|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
BANGKOK, THAILAND—Small is big nowadays. With the price of crude oil continuing to skyrocket worldwide, carmakers are scrambling to produce a global small car: one that caters to both the sophisticated, eco-conscious taste of the first-world markets and the price-sensitive, practical needs of the emerging markets. Mitsubishi is the latest automaker to enter the B-segment (sub-compact car) fray, and their answer: the all-new Mirage.
If the nameplate seems familiar, it’s because Mirage was first used in 1978. At the time, it was developed with “resource/energy/space-saving and high-performance in a compact package” in mind. Now, the all-new Mirage inherits the essence of that first series by cleverly getting the most function and performance out of a limited space.
Measuring in at 3,710 mm in length (wheelbase is at 2,450 mm), the Mirage clearly sits on the smaller scale of the B-segment. However, thanks to excellent interior packaging, the Mirage outclasses the likes of the Suzuki Swift, Mazda2, and Nissan March in total legroom. And despite the small dimensions, the extensive use of high-tensile strength steel makes the Mirage one of the safest cars in its class while maintaining a low curb weight—as much as 7 percent less—compared to its competitors (the heaviest Mirage tops out at just 865 kilograms). The Mirage employs Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) safety concept which absorbs and distributes impact forces to deliver high levels of occupant safety.
In addition to its lightweight body, Mitsubishi pursued to refine basic technologies to improve the Mirage’s performance and fuel economy as opposed to employing expensive technologies such as gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrains. Thus, they are able to keep the Mirage’s pricing down while keeping fuel efficiency and performance up. The 5-door body is designed with a low 0.29 co-efficient of drag—one of the lowest, if not the lowest, in its class. This is achieved through small panel gaps, carefully-shaped bumpers, small aerodynamic “lips” on the side skirts, and the employment of a roof-mounted spoiler on high-end models.
The Mirage also employs detailed improvements to almost every part of the car from the engine, transmission to even brakes and tires all in the name of fuel efficiency. Under the hood is a single engine variant: a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder (3A92). Despite the modest displacement and cylinder numbers, thanks to MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control), the Mirage pushes out a healthy 77 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 100 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. Mated to the engine is a choice between a conventional 5-speed manual and INVECS-III CVT automatic transmission. Underneath, the Mirage rides on a combination of independent MacPherson struts and torsion beam axle at the back, but because of a well-tuned steering rack it delivers best-in-class turning radius at just 4.6 meters.
To test the merits of the all-new Mirage, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC) flew a group of journalists, dealers, and suppliers to the Bira International Circuit. There, three variants of the Mirage were made available for testing: GLX 5MT, GLX CVT, and GLS Ltd. Though these three variants are Thai-spec models, these are highly indicative of the models which MMPC will ultimately sell to the Philippine market sometime in November. Because the 1.2-liter MIVEC inline-3 is the same across the line, these variants are differentiated mainly by equipment and price. The entry-level GLX is already loaded with driver’s airbag, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, 165/65R14 tires with 14-inch full wheel covers, color-keyed power door mirrors, keyless entry, and an AM/FM stereo CD with USB and auxiliary audio jack connected to 4 speakers. Meanwhile, the GLS Ltd. adds a passenger airbag, 14-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, B-pillar black out, power folding door mirrors, roof spoiler with high-mount stop lamp, silver accents on the instrument panel, chromed inner door handles, FASTKEY keyless engine start/stop, and automatic climate control.
Stepping into the Mirage’s cabin reveals a straight-forward, Zen-like approach to interior appointment. Yet, everything you could ever ask for is there. The finish is top-notch with a nicely textured dashboard highlighted by a high-gloss piano black finish on the center stack. All the controls are ergonomically placed with large buttons for the audio and climate controls. The front seats are ergonomic with ample support. Other nifty touches include: tilt-adjustable steering wheel, 6-way manual adjustable driver’s seat, variable intermittent wipers, 60/40 split-fold rear bench, and a multi-information display located in the instrument panel. All in all, if bang for the buck is what you’re after, the Mirage delivers it nicely.
Pressing the ‘Start Engine’ button cranks up the 3-cylinder engine to life; and though the initial note sounded lacking (a common problem with the 3-cylinder layout), once it settles to an idle, it purrs evenly. There were initial hesitations given the Mirage’s modest drivetrain, but whether equipped with 5-speed manual or CVT transmission, this car delivers a great driving experience. There’s ample thrust allowing drivers to break the imposed 80 km/h limit on the Bira International Circuit much to the chagrin of the marshals and instructors. The suspension is clearly tuned for comfort and combined with the narrow tires means the Mirage tends to lean through the corners, but the overall handling remains tidy. And thanks to the quick steering, flicking through the narrow portion of the circuit, particularly the S-bend, is a rewarding experience.
Globally, the entire production run of the Mitsubishi Mirage, be it for Europe, Japan or the Philippines, is to be done at the brand-new Mitsubishi Motors Thailand (MMTh) Laemchabang Factory No. 3. Opened in March of this year, Factory No. 3 produces the Mirage solely to the tune of 150,000 units annually or around 26.8 units per hour. The Mirage is assembled with the help of MMDS or Mitsubishi Motors Development System which is a comprehensive quality management system and MMPW or Mitsubishi Motors Production Way, the company’s global quality assurance framework.
Currently, Mirage production for the Philippines is slated to start in October with the first 1,000 units expected sometime in November. MMPC has revealed that the Mirage will be sold in 4 variants: the entry-level GLX MT and CVT as well as GLS Ltd trim in both MT and CVT. Final pricing has yet to be announced, but MMPC has said that it will be competitively priced, and will probably be in the “Php 500,000 range”. More information about the Mitsubishi Mirage will be revealed at the 4th Philippine International Motor Show (PIMS) which is scheduled from August 16 to 19 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. Until then, the Filipino buyer will anxiously wait for the return of a much respected mass market icon.