The Mitsubishi Mirage is a sensible, everyday car. One with niceties like a spacious rear seat, a quiet engine and a comfortable ride. What we have here looks and sounds like a refugee from the latest Fast & Furious movie. Still, there's something vastly amusing about driving around in a car covered in day-glo vinyl and fitted with a chainsaw-rasping exhaust. This car is, officially, a Mitsubishi product, built for the recently concluded Mirage Gymkhana series. Only four have been made. And no, they're not for sale. Then again, wouldn't it be nice if they were?
When Mitsubishi conceived the Gymkhana series to showcase the new Mirage, they knew they had to give the cars a little more oomph to make things more exciting. So they turned to Speedlab, who just happened to have some goodies lined up for the little car.
While the Mirage's featherweight build makes it faster than the modest power figures suggest, more power is always better. The 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine is tricky to modify, with complex MIVEC trickery, a restrictive intake and a tiny throttle body.
Most people think making more power is as simple as slapping on a cheap intake tube and air filter. Here, that actually results in a big loss of midrange power, which leads to bogging when you shift gears. The specially designed resonator-equipped Speedlab intake minimizes this effect, while providing a solid 3-4hp gain at high rpm.
A long-tube HotPipes header gives better exhaust flow, allowing each cylinder to exhale spent exhaust gases freely. It brings the total power bump to 4-7hp across a wide range of engine speeds.
This combination is surprisingly quiet at low speeds, but once you open up the taps, it transforms into a raspy little buzzbomb. And the secondary power kick after the MIVEC crossover at 4,500rpm feels much more dramatic.
Thankfully, for tuners, the standard Mirage already has a straight-pipe after the catalytic converter, so no further exhaust modifications are required.
Nothing without control
So the Gymkhana gets to each corner much quicker than the stock car. What does it do when it gets there? The stock Mirage's light weight makes it nimble, but less is always better, so here, Mitsubishi chucked the rear seats, but thankfully, not the air-conditioning or stereo. To give it more traction, wider 205/50 R15 Nitto NeoGen tires have been fitted. They're a bit too wide for the narrow stock wheels, but they provide more grip and more stability than the 175mm-wide standard tires. And they've proven very durable over the course of the Gymkhana series.
Unfortunately, outside of the smooth parking-lot Gymkhana courses, the softness of the stock suspension is still a liability. While the Ralliart strut bar helps, serious racers will want to consider upgrading to the available Tein suspension.
The Mirage's brakes, on the other hand, don't need much in the way of improvement. With ABS and EBD, the GLS comes to a stop right quick.
A dash of style
For those looking to dress up the fairly anonymous-looking Mirage, the Gymkhana vinyls might provide some inspiration. Many emulate the "Evo" look by blacking out the bumper between the grilles, but I've always thought this approach is a little awkward. The Gymkhana vinyls add color contrast around the grilles and down the flanks, flowing with the car's lines instead of fighting with them. A lot of people found it cute. Mostly girls. The meaty tires also give the Mirage a more aggressive, chunkier stance. All that's missing is a drop in ride height. But with the Tein kit, that's easy enough to remedy.
While you can't buy a Gymkhana Mirage, you can buy these tune-up parts for your own daily driver. The Speedlab K&N Intake kit will set you back P7,500 for a filter and a powder-coated intake resonator. The HotPipes header is another P10,500 over that. But for those who want more power, Speedlab offers a Unichip piggyback computer for P30,000 that boosts torque by 10Nm across the entire power band, and extends peak power all the way to redline. This gives more gain than any other bolt-on modification out there, and should help you put a hurt on those pesky 1.5-liter cars at the next track day.
While the Mirage isn't the fastest or flashiest car around, its ultra-low price and weight give it incredible potential. This car is just a taste of things to come.
Photos by Ken Tamayo