The Road Ahead : April 2013
ROADAHEAD.COM.AU THE ROAD AHEAD APR/MAY 2013 54 MOTORING | ROAD TEST REMEMBER WHEN SMALL cars really were the smallest cars around? Enter light cars, something smaller again. Then, a few years ago, along came a sub-light class -- pint-sized 'city cars' with a frugal, three-cylinder engine and budget price. Previously the domicile of tiddlers such as the Suzuki Alto and Nissan Micra, the class has seen a flurry of activity in recent months with, first, the arrival of Volkswagen's up! and Peugeot's 208 and, in January, the Mitsubishi Mirage. With prices starting in the low teens, they're cheap -- but what about cheerful? We decided to see by putting all five to the test, but, before we divulge how they drove and their various pluses and minuses, let's tick off the commonality. Apart from the aforementioned triple-cylinder engine, standard fare is a five-door body, McPherson strut/torsion beam suspension, rack and pinion power steering and front disc/rear drum brakes. Safety is commendable, with as many as six airbags, anti- lock brakes, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control and height-adjustable front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters the norm. Other standard equipment includes immobiliser, central locking, airconditioning, auxiliary power outlet, driver's seat height adjustment, split-fold rear seat, steering height adjustment, tachometer, and audio system with CD player, MP3 compatibility and auxiliary input, so forget any notion of them being 'poverty pack'. MITSUBISHI MIRAGE ES Our Mirage ES test car felt comparatively strong and responsive in general driving, it is, after all, second only to the 208 in power (57 kW) and torque (100 Nm) outputs and the lightest on test (865 kg). That said, we were surprised by how much quicker the all-new 1.2-litre MIVEC 'triple' proved in our measured performance tests. The mini Mitsubishi could give the others a start and then some and, while no one is likely to ever take any of these under the microscope STORY BARRY GREEN | PHOTOS MARK BUCHANAN IMAGE: (FROM LEFT) PEUGEOT 208, MITSUBISHI MIRAGE, VW UP!, NISSAN MICRA, SUZUKI ALTO.