Yes, I can hear y’all laughing your asses off. Shush.
As you probably know, my last car was a 1992 Mitsubishi Lancer Sedan, which was a bit large and unwieldy for my dainty wifey to tootle around in. It had no creature comforts (read air con) and no power steering / windows / mirrors and was a bit of a handful to drive and she didn’t like it. I was fine with it, seriously. However, the hand wielding the kitchen knife rules all, so I regretfully sold it and bought a re-conditioned, as good as new, 2012 Daihatsu Mira – mostly for wifey, you understand. Occasionally for self too. After a few months of ownership, I thought I’d share my views on it with the world at large. Besides, wifey stands behind me with said kitchen knife and a grim reaper-esque face stating I do so.
Introduction: For a brief introduction of the Mira – it’s a Kei Car. If you don’t know what that is, I’d suggest Wikipedia. Native to Japan, imported elsewhere as a grey import. Engine displacement is limited to 660 CC, the power from the engine is capped at 63 BHP. Yes – it isn’t powerful. Not the proverbial hot hatch or pocket rocket. Consider this though – it wasn’t meant to be powerful. It is meant to be miserly with fuel, to be used in the congested cities of Japan (and elsewhere too if you can get your hands on one) and to get you from Point A to Point B in relative comfort. That it does, admirably. Frankly, I wasn’t sold on the idea of this small a car at first. Having driven it though – I’ll have to say, this is a proper little gem of a car. Japan should export these to all over the world – officially. I have seen the light.
Features: Mira’s come in a variety of trim levels, with features varying on each trim. My car is the Eco G-Smart trim level, which is more or less mid-range. The ‘Eco’ is not to be confused with Eco Idle or Stop-Start feature in cars which shuts off the engine after a definite time of idling (Normally after a few seconds of the car standing still, for example – at a traffic light) to conserve fuel. Eco in this car means keeping the revs as low as possible so that the car is low on emissions (recall the ‘Eco’ and the ‘Ecomatic’ labels that came with our local, Pakistan-assembled Daihatsu Coure) which also translates to a high fuel economy. The features of this trim level are:
- 66o CC EFI Engine with a CVT Transmission
- Front Wheel Drive
- Manually tilting headlamps
- Air Conditioner (No Climate Control)
- CD Player with a speaker in each door (with useless AM / FM Radio as Japanese frequencies start at 75 and end at 90 Mhz)
- Child lock on both rear passenger doors (Important if your kids like pulling levers)
- Central Locking
- Power Steering (Guess what, you really need it)
- Power mirrors
- Power Windows
- Anti-Brake Lock System (ABS) / Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD)
- Dual Airbags (Driver / Front Passenger)
- 4 cup holders up front for holding your soda cans, a couple in the rear for your passengers
- A couple of shopping bag holders (one in front, the other in the rear)
- Small rear boot whose capacity can be increased by folding the rear seats down
- Seat belts for front and rear passengers
Not bad, especially when compared to our local assembled cars like the Hondas, Suzukis and Toyotas. There might be a few more options you might get if the original owner had those specified when getting the car from the dealer in Japan.
Interior: Interior space is excellent, with even 5 adults able to sit in comfort – attested by my passengers who were all praises after a 200 KM round trip on the National Highway (Karachi to Thatta and back) which is a joke of a highway considering the condition of the road and the fact that you can play dodge the pothole on it. People who are tall can easily be accommodated both up front and in the rear seats – unlike most sedans and hatchbacks this is a properly spacious little thing. Seated in one, it’s a bit hard to believe there can be so much space in a car of this size.
The dashboard is also very well designed – there’s a tachometer and a speedometer, a fuel gauge, a few lights here and there (ABS, Engine, Transmission, Battery, Low Temp / High Temp etc etc) but surprisingly, no temperature gauge. You have to rely on the light in the dashboard which lights up if the engine gets too hot which isn’t a good idea as far as I’m concerned. Other than that, a two tone dash board with a light cream bottom and a dark brown / black top makes it look very nice from the inside. The transmission lever stuck on the dashboard is slightly odd for most of us who are used to the stick shift but then again, it makes moving from driver side to passenger side a bit easier – you don’t have to hop around like the Easter Bunny.
The seats are fabric, decent in quality but tend to get dirty really quickly. Seat covers should be one the earliest purchases if you get yourself one of these.
Exterior: This is no head-turner, I’m afraid. It has no pretensions to be anything other than what it is – a small, non-descript hatchback. That said, it looks neat and tidy – there are no large panel gaps, the bumpers are well fitted and all. Ride height is a bit low, so if you regularly seat 4 people or more, I would recommend the addition of spacers to increase its height or you might as well get used to your undercarriage getting scraped regularly on the speed-breakers in Karachi.
Mileage: Expect an average of 16-19 KM/L – or lower if your right foot is made of lead. The key to getting a good mileage out of this dinky little thing is to be gentle and consistent. Stay around the 2000-2500 RPM range and you will be rewarded with a high mileage yield – I manage 18 KM / L regularly with intermittent use of the air conditioner unit. Highway mileage is again satisfactory – an average of 20-24 KM / L with the air con on, depending on the driving conditions. Everything affects the mileage – the number of passengers, the headwind, the speed, tire pressure, air conditioner usage. If nothing else, this car will teach you how to drive as efficiently as possible.
Speed and Handling: First off, please remember that this is not exactly a Ferrari. That said, you can achieve a top speed of a 140 KM / H on a nice, straight and empty stretch of road if pity doesn’t stir in your heart after hearing the engine shrieking away. 0-60 KM / H is dealt with under 10 seconds, 0-100 takes roughly 12-15 seconds. Average speeds of 60 KM / H are recommended where it all becomes very nice, calm and quiet in the interior. Sound proofing is well done, so engine noise is very acceptable at normal speeds. The blower for the air con is a bit noisy though. Body roll is quite noticeable when turning in, so speeds should be at the levels indicated by the signs on the road at places where the road curves. For example, the turn on the Karsaz Bridge to Shahrae-Faisal is indicated at 40 KM / H and I keep it under that. Whereas in my previous car whose handling was very good, I managed to maintain speeds of 70 KM / H on the same turns. The reason for this is mainly a tall ride height coupled with a narrow width, soft suspension and skinny 13 inch wheels. So any stunts are inadvisable in this car or for that matter, any Kei car except possibly the sport coupes like the Honda Beat and the Daihatsu Copen. Understeer is very much present during cornering – It’s a front heavy car and those small tires do not help at all.
Verdict: To sum it up then, this is an excellent car to drive around town in. I would rate it a 7/10 as it is modern, comfortable, the ride is reasonably pliant and fuel efficiency is excellent. Spares are available but expensive and limited to the larger cities mostly. You couldn’t do better for a first car, or if you want a small car to tootle around town in.