Last year, Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC) invited two bunches of motoring and business journalists on two separate trips to Thailand to preview the all-new 2013 Mirage subcompact. The comebacking hatchback, developed under Mitsubishi’s “Global Small Concept” to meet the specs of Thailand’s fuel-efficient Global Eco Car program, sold so well worldwide that Chapter Two of the Mirage story was sure to be written.
Mirage Chapter Two was writ large last month when MMPC and Mitsubishi Motors Thailand invited North American, Malaysian and Philippine media and Mitsubishi dealers to “Drive and Feel the new B-seg Sedan” at the new Bonanza International Speedway northeast of Bangkok. The new B-segment sedan turned out to be the Mirage G4, the four-door sedan version, scheduled to be launched on the global market this year for the 2014 model year. In the Philippines, where an average of 650 units of the Mirage hatchback are sold every month, making it MMPC’s best-selling model after the Montero Sport, the Mirage G4 will be revealed before the year ends. By the way, the Mirage hatchback with five-speed manual transmission won the 2013 Car of the Year Philippines overall title earlier this year, the first entry-level subcompact to gain the coveted trophy.
ECO CAR FACTORY. The Mirage G4, like the hatchback, is manufactured at Mitsubishi’s third assembly plant in Laemchabang Industrial Estate in Chonburi province, Thailand. Opened in 2012, Factory No. 3 is dedicated to the production of the Mirage, the brand’s Global Small or Eco Car, at the rate of 150,000 units a year. Mitsubishi’s three Laemchabang factories can produce up to 460,000 vehicles annually and export to 140 countries, making it Mitsubishi’s biggest production base outside Japan.
Meanwhile, there are three reasons why Mitsubishi Motors is confident that the Mirage G4 will attract more entry-level small car buyers in global markets: 1) its outstanding design, spacious cabin and value-added equipment; 2) low weight and low fuel consumption; 3) smooth and stable acceleration, good maneuverability. At the Bonanza International Speedway, test units of the 1.3- and 1.5-liter Toyota Vios, Nissan Almera (1.2 liter, three cylinders) and 1.2-liter Honda Brio were also available for comparison testing with the Mirage G4.
LEGROOM. Being longer, wider and taller than the hatchback, the five-seater Mirage G4 offers more passenger and luggage space than its sibling. But, amazingly enough, it also trumps the Lancer EX in leg room (1,725 millimeters compared to the Lancer’s 1,715 mm) although the Lancer has a longer wheelbase (2,600 mm compared to the Mirage G4’s 2,550 mm.) The Mirage G4 also beats the Honda Civic (2,600-mm wheelbase) in legroom by 15 mm and four competitors, all with 2,550-mm WB (Toyota Vios, Yaris, Volkwagen Jetta, Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Accent) by offering legroom ranging from 40 to 67 mm more. It also offers 105 mm more legroom than the Suzuki Dzire, which has a 2,570-mm WB.
With a 4.8-meter minimum turning radius, the Mirage G4 is easier to maneuver than the Nissan Almera (5.3-m turning radius), Hyundai Accent (5.2 m), Toyota Yaris sedan (4.9 m) and the previous Lancer (4.9 m).
RATIO. Mitsubishi claims that the 57-kilowatt output capacity of the Mirage G4’s three-cylinder, 1.2-liter twin cam Mivec gasoline engine mated to either a five-speed manual transmission or Invecs-III Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) carried over from the hatchback version, offers better weight to power (kg/kW) ratio at 16.2 compared to the 63-kW, 1.3-liter four-cylinder Vios’ 17.9 and the 1.2-liter three-cylinder 58-kW Nissan Almera’s 18.5.
With a curb weight of only 930 kilograms, the Mirage G4 has the lightest body weight in its class. In contrast, the Accent has a curb weight of 1,193 kg, the previous Lancer 1,185 kg, the Vios 1,075 kg and the Almera 1,027 kg. The Mirage G4’s light weight could be partly due to its shorter length (4,245 mm) and smaller width (1,670 mm) compared to its rivals.
22 KM/LITER. Having the lightest body weight, it isn’t surprising that the Mirage G4 has the lowest fuel consumption in its class. Compared to the Almera, which in Thailand is also powered by a 1.2-liter, three-cylinder engine, the Mirage G4 achieves 22 kilometers per liter, whether with the five-speed manual transmission or the CVT, while the Almera averages 20 kpl. Equipped with 15-inch wheels, the Mirage G4’s fuel efficiency is rated at 21 kpl.
On the speedway, the Mirage G4 CVT was a bit slow in accelerating, but once it achieved the desired kph, it ran true to the Mitsubishi cachet for friskiness and seemed to want to go faster. However, the Thai marshal sitting beside me with his hand hovering above the hand brake prevented further exploration of the car’s capability. I expect MMPC to conduct another gymkhana competition to prove that the Mirage G4, like the hatchback, can be fun on the track as well as reliable, smooth and stable in everyday urban driving.
Bottom line, if MMPC markets the fuel-sipping, roomy Mirage sedan as attractively priced as the hatchback, chances are that it’s got another best seller. Observing the Mirage’s success, mass-market brands that haven’t as yet ventured into the fiercely competitive subcompact segment are probably reviewing their options now.