So, what's the Mirage like then?
On the outset, the design of the Mirage is quite minimalistic. That's not saying it doesn't look good, because there are two perfectly good reasons why the Mirage looks plain by today's standards. It's quite clever, actually.
Mitsubishi seems to have avoided fancy shapes, lines and creases, as opposed to paying a premium on designs. They've avoided more expensive details like chrome, modern grab-type door handles, or even alloy wheels on this GLX model. What you get is a simple, honest-to-goodness small 5-door hatchback that doesn't have a love-or-hate it look... it's in the middle, right where it should be.
Inside, you're greeted by a modern cabin, with a very conventional layout. They made use of gray and black for the interior, and that's fine. There are a few storage compartments around the cabin, but nothing really beyond the usual. Unusually, I quite like the seats; upright as they are, the seats offer a good balance of softness and firmness, meaning it'll be comfortable to drive everyday. And true to their claim, three average-sized rear occupants won't have trouble with leg or headroom. Elbow room is another matter though.
This being the GLX CVT model, there are quite a few things that had been omitted to keep the price as low as it is. The wing mirrors are adjusted the manual way... with your hand. The front occupants have power windows but the rear passengers will have to wind theirs down. There is no central control that allows the driver to lower or raise the passenger window either. There are no central locks or alarm, so either you pay an accessory shop to have them installed or you'll have to lock the doors manually each time you alight from the vehicle. If I were you, have them installed. A nifty touch, especially for lady owners, is the driver side sunshade mirror. I won't recommend it, but I do know of a few experts in applying make-up while in traffic.
Also, don't expect decent audio from the cheap sound system in the Mirage, as the speakers sound quite tinny and the head unit's functionality and leaves plenty to be desired. It won't recognize most of my USB audio flash drives or my iPod, nor does the Aux port just didn't seem to work properly. It would take me a while to figure out how to work the Bluetooth handsfree/audio play functions, but in the meantime I was stuck with an autographed copy of David Pomeranz's latest CD I had in my bag. Don't ask why.
Powering the Mirage is a new 1.2 liter, twin-cam 3-cylinder engine. It's got MIVEC, and produces a respectable 78 horsepower at 6000 rpm, as well as 100 Newton meters of torque at 4000 rpm, and is matched with either a 5-speed manual or, in this case, a continuously variable transmission.
Driving it in town, it certainly has some pep, as the MIVEC motor's power and torque matches well with the lightweight. You won't be winning stoplight to stoplight dashes, if that's what you were thinking, but it's easy to drive and nimble in traffic. Owing to its size, however, you'll have to be very mindful about whether the bigger vehicles can see you.
The transmission is smooth, and does deliver on the promise of fuel economy both in and out of the city. In town, it's quite easy to get 13.5 kilometers per liter (light traffic, no passengers) out of the Mirage CVT, though in rush hour traffic, expect it to deliver about 10 km/l. On the highway, the Mirage is stable, and will easily deliver about 18 kilometers to the liter. It's just a little bit shy of the claimed 21 km/l, but considering that I had two passengers, it's quite good.
What I truly liked was it's ride comfort on our rougher-than-usual city streets; a very rare characteristic in small, short wheelbase cars. The suspension is tuned to soak up many of the road's imperfections. Cornering is decent, but it's definitely compromised since the Mirage was set up to deliver a soft ride. What you can expect is that the Mirage will certainly do well to convince customers in developing countries (ours included) where low quality roads are the norm.
So where do I stand on the Mirage? Mitsubishi definitely took a very clever approach to their new small city car. There are some things that I would change or add to the GLX version such as a central locking system, an alarm and a much better audio system and speakers. Either that or go for the top of the line GLS CVT model. I'm also not partial to silver, so perhaps I would go for the more fun colors like red, blue, green or yellow.
Nevertheless, for a pricetag of just PhP 548,000 the Mitsubishi Mirage GLX CVT makes a convincing argument for a great urban daily driver; an honest city car. Something tells me that the extra 90,000 for the full spec GLS CVT might be the way to go.