IAIN ROBERTSON 

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi Mirage

As a member of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, highlights Iain Robertson, it might have been fair for Mitsubishi to lean on its partners during the development of its latest compact model but it has not done so, which opens a raft of questions.

There is a part of my psyche that wants to place a metaphorical arm around Mitsubishi, to hug it and inform it that things can only get better. However, the troubled Japanese carmaker, which has never really enjoyed the sanctity of a safe home, is a big lad, to which displays of warmth, however tenuous, may be as welcome as a visit to Jim’ll Fix It!

Its immensely successful parent company, Mitsubishi Corp, has never been a stay at home parent. In truth, it has never understood its car-making offspring. Having birthed it, it left it to its own devices, which can be considered a major error of judgement. There was a time, during its troubled formative years, when it produced genuinely resilient and exceptionally well-engineered models that were capable of standing the test of time. Much respected in many quarters, including businesses, the agricultural community and the broader consumer markets, the Mitsubishi of 20 years ago was justifiably lauded.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi Mirage

Yet, its careless parent hived it off to the ill-fated DaimlerChrysler partnership during the mid-1990s, a move from which it has never truly recovered. Face it: Merc was dented by the relationship and, despite Mitsubishi’s long-standing and joint venture activities with Chrysler, nothing positive arose from that mad period in the group’s existence. It is fair to state that it took well over a decade for Mercedes-Benz, a much more significant manufacturer, to restore its previous reputation. Mitsubishi was forced to take up rent-free residence in a spare loft apartment owned by its former parent, largely ignored and starved of development cash, recovery was improbable.

Around three years ago, still seeking some form of constructive platform, Mitsubishi Motors was co-opted into the Renault-Nissan Alliance, itself a ‘troubled’ relationship. There was no money to change hands but Mitsubishi’s know-how in both hybrid and 4×4 technology was considered to be a valuable asset to RNA. The potential for cross-fertilisation of platforms and other aspects of volume engineering should have been a reason to celebrate…except that very little of it has occurred.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi (MMC) has unveiled its restyled and comprehensively updated Mirage (and Attrage saloon, which is not sold in the UK) in Thailand. Both models will be on display at the Thailand International Motor Expo 2019 being held from 28th November. The revisions give the new Mitsubishi Mirage a sharper and more dynamic exterior appearance, as well as a vastly improved interior design. However, there is neither Renault, nor much Nissan involvement in the project.

Despite looking more ‘kei-class’ than ever before, the new compact car adopts the bold ‘Dynamic Shield’ frontal design that denotes the Mitsubishi brand identity and is used to great effect on its other models. It sweeps around from the flanks of the car, towards the middle of the nose in a chrome-heavy but not unattractive feature. Combined with the squared-off grille and its criss-cross bar pattern, the effect gives the front end of Mirage a more powerful and sharper familial appearance.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi Mirage

Fresh headlamps make the front-end look wider and more stable. The styling of the multi-bulb LED combination units connects them visually with the grille and with the fog lamps located at the bumper corners. The rear is given a wider and more upmarket look, with a squared-off treatment for the bumper corners and new L-signature horizontal LED combination lamps that stretch across the width of the car. Mirage is finished off with a set of 15.0-inch diameter alloy wheels, complete with two-tone diamond-cut styling and two new body colour choices, White Diamond and Sand Yellow. I am trying to be positive.

The much-revised Mirage also benefits from more user-friendly and stylish interiors. The front armrests feature a new design and several touch surfaces are finished in a tactile, soft-feel material. The switchgear and the power window switch panels use a carbon pattern trim, while upper trim levels are upholstered in a sportier fabric/synthetic leather combination, with the addition of piping and stitching to the seat sides that provide additional elegance.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi Mirage

The new Mirage is also available with Mitsubishi Motors’ new Smartphone Display Audio (SDA) system, familiar from its application in other Mitsubishis, with a seven-inch touchscreen for improved legibility and ease of use. The SDA system offers full smartphone connectivity including Bluetooth hands-free calling and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which whisk it right up to date in terms of connectivity.

However, it is lacking any innovation at all. It is not really an interesting car, as, with badges removed, it could be any one of a number of Japanese, or Korean models and, while it may sit happily with other city cars in its domestic and Far Eastern markets, it is lacking the European appeal that could enhance its prospects on this side of the world. In other words, it is more the same again, which is sure not to ruffle feathers but is also a guarantee not to motivate sales.

The new Mirage is long overdue, a factor enhanced by a broad dissatisfaction around the dealer network, which suggests that, even heavily discounted, the current model has been one of the least popular of the model line. Even the last round of model revisions did little to alter its fortunes, although a truly inexpensive model was the result, for a brand still reliant on its renown for durability and low operating costs. Although the details are scant at this stage, the final UK specification and prices of the new Mirage will be announced closer to its launch in early 2020.

Conclusion:      An important car for Mitsubishi, it is hoped that the new Mirage will address a number of the perceived issues with the current range and restore it to a stronger role within the model line-up. The problem is, on first acquaintance, it is unlikely to change expectations as much as they need to be.