Big and Small
Measuring 3.71 meters long, 1.66 meters wide, and 1.49 meters tall, the all-new Mirage slots neatly between the Kia Picanto and Honda Jazz. At first, we were puzzled as to why Mitsubishi would choose to defy industry standards and create a unique-sized platform; that is, until we sat in it.
You see, a Picanto will easily squeeze through traffic and tight parking spaces, but can only fit four adults comfortably and their backpacks. Whereas in a Jazz, you might be able to bring an extra person on board plus all your camping equipment, but all that added space translates to a heavier car, which needs a bigger engine to get going, and ultimately costing you more money to buy.
What Mitsubishi did was to build a big enough car that would fit five people, at the lightest weight possible, so it can run on the most economic engine they could squeeze in it. That's not all. They also filled it with all the features you'll ever need in a car and sold it at a price that'll make you forget about the Picanto and Jazz altogether.
Mitsubishi was never known for extravagant interiors, and the Mirage is no exception. A sea of black plastic panels, fabric seat covers, and switches will greet you once you step inside. Touches of silver and chrome lighten up the mood. Though this might not fancy the younger crowd, just remember that black makes things look a lot roomier and is pretty easy to clean.
In contrast to its simplistic styling, the Mirage comes with an army of nifty features you'd only find in a more expensive sedan. The units we got to test were fitted with power-folding side mirrors, 60/40 folding rear seats, climate control, USB connectivity, and a start/stop button. Yes, that's right. If you get the top-spec Mirage GLS, you too can feel extra special when you start the engine without having to take the fob out of your pocket. We're just not quite sure if the 5-inch LCD display with satellite navigation will be made available in the Philippines, but it would be a nice dealer option though.
Given its size, front passengers will have enough space to stretch their legs and wiggle their bums around. There's also enough shoulder room upfront for me not to invade the personal space of the Thai driving instructor beside me who spoke very little English. And as a true five seater should, three adults will be able to nestle into the rear seat with ample legroom to spare. Do care to note that the obesity rates in Japan and Thailand are quite low, so you might want to tell your friends to stay on a low-carb diet if they'll be sitting at the back. On the plus side, luggage space is quite good for a car in its class and should have no problem fitting a couple of overnight bags.
Keeping the weight low, it doesn't take much oomph to move around 865 kg of sheet metal. That's why Mitsubishi opted to use a compact three-cylinder 1.2L DOHC MIVEC engine to propel the Mirage. The brochure says it only has 70 hp and 86 Nm of torque, but our quick drive around the Bira Circuit in Thailand felt otherwise.
As the track was still quite damp after a strong downpour, I didn't want to push the little Mirage to its limits and possibly embarrass myself in the process. I did, however, gun it as soon as we left the pit lane and felt all of its 70 horses kick me on the spine, which was quite amazing for a small three-cylinder. Without any hesitation, it roared to life with a very deep grunt as opposed to the high-pitched whine we're more used to in such small powerplants.
Helping the Mirage get up to speed is a very smooth INVECS-III CVT that's just as responsive in “D” as it is on “S” mode. On the flip side, this also allows it to achieve fuel economy figures as high as 22 km/L with the Eco Mode on.
The flying lap around the track had a good combination of low and high speed turns, several chicanes, and one stop box. A car this light would typically feel a bit skittish around bends, but the Mirage stayed planted even if I tossed it around. Braking performance was also quite smooth with the help of ABS and EBD - features not normally found in its would-be price range. Behind the wheel, the gauges are clean and simple, the three-spoke steering wheel is nice and chunky, and the gate-type shifter is... well... on the wrong side. But that should easily be fixed when we get the proper left hand drive (LHD) version. I just couldn't tell yet how good this buggy will ride over bumps, humps, and potholes of Metro Manila.
The Mirage might not be the most daring hatchback out in the market in terms of style, but it does have its charm. To make sure it doesn't get bullied around, triangular headlights gives it an aggressive look, and front fog lamps define its muscular jaw line. The sporty rear spoiler is an added bonus for the top variants. Meanwhile, the two-tier body-colored grill puts a nose and gaping mouth onto this cute little number.
The GLS is expected to arrive with chunky seven-spoke 14-inch alloy wheels, while the cheaper GLX will get steel rims capped with stylish covers. And if you're not so convinced with the “lemonade yellow metallic” color, Mitsubishi will be offering the Mirage in seven other shades.
Mitsubishi's all-new Mirage is by no means revolutionary. It's basically a lightweight subcompact with the engine of a micro car, which is a formula we're all too familiar with. But what sets this hatchback apart is how well it addresses the needs of the people of being able to fit five people comfortably, run on an economical engine without sacrificing performance, and pegged at a price any self-respecting employee could afford.
You better start saving up for one as early as now, because MMPC is expected to receive its first delivery of 1,000 units from Thailand by October with sales starting as early as November. Available with either a 5-speed MT or a CVT, initial estimates say that prices will be well below the P700,000 mark for the top-of-the-line GLS variants, while the basic GLX is tipped to be around P500,000. At those prices, it'll give not only the likes of the EON, Spark, and Picanto a good run for their money, but also the Rio, Accent, Jazz, Fiesta, and even the country's best-selling car, the Toyota Vios.
Of all cars out in the market today, the all-new Mirage definitely offers the best bang for your buck. And if MMPC manages to sell them by the boatload, it could be their winning ticket to snatching the number one spot from Toyota.