More space and just as eco­nom­i­cal

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOTORING -

WHEN Mit­subishi in­tro­duced its 1.2L Mi­rage hatch­back with a start­ing price of RM56,980, many Malaysians found it dif­fi­cult to grasp the con­cept of hav­ing such a tiny en­gine in a car of this class, which is dom­i­nated by 1.3L mod­els.

This per­cep­tion of judg­ing a car’s value based on en­gine ca­pac­ity has to change. Mo­torists around the world are now eval­u­at­ing cars based on per­for­mance and power out­put rather than the size of the en­gine.

Mit­subishi’s Mi­rage may be a lit­tle pricey for a car of its size but it con­sumes just 4.7L per 100km, which Mit­subishi at­tributes to the in­tel­li­gent use of light­weight but strong high ten­sile strength steel and en­ergy ef­fi­cient en­gine de­sign.

Ryu­jiro Kobashi, Mit­subishi Mo­tors Cor­po­ra­tion’s vice cor­po­rate gen­eral man­ager for Asia and Asean says that in Ja­pan and Europe, the Mi­rage is pow­ered by an even smaller 1.0L en­gine.

“Con­sid­er­ing the global trend to­wards down-sized en­gine while main­tain­ing body size, we are con­fi­dent that the low fuel con­sump­tion 1.2L en­gine of­fers suf­fi­cient per­for­mance for our tar­get cus­tomers,” he says.

Nearly ev­ery ma­jor car­maker now has a small 1.0L, three­cylin­der en­gine on of­fer in­clud­ing Volk­swa­gen, Ford, Toy­ota and Hyundai-Kia. It should also be noted that the win­ner of the 2013 In­ter­na­tional En­gine of the Year award went to a fuel-sip­ping 999cc en­gine.

The de­mand for clean, en­er­gy­ef­fi­cient en­gines is in­creas­ing be­cause of the high costs of fuel and strict gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions on ve­hic­u­lar ex­haust emis­sions.

In Malaysia, the de­mand for small, fuel-ef­fi­cient, down-sized en­gines has yet to catch on.

Part of the rea­son is be­cause fuel prices in Malaysia are still rel­a­tively cheap, even af­ter con­sid­er­ing the lat­est round of sub­sidy cuts.

Putting aside for a mo­ment the de­bate on the high cost of new cars in Malaysia, the lax stan­dards on fuel qual­ity and ex­haust emis­sions cou­pled with cheap fuel means that Malaysian con­sumers have fewer in­cen­tives to adopt fuel-ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies.

Thai­land for ex­am­ple, will be in­tro­duc­ing a carbon tax sys­tem in 2016. Not­with­stand­ing Malaysia’s en­ergy pol­icy, car com­pa­nies be­lieve that the trend to­wards fu­el­ef­fi­cient small en­gines is a cer­tainty.

This was prob­a­bly the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind Mit­subishi Mo­tors Malaysia’s de­ci­sion to ex­pand its com­pact­car range to in­clude the At­trage, a sedan de­riv­a­tive of the Mi­rage, pow­ered by the same ul­tra-ef­fi­cient 1.2L en­gine.

Like the Mi­rage, the At­trage boasts a claimed best-in-class fuel econ­omy of 21km per litre (New Euro­pean Driv­ing Cy­cle).

With a start­ing price of just RM59,212.50 for the base model GL man­ual trans­mis­sion model, the At­trage is cur­rently the cheap­est non-na­tional sedan you can buy.

The higher range GS CVT model is priced at RM67,978.50, while the top-of-the-range At­trage SE costs RM 75,796.50. All prices are on-theroad with­out insurance.

The At­trage does not skimp on fea­tures ei­ther. Stan­dard fea­tures in­clude dual-airbags, Anti-Lock Brak­ing Sys­tem (ABS), Elec­tronic Brake Dis­tri­bu­tion (EBD), 15-inch wheels and fog lamps.

The higher range GS model adds on Smart Key (key­less en­try) and push start but­ton, re­mote trunk re­lease, dig­i­tal au­to­matic air­con­di­tion­ing and a leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel.

The range-top­per SE model builds on this list to in­clude LED day­time run­ning lights, a sporty bodykit, se­cu­rity win­dow film, leather seats and a 2-DIN au­dio head unit with re­verse cam­era.

While the At­trage may have a small en­gine, there is noth­ing small about its in­te­rior di­men­sions. Ac­cord­ing to Mit­subishi’s cal­cu­la­tions, the At­trage boasts more com­bined front and rear legroom than a Honda Civic, Toy­ota Corolla Altis, and Volk­swa­gen Jetta, with the Nis­san Almera be­ing the only one which ex­ceeds its di­men­sions.

The At­trage is no sports car but it drives quite well. Ear­lier this year, Mit­subishi un­veiled a fleet of At­trage at Thai­land’s Bo­nanza cir­cuit to be com­pared with the Nis­san Almera.

On the track’s long, fast sweep­ing bends, the At­trage has con­trolled amounts of body roll with­out be­ing too stiff that the wheels hop pre­car­i­ously over any un­du­la­tions on the track sur­face.

Even with the At­trage tilt­ing away at un­com­fort­able an­gles, the tyres do not seem to let up its firm grip. Suf­fice to say, the Nis­san could not match the At­trage’s bal­ance in the ride and han­dling depart­ment.

The At­trage may not have at­ten­tion-grab­bing looks, but it may sur­prise you in more ways than one. Buy­ers look­ing for an en­try-level, com­pact sedan should in­clude the model in their con­sid­er­a­tion list.

From left: Se­nior ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of MMC, Morikazu Chokki and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of MMM, Tet­suya Oda.

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