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The Mitsubishi Mirage is being built in Thailand. (Mitsubishi)
The Mitsubishi Mirage is being built in Thailand. (Mitsubishi)

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Mitsubishi Mirage on the horizon Add to ...

Mitsubishi Canada confirms it is getting a new small car.

Although it is reported to be the first North American version of the Mirage subcompact five-door that just started coming off a new production line in Thailand, John Arnone, Mitsubishi Canada’s manager of public relations, wrote in an e-mail this week that “we’ll share details of our new small car closer to the launch.”

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Trade journal Automotive News says the small hatchback has been confirmed to enter the Canadian market in early 2013, though its chances of making it to the United States as well are still 50-50, a Mitsubishi U.S. spokesperson said.

The Mirage, about a foot shorter in length than a Ford Fiesta and likely to compete closest with the upcoming Chevrolet Spark and Fiat 500 five-door, will be sold first in Thailand, then in ASEAN countries, followed by Japan, Europe, then “other global markets,” Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said in March.

Arnone did not release any details about the Mirage, but the sub-Lancer offering went into production sporting a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine in Thailand, with a lightweight body – even compared to other similarly small cars – for an overall fuel economy rating of less than 5.0 litres/100 km.

But on another Mitsubishi small car note, Arnone did confirm that the 480-volt DC fast charger Mitsubishi Canada unveiled last month at its head office just west of Toronto is still not available to the public, though it is working and being used by Mitsubishi employees. The company still has plans to allow the public free use of the rare fast charger, which can provide an 80 per cent charge to EVs equipped with a Chademo fast-charging connector in less than a half hour.

But until the company works out what it has called “growing pains” about public access to the unit, the unit remains locked up to the public. And the company is not providing a timeline on when it could open up its availability.

Honda system fights traffic jams

Would you drive slower to save some fuel, and reach your destination faster? Honda is betting you will, and has unveiled a cloud-based computing system intended to reduce traffic jams as well as fuel consumption, mostly by ensuring vehicles minimize braking and don’t follow the car in front too closely.

It’s the first such system in the world, Honda says, with successful tests done by the company and the University of Tokyo resulting in an average speed increase of 23 per cent for the vehicle equipped with the system, as well as an 8 per cent fuel consumption reduction for following vehicles.

Instead of being a reactive system that simply warns of congestion ahead, as current systems can do (if you’re in a large enough city that invests in traffic monitoring communications software), the system analyses the driver’s patterns to determine whether actions behind the wheel are likely to cause traffic congestion. It then encourages a smoother driving style that aims to minimize fuel use, as well as acceleration and braking by cars following behind.

This is great for the drivers behind the new Honda that’s so equipped, but not so much for the person who has paid for the system. The benefit for the driver comes when the driver can connect to cloud servers that analyze the traffic pattern of vehicles up ahead, information the car then uses to recommend a speed and following distance for the driver to set for the shortest travel times, least fuel use, and safest following distance.

Lotus to resume production

After at least a two-month “freeze” of funding from its new corporate owners DRB-Hicom, Lotus Cars is set to resume production in England in early May.

The storied yet financially troubled British sports car maker found itself engulfed in corporate purgatory after its Malaysian parent company Proton was bought by DRB-Hicom, another Malaysian industrial conglomerate. The car maker then had to suffer through a drying-up of production and R&D funds while DRB went through 60-day financial freeze of assets, a usual process in Malaysia in major asset sales, and figured out what to do with its much larger Proton parent, Lotus Cars CEO Dany Bahar told British Autocar magazine.

Bahar admits being frustrated at the length of time the review has taken, but understands that the new owners still haven’t decided whether to adjust Lotus’ aggressive product plans, operate as is for now, or sell the company.

Plans for the new-generation Lotus Esprit are going ahead, the report said, with the super car due out by the end of 2013, though the freeze has put on hold the rest of the plan to launch four all-new Lotus cars in the next five years.

Escape’s 1.6-litre EcoBoost makes it most efficient compact SUV

Ford’s new Escape will debut the first use of Ford’s 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine, making the new compact SUV what Ford calls “the most fuel-efficient small SUV with an automatic transmission,” though the Toyota Prius v will have a legitimate beef with that claim.

Yes, the Escape’s smallest – but not base – engine achieves lower fuel consumption figures than its Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V class rivals, with Transport Canada ratings of 9.1 litres/100 km city/6.0 highway. The highway figure is slightly above the Escape Hybrid it essentially replaces, but is much lower overall than the 10-year-old Escape Hybrid, since the hybrid achieved much better city figures.

The five-passenger Prius v gas-electric hybrid, however, achieves much lower ratings of 4.3 city/4.8 highway, and could be considered a small SUV. But although there’s no manual to be had in any Prius, it uses a CVT transmission, and not a conventional automatic such as in the Escape.

Regardless, the Escape’s 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine – offered for the first time in North America – produces much more power than either the Prius v or the outgoing Escape Hybrid, pushing out 178 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.

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