JOHANNESBURG - There’s a particularly large family settling as new immigrants to South Africa. They’re called 'The Smalls' and they have relations from all over the world – America, Europe, China, India, South America, Korea.
Despite their disparate origins their familiar resemblance is remarkable: petite, nimble, have – mostly – five moveable limbs, two at the front, two further behind and a thing called a ‘hatch’ where their forebears had boxes called ‘boots’.
IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
Five small family branches have each already settled here, on the automotive population register with names such as Brio, Figo, Picanto, Vivo, Etios, Aygo, Spark, Figo and i10. Some are more closely related than others, with shared or similar engines, transmissions and profiles.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
August 4 2014 saw the arrival in South Africa of yet another from a family that’s never had such a little kid: the Mitsubishi clan has always been known as big, beefy – often all-wheel drive – SUV’s and bakkies (not to mention their heavy trucks). Though the family has bigger cars, some with a sporting heritage, this little guy is the first diminutive and has a more romantic name than the aforementioned... Mirage.
Just one of his kind with a three-cylinder, 1.2-litre engine making 57kW at 6000 and 100Nm at 4000rpm, four doors and a hatch and three trim levels – GL (R124 900), GLX (R134 900) and GLS (R144 900) which spread themselves nicely through the rest of the Small family which runs, roughly, from R120 000 to R150 000 in South Africa.
Wynand Pretorius, chief operations officer at Mitsubishi Motors SA, explained: “Mitsubishi is on a continuing renaissance in South Africa.With the all-new Mirage we are opening our brand to a new buying audience which places affordability, quality and specification at the top of the buying decision.
“When everything else seems more expensive, to launch a superb value car such as the Mirage, with its big heart, makes perfect sense for the South African market.”
The car, described by Pretorius as “strategically imported”, was first shown at the 2013 Johannesburg auto show. “Now we enter the A-segment with the Mirage, gaining entry to the sub-small arena which covers 45% of the SA market. Add ‘small’ and you cover 60% of the market.”
He rightly points out that more and more car-buyers (those in the R8000 to R23-000 income bracket and aged 25 to middle 40’s) are looking for affordable options with low cost-of-ownership. Which is certainly helped by a claimed fuel-consumption of 4.9 litres/100km and the Mirage being sold with a finance deal that costs R1899pm with 12 months fully-comp insurance and a two-year or 30 000km service plan.
Service intervals are 15 000km.
The car launch involved a novelty: a ‘treasure hunt’ through central Johannesburg – the idea being to prove how driveable the little car is in the urban jungle. The Mirage took a bit of a pounding, for instance, in American auto mag Car & Driver which claimed the engine was noise and the performance lacking.
After driving close to 100km on back streets, city highways and even freeways where it easily kept pace with the traffic despite the 1400m elevation, I declare C&D to be wrong. The three-cylinder engine has a distinctive sound – sure – but it certainly is not ‘noisy’; it might need more gear-changes than more-powerful cars but that’s more than made up for by the sheer fun of driving this cheeky little guy.
Its size makes it easy to work through congested freeway traffic – it’s only 3.7m long. The front seats are way comfortable, even if rear-seat space is a bit tight; but then how often does a young family carry two adults in the back? So confident was Mitsubishi of its fuel range that each car set out with only 10 litres in the tank.
Pretorious quoted a range of 700km from its 35-litre fuel tank – and the car claims to be the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid in the US. The car has the highest-possible ‘Good’ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the US for the ‘moderate overlap front’, ‘side’, ‘roof strength’ and ‘head restraints and seats’ crash test modules. In Australia the Mirage has achieved a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
It’s also the lightest five-door, five-passenger vehicle on sale in the USA – its kerb weight is only 825 kg.
LOADS OF GOODIES
As I pointed out in Monday’s launch-day preview (August 4), even the entry-level GL has anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-pressure distribution, two front air bags, multi-information display, front power windows, central locking, power-assisted steering, Iso-Fix child seat anchors, keyless entry, immobiliser, 14" steel alloy rims and a radio/CD player.
The GLX adds a USB port, power external mirrors, multi-function leather-trimmed steering wheel, five 15” alloy wheels, colour-coded mirrors and door releases, accessory socket and a rear spoiler with an integrated high-mounted stop light.
The range-topping adds with keyless entry, auto aircon, four power windows (with auto up/down and anti-trapping) and fog lights.
Those with a little extra cash can specify a R15 000 accessory package which adds rear parking assist, satnav, an arm rest, cargo organiser, premium carpet set and lower front-bumper plating enhancement.
All models also feature five cup or bottle-holders, 60:40 split folding rear seats and height adjustment for the driver’s seat.
Pretorius added: “People know us for tremendous off-roaders and exceptional durability. We know just how competitive the supermini segment is in South Africa and as such have ensured that the Mirage is aggressively priced to take the fight to more established brands.”
For more information about the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage visit the Mitsubishi SA website.