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Mitsubishi's budget hatch hits SA

By: Jason Woosey

Johannesburg - Mitsubishi is hoping to provide far more than just an illusion of relief to buyers looking for a sensible entry level car. As its first entry into South Africa's budget segment, the Mirage was designed to appeal more to your head than your heart.

The Mitsubishi Mirage has arrived in SA to tempt budget hatch buyers with a sensible package.Prices start at R124 900, including a one-year comprehensive insurance policy and two-year/30 000km service plan.Nothing radical about the design, but the overall look is pleasing enough.Natural rivals include the Kia Picanto, Chevrolet Spark and Toyota Etios.The Mirage is powered by a 57kW 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine.Its 3710mm length and 1665mm width make the Mirage 115mm longer and 70mm wider than a Picanto.The Mirage is powered by a 57kW 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine.All models feature a standard audio system, but a USB port and multi-function steering wheel only feature from mid-range upwards.Central dashboard has a piano black finish.Rear legroom is generous.

Whereas rivals like the Chevy Spark and Kia Picanto stand out with more daring designs, the Mirage keeps things on the conservative side although it's actually pleasant enough to look at and has a friendly-looking face.

Yet the friendliest thing about the new Mirage is the package you're getting for the money. Starting at R124 900, you get a solidly made and rather well-kitted 1.2-litre five-door hatch with a two-year/30 000km service plan and Mitsubishi will also give you comprehensive insurance on the house for the first year, even if you look like a shady underworld character with a sketchy past.

Mitsubishi classifies the Mirage as an A-segment car although its dimensions are on the generous side of this class, its 3710mm length and 1665mm width making it 115mm longer and 70mm wider than a Picanto.

SOLID, PRACTICAL

There's a typically solid Japanese feel inside and the dashboard has a rather smart appearance, particularly piano black central section, although the bulk of the dash plastic is of the hard and scratchy variety. There is a fair amount of stretching space in the back and good headroom, but it wouldn't really be wide enough for three adults or large teens to comfortably sit abreast for a long journey. In any case, the 235 boot is up for a relatively decent shopping spree, but you'll have to pack smartly if a family holiday is on the cards.

Not that I'd gain too much pleasure from hitting the open road in this one as the Mirage is ultimately a lot more at home in the city. With its well-spaced pedals, smooth gearshift operation and 4.6-metre turning circle, chucking the Mirage through the urban jungle is a painless experience and it survived the Joburg CBD and Sandton with ease during the cryptic launch drive that had us feeling like Amazing Race contestants.

THREE-POT POWER

The car weighs just 825kg, making it quite a lightie even by city car standards and ultimately creating less work for its 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol motor that musters just 57kW at 6000rpm and 100Nm at 4000rpm. The economy advantage stands at 4.7 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, according to Mitsubishi.

Performance in the city and on a few short highway stretches was adequate for a small car and the motor makes that typically rorty three-pot hum, but it's no match for the Toyota Etios if effortless freeway pace is what you're after.

Another area where it falls short is through the corners where the numb steering and bodyroll mean it won't inspire confidence at anything more than an average pace. Nor does the Mirage make up for this with the smoothest ride quality in the world - in fact it's average at best.

The Mirage is at least generous when it comes to comfort features. There are three grades to choose from and the cheapest two offer the best value - it's just a pity that the base model makes do without a USB port. Bluetooth is only available as part of an accessories package that's available on all models but which costs R15 500.

When making rands and sense of Mitsubishi's new compact, the car does have its fair share of shortcomings, but as a city car it does appear to offer a solid, sensible and well equipped package for a keen-enough price.

PRICES AND FEATURES:

1.2 GL - R124 900

Standard features: air conditioning, front electric windows, radio/CD audio system, remote central locking, multi-information display, 14-inch steel wheels, dual front airbags, ABS brakes, one-year comprehensive insurance, two-year/30 000km service plan.

1.2 GLX - R134 900

Adds: USB port for audio system, leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, 15-inch alloy wheels, rear-spoiler and coded mirrors that are electrically operated.

1.2 GLS - R144 900

Adds: Keyless go with start button, automatic climate control, auto up/down for driver's window, rear electric windows and front foglights.

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