Mitsubishi Attrage SE: Good value motoring

By Lee Pang Seng
HOT on the heels of the Mitsubishi Mirage came the Attrage, the sedan alternative that scores well with its own body styling. Yes, the Attrage has raised eyebrows regarding its ability to perform, given that it shares the same power base as the Mirage. Those old enough to recall the early days of the Datsun 120Y Automatic might share these sentiments.

The difference is that automotive engineering has come a long way since then and a 1.2-litre car, or even one of a smaller displacement, need not be gutless. The use of lighter but tougher steel metal for the body structure, and small displacement engines that produce a lot more power and torque through improved design and technology are persuasive reasons to go small and gain from better fuel mileage.

Mitsubishi has achieved through controlled tests at its development centre and proving ground that the Attrage sedan is just as economical on fuel consumption as the smaller Mirage with 21km/l (based on the New European Driving Cycle). After a weekend with the Attrage SE CVT, during which we covered some familiar roads that we had taken a year earlier with the Mirage, we are convinced that good fuel mileage is there to be enjoyed.

We covered more than 300km, taking in secondary roads to Tanjung Sepat via Banting, highway drives, a lot of urban motoring and a few full bore runs to see how quickly it would pick up speed on open roads. Yet, we only used up slightly more than a quarter of the fuel tank, based on the fuel gauge on the dashboard.

It certainly deserves the ‘Eco-Sedan’ name, adding well to its other attributes as a feature-loaded car for its segment, a roomy interior that matches or is better than rivals for both passengers and luggage, and a comfortable ride that was clearly enjoyed on the bumpy and uneven secondary roads.

The Attrage is by no means perfect: our rear passengers complained about the inadequacy of the air-conditioning system and the design of the four dashboard air vents to circulate cool air efficiently and quickly to the rear (a very relevant point during this hot spell), and the car’s tendency to wallow when going over undulating road surfaces at highway speeds.

Nevertheless, it scored enough points to make it a good value buy for those who want to enjoy good fuel mileage with a conventional engine. It has a similar 1.2-litre aluminium engine as the Mirage in the three-cylinder unit with four valves per cylinder, double overhead camshafts, electronic fuel injection and MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve-timing Electronic Control).

Output for the grossly undersquare engine (90mm stroke to 75mm bore for an exact displacement of 1193cc) is slightly higher to handle the sedan’s heavier kerb weight. It is rated at 59kW (80PS) at 6000rpm and 106Nm at 4000rpm (the lighter Mirage’s engine delivers 57kW/77PS and 100Nm). With a boot section and bigger dimensions, the Attrage tips the scales at 905kg for the CVT (continuously variable transmission) models and 875kg for the five-speed manual (the Mirage varies between 830kg and 850kg for the respective model).

The Attrage SE is the top model and comes with practical extras: LED daytime running lights that form part of the foglight cowl, body kit, security film and reverse camera. The keyless entry with pushbutton stop/start and remote boot release are standard to the CVT models: when you press a dedicated button on the driver’s door to lock the car, the door mirrors are folded as well. However, there is no dedicated button on the front passenger door to lock and unlock (keeping cost down naturally).

The auto up/down feature for the driver’s door window that is standard across the model range is another welcome item. The CVT models also come with leather upholstery, leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, leather-wrapped gearshift knob and digital control for the air-conditioning system.

We enjoyed the reasonably good pace of the Attrage SE: the CVT works efficiently and smoothly to cover for a slightly slower pick-up compared to automatic transmission cars. Once it is on the boil, you can easily be ‘photographed’ for breaking speed limits. It reached an indicated 160km/h a couple of times when we found clear roads and it would do 130-140km/h cruising effortlessly. It also did not lack the grunt going up inclines, even with a full load.

There is an ‘Eco’ light that comes on when the engine is working at its frugal range. We have driven the Attrage up inclines and ease on the accelerator to maintain momentum without the ‘Eco’ light going off. This indicated that the enough torque was produced at lower engine speeds to keep the car on song. We are talking about a practical engine speed of 2000 to 3000rpm. At 110km/h, the engine is hardly stressed turning at a tad over 2000rpm. The electronically controlled CVT also senses engine load and speed to select ‘gears’ for a given driving condition.

Engine and road noise was not intrusive, and we could enjoy a comfortable drive at legal speeds on highways and secondary roads. The tyre pitch over the varying road surfaces was also within tolerable levels, and wind noise from the shuffling over the aerodynamic contours of the Attrage was within expectations. It was as comfortable, noise-wise, as you would expect from a car of this segment and higher.

Initially, we found the suspension – MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear – a bit clunky going over bumpy stretches. However, this trait was not so evident when we took to the secondary roads to Tanjung Sepat. The suspension appeared well tuned and worked well with the 185/55 R15 tyres (on alloy wheels) to absorb road impacts without jarring results and ride comfort was enjoyed by all on board.

We found the tendency of the car to wallow when we drove across undulating patches a little uncomfortable. The saving grace was its ability to regain stable poise quickly. The car also had a clear tendency to understeer as it kept wanting to go straight when taking corners. That meant we had to ease off the accelerator a little to take our favourite corners at a lower speed and choose a wider line through.

The electric power steering was a boon in parking situations, yet felt solid enough at highway speeds. It felt a bit vague though in steering direction and we were left guessing a little at the direction of the front wheels, especially in a straight line. The turning circle of 9.6 metres, especially for a front-wheel drive car, gives the Attrage an advantage in manoeuvring in tight places.

The 450-litre boot is big enough to accommodate three golf bags, if not four. The Attrage does not come with split-folding rear seatrests to extend luggage space unlike the Mirage that require such a feature as its luggage space was a lot smaller. As it were, it has enough room to take in luggage for a family on a holiday.

Between the Attrage and the Mirage, we were more partial to the former as it has more to offer all round – interior space, features, looks – while being capable of delivering the same fuel mileage. Fine, it might not have handled as smartly as the Mirage through winding stretches but the better ride comfort gets our attention.

With a higher level of equipment, the Attrage SE commands a higher price of RM76,201.50 on the road without insurance while the ‘lesser’ equipped Attrage GS goes for RM68,383.50. Either way, the Attrage remains a good value buy for what it has to offer as a comfortable family car.

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