Mitsubishi showcased a total of 15 car models at the on-going Tokyo Auto Show but the attention grabber is the new sub-compact 2012 Mitsubishi Mirage designed as the car for the emerging markets with emphasis of fuel economy. The production model now on display is somewhat different from the concept model shown earlier at the Geneva Auto Show. Mitsubishi has claimed a fuel economy of 30 kilometers per liter for the Mirage and that should make the car a clear winner. The car will be manufactured at its Thailand plant and first models are expected to be seen on Bangkok roads from March 2012.
Though Mitsubishi makes over 1.2 million cars a year, it does not receive the attention that other Japanese compact car makers like Honda, Suzuki or Nissan receive, perhaps due to its low profile in the US and European markets. Over 51 percent of its car sales come from the Asean market and another 17 percent from the Japan market. Given its focus on these markets, it is not surprising that the company's attention is on the small car segment.
Sub-compact hatchbacks tend to look alike. The Mitsubishi Mirage looks not very different from its competition like the Nissan March or the Fiat 500. The range of body colors tends to be the principal differentiation. Each car maker presents some unique colors not available with the others. The overall appearance is clean and functional with no specific eye catching styling features or embellishments.
The Mitsubishi Mirage has a 1.0 liter 3-cylinder petrol engine. A larger 1.2 liter engine will also be made but no talk, so far, of a diesel variant. The engine uses the proprietary MIVEC continuously variable valve timing to deliver optimized engine performance over a wide speed range. The engine drives the two front wheels through a CVT transmission. Auto stop-go is a standard feature as well as regenerative braking. These features and the light body weight are designed to enhance fuel economy.
The engine hp and torque data have not been disclosed as yet. However, the only 1.0 liter engine that Mitsubishi has in its production line has 68 hp at 6000 rpm and max torque of 92 Nm at 3500 rpm. The 1.2 liter version could use the engine presently used in the Mitsubishi Colt with 75 hp and 92 Nm.
The exterior & interior
The car overall dimensions of 146 x 65.6 x 58.7 inches makes is similar to other sub-compact cars. The car body is made of an aluminum space frame with the skin of high strength steel. This light weight but high strength construction appears set to become the standard in all small cars for the near future. The car uses slender front grills, aerodynamic wheel covers and a roof mounted spoiler. The 14 inch tires are chosen for reduced rolling resistance. The car will have three point seat belts and front air bags for crash safety. Side air bags have not been provided for, as in other entry level cars.
The dashboard has been foreshortened a little to increase internal space. The instrument cluster has a sporty appearance. The central entertainment console is finished in glossy black, adding a touch of class. The interior looks good for seating four adults in comfort with a fifth possible in a squeeze. The A pillar at the front has been made slimmer, that should help improve visibility to the driver, especially in tight parking maneuvers.
The 30 kilometers per liter will set a new benchmark that other entry level cars will need to match. The corresponding reduced CO2 emissions will be a additional scoring point in green labeling the car. Mitsubishi claim that the turning radius for this car is the smallest amongst compact cars that should also be a welcome feature in the crowded city streets.
When most automakers are pushing higher price electric or hybrid vehicles for fuel efficiency, it is refreshing that Mitsubishi has shown that it is possible to achieve further improvements in conventional engine design. That could spur the search for higher fuel efficiency standards for all engines, not just for the entry level cars.
Price & Availability
Mitsubishi has not announced a price for the Mirage, but this is expected to be around $ 12,000, which is the price of the Nissan March. The first deliveries are expected from March 2012 in Thailand where this car will be manufactured. Availability in Australia is reported to be from September 2012. The car should be widely available in all of Mitsubishi's target markets by then.