Lemonade Yellow metallic. Now that’s a cool paint name for a cute car, I think, looking at the list of popping colours available for the Mitsubishi Mirage newly-launched in South Africa. Disappointingly, the brilliant magenta hue seen on the car featured in the advert shown in the media presentation is missing from the spec sheet. So too are the cupcakes. I sulk a little, but things quickly start to pick up.
To people who visited last year’s Johannesburg International Motor Show, the introduction of the Mitsubishi Mirage shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. In fact, some of the more outspoken among you could even lay claim to agitating sufficiently to ensure this mini car’s arrival in South Africa. With the bulk of South Africa’s new cars being registered to thrifty buyers in the small car A to B segments, it’s no surprise ever more carmakers are clamouring for a slice of this pie. Mitsubishi, most known for favourites such as Triton and Pajero, is no different. And its interest in this segment is no surprise either – Mitsubishi’s Colt small car was a perennial favourite beyond our borders until it was culled in 2012. Since this mini Mirage is envisioned as the Colt’s successor, we had a go at driving this ‘ground breaking’ city car in Johannesburg.
I need to get arguably the most important news out of the way. In a bid to make this car attractive to younger buyers looking for an affordable car with a relatively low cost of ownership, Mitsubishi’s thumped out quite an innovative and alluring offer. Mirage is sold as standard with a two-year or 30 000 service plan and a fully comprehensive insurance policy for 12 months from R1899 per month. In a true showing of egalitarianism, regular insurance hurdles such as the driver’s risk assessment and where the vehicle sleeps at night don’t appear to be big considerations. How novel.
My drive experience of the Mirage was, as far as launches go, a rather frenzied affair. We drove from east of the city, across town and to Sandton and Rosebank in a higgledy-piggeldy zigzag – with only 10 litres of fuel in the 35 litre-capacity tank. So the usually-lightweight hatch (its kerb weight is 825kg) was even lighter and extra useful at scooting across multiple lanes (that random centre bus lane in Commissioner Street is ridiculous), great at performing impromptu U-turns (a turning circle of 4.4m helps) and exceptionally kind to opportunistic parkers slicing it into a cheeky city spot.
On paper, the power and torque churned out by its three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine seemed rather gutless and uninspiring, but the little midge had no problem keeping up with city, suburban and freeway traffic at altitude. The 57kW/100Nm triple is common across the three specification levels; as is the five-speed manual transmission. A CVT is offered in other markets, although Mitsubishi SA did not see the immediate need to introduce it as an option to South Africans. Besides, it might detract from the immediacy inspired by the thrumming three-cylinder being given a bit of a rev.
Into the fray
Additionally, Mitsubishi claims an average fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100km – a claim I desperately want to believe considering my driving mate and I probably covered the final 30km of our day’s trip with part or all of the electronic fuel gauge flashing furiously at us. And that was about as aggressive as the Mirage was on its entire drive; for the most part it was as gentle as a lady bug. Its docile nature is perhaps also the result of inoffensively generic styling; my partner often darted right past the car towards nearby Etios and Figos.
The Mirage is being pitched directly at models such as Nissan’s Micra, Honda’s Brio and Kia’s Picanto and is adorned with a level of specification that should add to its appeal. All Mirages, including the base GL model, are fitted with ABS and EBD, dual airbags, Isofix child seat anchors, central locking, aircon and halogen headlamps. Mid- and top spec 1.2 GLX (R134 900) and 1.2 GLS (R144 900) naturally add more kit including keyless start and body-coloured trimmings. An accessory pack is available at launch for R15 500 for rear PDC, satnav, Bluetooth, a cargo organiser, carpet set and front armrest. I wouldn’t consider any of those essential for Mirage ownership and would urge those same thrifty buyers to rather save that money for use as a car emergency fund.