Mitsubishi Mirage – silk purse, or sow’s ear?
When I acquired my Mitsubishi Colt Mirage hatch in the mid-1990s, it was a front-wheel-drive Focus rival based on the same platform as the all-conquering Lancer model. Despite a fairly lethargic 1.6-litre (8v) petrol engine, its core strength lay in superior on-road dynamics that made power demands less vital. It was built sturdily, was moderately fuel efficient and I loved it.
The replacement model of 2004 was known as Colt but, despite its class-leading space, it was a markedly different proposition. It was replaced in 2012 by the current Mirage, built in Thailand. It innovated with its lightweight construction and boasted one of the lowest-in-class aerodynamic drag factors. While Mitsubishi has seldom led the market on price, its reception was very mixed, with most critics being unimpressed with its ride and handling characteristics, while acres of grey interior plastics and a relative lack of equipment did little to enthuse potential owners. Sales slumped.
Mitsubishi, bombarded by a host of poor reviews, took stock of the situation and rationalised the Mirage model line. As other manufacturers equivalent model price lists escalated and overtook the Mirage, it actually became excellent value for money. Today, just two Mirage models are available, the entry-level ‘3’ and the more highly specified ‘4’, which also offers the option of a constantly variable automatic transmission.
Both versions are powered by the same 80bhp, 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine that offers up to 57.6mpg and a modest 123g/km CO2 (under the latest WTLP efficiency regime). In the £2,000 more costly ‘4’ trim (£13,095), the Mirage is exceptionally well equipped, including 15.0-inch alloy wheels, Apple CarPlay enabled, climate control, sat-nav, cruise control, keyless entry, auto wipers and lights, and auto stop & go. Its top speed is given as 112mph and it can despatch the 0-60mph benchmark in around 12.4s, proving itself to be more than capable in a highly competitive market sector.
A successful round of spring and damper rate changes has improved the car’s dynamics to the highest competitive levels. Seldom criticised for its spacious cabin and boot capacity, improvements made to its sound deadening and overall refinement have turned the proverbial Mitsubishi sow’s ear into a most accommodating silk purse!
In fact, if you require a compact hatchback, or city car, the latest Mitsubishi Mirage will more than satisfy your demands and I have no issues with recommending it.
Luscombe’s summary: We are realistic enough to appreciate that even the best carmakers can ‘get it wrong’ from time to time. However, Mitsubishi has righted the Mirage to make it a seriously good value option.
Next week: Iain recalls the immense value of Mitsubishi in world car terms.
Wonder no longer about Mitsubishi’s ‘Three Diamonds’ emblem
Many motor manufacturers treasure their iconic logos, highlights Iain Robertson, from the ‘Four Rings’ of Audi, to the ‘Three-Pointed-Star’ of Mercedes-Benz; while some, like VW are obvious, Mitsubishi’s red emblem is steeped in oriental mystery.
Defining some corporate symbols can demand intense imagination. Sometimes, they are linked emblematically with brand design details that become irrefutable. After all, a BMW without the ‘Hofmeister kink’, in essence the outline of the rear-most side windows on the German company’s passenger cars, might make it unrecognisable. Much the same applies to the same company’s ‘Double Kidney’ radiator grille, although even it has been squished, squeezed and squashed in every direction, it remains identifiable. Other carmakers have softened, or modernised, their corporate icons, such as the Vauxhall ‘Griffin’ and even the Rolls-Royce ‘Flying Lady’.
While the Mitsubishi name can be broken into two parts, with ‘Mitsu’ meaning ‘three’, the definition of the red lozenges is slightly more difficult to ascertain. Established in 1870, the company was a complex mix of several, completely separate firms that traded under the same Japanese flag. Their only connection was a regular board meeting, at which they would air their individual plans. Interestingly, they benefit today from the association by between-company trading exercises and, together, they constitute one of the largest corporations in the world.
The ‘bishi’ element of the name is derived from ‘hishi’, which means a ‘water chestnut’ and is represented by three red rhombuses, or ‘diamonds’. The bulk of its industrial might arises from its shipbuilding, steel manufacturing, mining and electrical goods. There exists an ‘elephant-in-the-room’, in that Mitsubishi aircraft were used extensively during WW2, the ABM ‘Zero’ proving to be a most effective weapon, for which the company apologised internationally only a few years ago.
As a car company, one of the greater corporation’s smaller enterprises, that is now 101 years old, it has endured a troubled past, not least because its holding company (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) seldom knew, or understood, what to do with the brand. Shoved from pillar to post, not least during the shambolic period that it was ‘owned’ by DaimlerChrysler (itself a troubled corporation), it would appear that its fortunes and future look far more secure as part of the Renault-Nissan combo, which now holds 34% of its stock strategically.
Luscombe’s summary: The Mitsubishi Motors brand is now more secure than it has been in years and product development is now well controlled. We are certain that Mitsubishi’s lead (sic.) in the plug-in hybrid and EV markets is right for the future.
Next week: Iain recalls the early days of Mitsubishi Motors in the UK.
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