The Thai-made Mitsubishi Attrage's annual depreciation is less than $8,800. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
There is no such thing as a budget car, at least not in Singapore. Not when the cheapest car, dollar for dollar, costs nearly as much as a small apartment in all but the most expensive cities in the world.
So what shall we call our least expensive cars? Value-for-money cars?
That used to be the tagline for the Koreans. But now, with the lowest list price of a Korean model hovering above $100,000, the concept of a value-for- money car needs redefining.
We need to draw the line somewhere, so how about $100,000? Anything that falls below $100,000 can probably be considered value for money.
Wait, actually there is more to that. The cost of a car is better measured by its annual depreciation, which is currently about $10,000 for some of the cheapest models in town.
This is where the new Mitsubishi Attrage shines. Its annual depreciation is less than $8,800.
The Thai-made model is the first Mitsubishi compact in a long while and it looks like it has a few other things going for it besides its competitive pricing.
It measures 4,245mm by 1,670mm, making it probably the smallest sedan in town. Yet its wheelbase measures 2,550mm - the same as the noticeably bigger Toyota Vios. This translates to a fairly decent amount of room inside. Its boot is surprisingly big too for a car its size, with deep indents on both ends closest to the bumper area - nifty for longer items. In all, it offers 450 litres of stowage, which is really not too shoddy, even for bigger cars.
The Attrage weighs only 900kg. It is powered by a naturally aspirated 1.2-
litre three-cylinder engine that produces only 78bhp and 100Nm of torque.
This meagre output would have been inadequate, even for a 900kg vehicle, if not for the car's continuously variable transmission.
It is a buzzy little gearbox, but it gets the job done efficiently. The small Mitsubishi manages to keep up with traffic with not much fuss, even with four passengers onboard.
With just the driver onboard, the Attrage is actually pretty breezy in and around the city.
Its light body and puny drivetrain mean it has a rated fuel economy of 21km a litre - another brownie point for those who place value above other qualities in a car.
There is really nothing much else about the car that stands out. It pales in comparison to polished compacts such as the Vios and Mazda2, but both of these cars cost 20 to 25 per cent more.
Its body panels feel a little tinny, with flip-type door handles which have not been seen since the 1990s, and its driving characteristics are less than endearing.
But it is better equipped than some of the bare-bone models that are priced just above $100,000, with an engine start button, an integrated centre console for air-conditioning and a stereo that is well designed (there is even steering-mounted audio control) and a remote key that pops open the boot. Wing mirrors fold when the doors lock too.
To its credit, its automatic airconditioner is arctic, even on very hot days. And its sound system has a USB port. The cabin is plasticky, but it is full of small storage spaces. Handy.
While the Attrage offers a creditable ride, it has a wide steering ratio and a vague steering feel. The drone of its drivetrain can get a tad intrusive at higher revs and its anti-lock braking system also seems trigger-happy.
So it is not a car for the driving enthusiast - big deal. For young families who need utility, space and a reasonable array of modern amenities, the Attrage is brilliant. At current COE prices, its pricing is not too bad, either.