After years of falling sales, the high value of the Yen against the Pound, earthquakes in Japan, flooding in Thailand, failed alliances with Volvo, Daimler and Chrysler, not to mention an aging range of models, no wonder Mitsubishi Motors has fallen on hard times in Europe.
But now things are improving, the exchange rate for the Pound v Yen is better and new models are starting to appear. There is now light at the end of a dark tunnel in their history which is no ‘mirage’ because following the introduction of the new Mitsubishi Outlander SUV UK sales are up 56% so far this year and the increase is expected to continue with the immediate launch of the new Mirage five door small hatchback.
Introducing the new Mirage range of two engines options and three trim an equipment levels, Lance Bradley managing director of Mitsubishi Motors UK said, “Prices for the new cars range from just £8,999 to £12,999 but we are introducing the Mirage with a £1,000 of those prices and I expect this offer will remain in place until the end of June.”
He added, “We introduced the Mirage’s predecessor, the Colt hatchbacks, with the same launch offer strategy and it gained us valuable sales and significant visual road presence for a new model on UK roads. We were targeting 4,000 Mirage sales in the UK in the remainder of this year but we could now do twice as many as that figure judging by the pre-launch customer response in advance orders. One of our 118 dealers, Hull Mitsubishi, sold 23 new Mirage hatchbacks in one weekend and other dealers have already achieved similar numbers of sales.”
Due to the uncertain economic climate around 80% of new car buyers in the UK hang on to their savings and use finance plans to acquire a new car. Mitsubishi’s finance package examples for a mid range 1.2-litre Mirage are £199 a month over 36 months with a £199 deposit or with a 20% deposit the monthly payments would be £129 but the monthly rates, deposit and loan period are flexible and can be adjusted to a customer’s specific financial situation. The average residual value across the Mirage range is 41%; just above the average for this market sector said Mitsubishi.
Launching the new Mirage five door A/B-Class five door hatchback range to the UK media this week, Lance Bradley said the new model is built in Thailand by Mitsubishi, in a factory alongside the one used for the production of their highly rated L200 commercial vehicle range. Unlike the European built Colt hatchback range it replaces, the Mirage is built in Thailand for global sales, particularly those in emerging countries in Asia. From the outset the five door Mirage was designed to be lightweight, aerodynamic, fuel and CO2 efficient with emissions of no more than 100g/km.
There are two three-cylinder normally aspirated petrol engine options; a 1.0-litre 70bhp unit emitting 96g/km of CO2 and a 1.2-litre 79bhp unit with Auto Stop & Go emitting 100g/km with its manual gearbox or 95g/km with the CVT auto transmission option. Fuel economy ranges from 68.9mpg down to 65.7mpg.
All versions are exempt of VED road tax and from the London Congestion Charge. New Benefit-in-Kind taxation levels operating from 1 April will be 10 to 11% depending on the model. Top speed for the 1.0-litre model is 107mph and 112mph for the larger engine. Mitsubishi says this makes it faster than its competitors which include the VW Up, Suzuki Splash, Toyota Aygo/Yaris, Kia Picanto, Hyundai i20, Honda Jazz, Nissan Micra, Mazda2 and Chevrolet Spark.
Bradley said he expected that 95% of UK buyers will opt for the 1.2-litre engine and around 25% would take up the choice of the CVT auto transmission. There are three levels of specification, Mirage, Mirage 2 and Mirage 3 with the top level being the most popular. So the best selling version will be the Mirage 3, 1.2 manual priced at £11,999 or if you buy before the end of June it will be £10,999. A three year service plan will add £350 and they carry a three-year unlimited mileage warranty.
Although the Mirage at 3.71metres in length is marginally shorter than the Colt Hatchback it replaces, it has more interior space, better legroom and with a larger boot, 235-litres with the rear seats in place and 600-litres with the rear seats folded.
In short is carries the very competitive pricing of an A-class city car but with the size of a B-class supermini. Price and low running costs are its main strengths.
Specification is not basic either, impressive in fact. The lowest level version has 14-inch steel wheels, front electric windows, tyre repair kit, radio/CD player with stability and traction control. Mirage 2 additions include manual air conditioning, remote central locking, roof spoiler, rear electric windows, auto lights and wipers, electrically operated door mirrors and rear parcel shelf. Mirage 3 additions include 15-inch alloy wheels, (14-inch ones for the CVT auto version), leather steering wheel and gear knob, keyless entry with push-button start, auto air con and front and rear parking sensors.
The styling is acceptable given it is not specifically designed for Europe but it comes with a range of funky body colours. Inside it seems well put together and perhaps the quality is better than expected given its low price. Ride quality is on the harsh side because of our poor road surfaces and its handling is not as sharp or controlled as the best European models but again most customers will find the price, specification and interior space more appealing than the driving dynamics.
On my short test drive around the country roads of Bedfordshire and the business areas of Milton Keynes the 1.2 Mirage 3 manual, the only version available for test driving, the engine performed reasonably well.
Relatively high revving it has a gruff sounding three cylinder engine note and the real-life fuel economy was 47.6mpg, good but not close to the headline grabbing official 65.7mpg. The five speed manual gearbox was slick and light to use. Due to the poor road surfaces noise intrusion from the tyres was quite noticeable but it didn’t stop conversation with my co-driver. The car felt quite agile and the steering sharp although there was a lack of front end grip on the damp roads during fast cornering, but then again it’s not a sporty car.
A colleague of mine summed up the new Mirage quite well. He said, “It exceeded my expectations but I wasn’t expecting much in the first place.”
Harsh perhaps because the price for the spec and space you get from the Mirage is really good value and that’s where this area of the market is these days for real-life customers. Already the strong sales demand for the new Mirage really speaks for itself.
Mitsubishi 1.2 Mirage 3, manual 5-Door Hatchback
Price: £11,999 but £10,999 until the end of June
Insurance group: 18
Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder petrol, Auto Stop & Go function, 79bhp, 78lb ft of torque from 4,000rpm, 5-speed manual
Performance: 112mph, 0-62mph 11.7 seconds, 65.7mpg (47.6mpg on test), CO2 100g/km, VED road tax £0. BIK company car tax (from 1 April) 11%.
Dimensions/capacities: L 3,710mm W 1,665mm, H 1,490mm, boot/load space: 235 to 600-litres
For: Introductory low price, low running costs, interior space, high specification, a supermini sized car for city car prices, good residual prices, healthy advance customer orders.
Against: Does not trouble the best European brands in this sector for handling and ride comfort refinement, bland exterior styling.