Never judge a book by its cover - this is the best way to describe the Mitsubishi Attrage.
While not immediately obvious, the compact wonder is based on the eco-friendly Mirage hatchback.
Both share the same 1.2L three-cylinder MIVEC unit that generates 78PS and 100Nm of torque, but changes in the sheet metal, exterior and interior work well to differentiate the two models.
Despite the added weight from a boot, the Attrage has the same 21km/L (4.7L/100km) fuel consumption claim as the Mirage, which would raise many eyebrows.
On paper, many would be quick to dismiss such specs.
Mitsubishi knows this and thus organised a Shah Alam - Ipoh - Penang test drive for the local media.
The drive consisted of an eco-challenge and handling on twisty roads.
A total of 10 Attrages were provided, in every specification available – base variant GL, standard GS and range-topping SE.
The eco-challenge kicked off from Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia’s office, which witnessed possibly the slowest media drive I have ever participated.
Everyone was trying their level best to outdo one another for the best fuel economy figures.
Mitsubishi took certain measures however, to ensure that the test was as real-world as possible – air conditioning temperature was fixed while climate control buttons and fuel filler caps were taped-up to prevent tampering (orcheating!).
A time limit was also set in order to prevent us from driving too slowly – a penalty in fuel economy would be imposed if a participant reaches the destination after the time given.
Given such restrictions, the best option was to keep the revs low and coast whenever possible.
Some cars even resorted to folding up their wing mirrors and “drafting” behind large lorries!
My car was the last to reach Ipoh, but thankfully, it was just 10 minutes before the timelimit.
It was worth noting that the compact size and nimbleness of the Attrage helped us manoeuvre through lunch-hour traffic in Ipoh with ease.
After lunch, we drove to Penang through on twisty roads, where we got to push the car to its limits.
For a compact running on a 1.2L three-pot, the Attrage packed quite a decent punch.
In fact, it felt (almost) like a 1.5L car.
However, it’s still a small-engined car, so there was a lot of engine wailing as we floored the accelerator around the bends.
Surprisingly, however, the car managed to cling onto the corners well.
Sure, there was some body roll, but there were no screeching tyres when tackling road bends.
Now, the Attrage is not a sports car.
It is meant to be a comfortable city car, and in this aspect, it does rather well.
The soft-sprung suspension absorbs rough surfaces well and handles easily at sane speeds.
The low weight of the vehicle also contributes to its nimbleness and excellent fuel economy.
Weighing 905kg (875kg for the manual), the Attrage is a featherweight among cars of its class.
Of course, there is a downside to such low weight – at very high speeds, the car requires drivers with nerves of steel.
Keep within the speed limits and the car handles just fine.
With all the spirited driving, before we knew it, we were crossing the Penang Bridge and driving into the Pearl of the Orient.
Our rest stop for the night was the lovely Eastern & Oriental Hotel, located beside the gorgeous Penang coastline.
The overall fuel consumption figures were good – I achieved 21.43km/L, slightly better than Mitsubishi’s 21km/L claim.
The best result achieved was a whopping 24.7km/L!
These are pretty impressive numbers, especially considering that the Attrage is not a hybrid vehicle.
The Attrage is available in three spec levels – GL (manual), GL and SE (both with continuously variable transmission).
Dual front airbags, ABS, EBD (electronic brake distribution), 15-inch alloys and fog lamps are standard across the range, while the GS adds remote trunk release, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel as well as keyless entry and push start.
The range-topping SE adds a touch of luxury with leather seats, double-din touch-screen audio head unit, LED daytime running lights, security window tinting, and full bodykit.
The Attrage is an attractive choice for those seeking a comfortable and economical city runabout.
With prices starting at RM60,980 (OTR with insurance) for the GL spec, one wonders if Mitsubishi has plans for local assembly especially seeing how competitive the B-segment is these days.
Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia chief executive officer Tetsuya Oda said the local assembly for the Attrage and Mirage is possible.