Since the closure of the Tonsley Park assembly plant in 2008, Mitsubishi Motors Australia has struggled to come to terms with both its past and future.
Staff have come and gone, managing directors have been rotated like Aussie fast bowlers, and the GFC strangled the vital supply of new product from Japan.
But now, finally, the Mirage mini-car signals there’s been a good look in the mirror, a clean-up, a clean-out and a decision to look forward not back.
This change is not really obvious from the car itself, which is a simple 1.2-litre triple-cylinder front-wheel drive, with orthodox strut/torsion-beam suspension, housed under an anodyne body measuring 3710mm in length.
No, it’s more about the driveaway launch pricing, sweetened by a tradeable $1000 gift voucher that means you could (and maybe still can) get into a base-model manual Mirage ES for as little as $11,990.
So a competitive price – which its predecessor the Colt never achieved – but good equipment, too.
Standard across the range are six airbags, Bluetooth connection and streaming, USB and AUX input, CD player, electric windows, remote central locking, air-conditioning, leather-clad wheel with audio and phone controls and space-saver spare.
A five-speed manual is standard on all models, a CVT optional. So in a class where price and equipment counts for virtually all, Mitsubishi is presenting a vehicle that doesn’t have an obvious weakness.
That’s why it’s declared an ambitious 1000 sales-per-month target. That would easily eclipse such rivals as the Nissan Micra, Suzuki Alto, Holden Barina Spark and the Volkswagen Up, and take it into the realms of the most serious players, the four-cylinder Toyota Yaris, Mazda2 and Hyundai i20.
In some ways the Mirage stands up to such a comparison. In other ways, it doesn’t.
Space utilisation is pretty darn impressive. You really can fit four adults in here, thanks to the flat rear backrest and thin front seats. So while a majority of buyers will be single young females, carrying mates won’t be a problem.
However, ferrying them at any sort of pace will be.
The little triple has double overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and Mivec variable intake valve timing, produces 57kW and 100Nm, and throbs and vibes away with lots of enthusiasm but not that much effect.
Mitsubishi doesn’t make a 0-100km/h claim and we didn’t time it on the drive. Not sure we ever went that fast.
And the rest of the drive? Well, the suspension stops your backside from bumping on the ground, the brakes work, and the steering alters your course. We probably should critique.
But at this price is there really that much point?