10 December 2012

Mitsubishi Mirage - Design & Drive Impression

Mitsubishi Mirage is the latest newcomer in the small car segment crowded with many brands offering product that is designed as exquisite as the palm tree with frill-free design element in the interest of cost. Mitsubishi is set to challenge that with a small car offering big car design and features at a price that will shaken the national boys. Mirage also is classified as an eco-car, and capable of sipping fuel at a really slow rate to post a 21km/L figure, something that the local/Korean boys can't quite deliver.

Model-wise, to recap, Mitsubishi Mirage came in 2 specs, the low-spec GL and the loaded GS. The GL can be had with either 5 speed manual or CVT, while the GS is CVT only. Standard equipment across the board include dual SRS, ABS, all-around power window, immobilizer, chromed door inside handle, 3 cupholders in the floor console and a 2 DIN audio system. Opting for GS trim will unlock a host of convenience features that is big-car like including fog lamp, rear spoiler, digital automatic air conditioning, starter button , keyless entry, tonneau cover and leather upholstery for the gear knob and steering. All these accessories weight up to the RM63,375 for the full-fat version while the leaner GL version is pitched at RM55,583 and RM60,453 for the manual and CVT respectively. The price put Mirage right at the competition with the top-range Myvis, comprises of the 1.5L Myvi SE and Extreme.

Where the Lancer (and Inspira), ASX and the never-been-to-Malaysia Outlander and Colt wears the distinctive shark-like nose conforming to the then-up-to-date Mitsubishi design language, Mitsubishi Mirage wears the newer theme, consistent with the new Outlander. Aesthetic is always subjective, so verdict is an open ended question. Anyhow, the styling of Mirage is clean-looking with triangulated headlamp, slim grille opening and the lower intake adopts a soft radius but strengthened by the protruding lower lip. The rear end meanwhile is vertical with the rear light follow the same design shape as the front item. There is no fancy LED here, just a good old bulb. Overall, Mitsubishi Mirage looks quite sleek unlike the tall-boy appearance of the two-generation of Myvi, courtesy of its lower stance at 1,500mm. Total length is 3,710mm, width is 1,665mm and wheelbase is 2,450mm.

It is the interior design that sets Mirage apart from all its rival, relatively speaking of course. Where Perodua Myvi interior is dominated with the flattened plastic panel with reduced curvature to minimise the material usage and tooling cost, Mirage triumphs with the stylish centre console wrapped by the glossy black finish. The audio is high mounted and beneath it is the air cond control. For the GL version, the manual control comprises of two rotary dials and two sliding bar. Storage space is provided by the cubby at the top of the glovebox. The gear knob is of the gated type, sits behind the two cupholders. The remaining one cupholder is behind the handbrake lever, closer to the rear passenger.

The front seat is comfortable and you are cocooned quite well in the car. The feeling of well-contained is accentuated further by the dark cabin color which prevent it from becoming any airier. Space for front passenger is great and the width of the cabin is generous. Moving to the back of the cabin, the leg and head room is sufficient although it is a bit less than Perodua Myvi. Due to the width, 3 abreast will a bit tight, but so do the oppositions. Disappointingly, not unlike many car priced under RM100k, the rear passenger comfort is treated as fourth class citizen. While nicely padded, the rear bench is flatter than your neighbour garden bench. You can slide around uninterruptedly under the cornering force. The boot capacity is 245L, and can be made more practical thanks to the split-fold mechanism of the rear seat.

In terms of engineering, Mitsubishi Mirage is clearly designed with the strict cost control in mind. For example, while the interior design is quite modern in the look department, Mitsubishi has cut the corner where it can. The door trim for example make do without the fabric insert. It is just plastic, albeit it is textured. Another cost saving measures visible is the lack of body paint in the engine bay. The engine bay is left with the base coat. Quite clever and I think it should be adopt by other OEM too. The car is lightweight at 825kg, and certainly the weight saving can be seen in the engine bay. Take a look below, the side beam just stop in front of the wheel and mounted pretty low to join the rest of the load bearing element underneath. There's also massive space between the inner structure to the fender outer panel, it should be good not only for the weight reduction, but also for the pedestrian impact rating.

Driving experience and satisfaction varies depending on the expectation. The 78PS and 100Nm of power and torque offered by the 1,193cc engine is sufficient to propel the car along in a leisurely manner. If you are the eco-person, and need the system intervention to prevent your right foot from damaging the environment (and your fuel comsumption), then this car is for you. The CVT and engine management is clearly tuned for fuel economy and together they resist the request for hard acceleration. Stand on the gas at low speed, the CVT drone, the engine groan, and you'll be moving forward with slightly added dose of acceleration.

On the move, the cabin is fairly quiet. There's little road roar, much better than the local product. The steering is light and offer not much feeling, but it is ok for city car like this. I can recall the new Myvi has a  meatier steering feel despite being the EPS type. The suspension is a bit on the soft side, so handling is, well, lets just say it is biased towards ride comfort. It is just OK, and will make the cut desired by everyone with nothing outstanding in particular.

How does Mitsubishi Mirage fares? Well, it is as competent as Perodua Myvi, with no serious advantages or disadvantages. While it is smaller on the cabin, it gains hefty advantage in the boot volume. While the cabin is a little less airier, the overall design has more flair to it and it lack the feeling of so-2005 to it. The glossy centre console in particular, with well-curvaceous panel is more commendable than the local product can ever manage to become. The overall driving experience however is a little mixed. Although it has a thoroughly modern drivetrain, the drive itself does not feel that sophisticated, just on par with the car in the segment. All in all, Mitsubishi Mirage is a safe option for those would like to try something non-nationals.

More photos of Mitsubishi Mirage can be found after the jump.


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