In the early 1980s, Mitsubishi had a far more dominant presence in New Zealand than it does now.
In fact, it was the country's No 1 brand, with a market share of close to 19 per cent, which is the sort of presence Toyota commands now.
And the most popular Mitsubishi was the Mirage. At one stage, during the early years of that decade, it enjoyed a massive 35 per cent share of the light segment, way ahead of such product as the Mazda 323, Ford Laser and Honda Civic.
Things have changed dramatically since. The Mirage nameplate wavered over the next few years and then disappeared completely in 2002 when Mitsubishi Japan phased the model out of mainstream production, replacing it instead with the Colt.
Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand did try to keep things going by introducing a Dutch-built model called Mirage Space Star, but that didn't work and it was discontinued in 2003 in favour of the Colt.
All of which was a great pity, because Mirage did have a big following in New Zealand. More than 51,000 of them were sold here, and many are still on the roads.
But now the Colt is disappearing, and the Mirage is set to appear again. It's going to be launched in February, will be powered by a 1.2-litre three- cylinder petrol engine developing 58 kilowatts of power and 102 Newton metres of torque. The engine will be mated to a CVT automatic transmission.
Two levels of specification will be offered. The entry model will be the LS which will retail for $18,990, and the top version will be the GLS which will cost $21,990 and will have alloy wheels, fog lights, rear spoiler, climate air, and leather-bound steering wheel.
There's one Mirage currently in the country for evaluation by Mitsubishi Motors New Zealand prior to February's launch, and this week it was revealed to the motoring press at the conclusion of a media conference called to launch the new-generation Outlander SUV.
Nobody was allowed to drive the bright green hatch - it was purely a look-and-touch occasion. But despite this limited introduction, it was obvious the MMNZ people are very pleased with its pending arrival because they see it as potentially being of major help in dragging Mitsubishi's overall market share up from the current mark of less than 6 per cent.
Head of sales and marketing strategy Daniel Cook forecast sales of at least 75 a month for the Thai- built Mirage. "If you combine that with the sales we expect from the Outlander, we're anticipating a much improved year next year.
"You could say it'll be as if we were rowing a boat this year, but in 2013 being able to replace the oars with an outboard motor."
The new Mirage is a good- looking little car, with a decent amount of room front and rear - the MMNZ people claim it has more interior room than the biggest-selling little hatch currently on the Kiwi market, the Suzuki Swift.
And a major selling point will be its fuel economy, which will be an average of 4.6 litres per 100 kilometres. That's low. If the Mirage's ride and performance can be as good as its looks and fuel economy, then this new model might once again make the nameplate one of the most dominant on the market.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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