Tossed in Space

The Mitsubishi Space Star may be one of the smallest cars here, but it is roomy and seats five adults easily.
The Mitsubishi Space Star may be one of the smallest cars here, but it is roomy and seats five adults easily.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

The Mitsubishi Space Star is a tiny but roomy hatchback that is surprisingly prone to body roll

The Mitsubishi Space Wagon of the 1990s was among the first seven- seaters to be sold here.

It was a hit partly because it was the least expensive multi-purpose vehicle then.

That may well be why Mitsubishi decided to name the hatchback version of its Attrage sedan Space Star.

Like the Space Wagon, the Space Star has a tiny footprint, but a surprisingly spacious interior.

The Thai-made five-door car seats five adults easily, even though its wheelbase is merely 2,450mm, which is 100mm shorter than the Attrage's.

  • SPECS/ MITSUBISHI SPACE STAR

  • Price: $82,999 with COE

    Engine: 1,193cc 12-valve inline-3

    Transmission: Continuously variable transmission

    Power: 78bhp at 6,000rpm

    Torque: 100Nm at 4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 13.8 seconds

    Top speed: 167kmh

    Fuel consumption: 4.3 litres/100km

    Agent: Cycle & Carriage

So, for those who want a wallet- friendly family car, but feel sedans are too fuddy-duddy, the Space Star is an attractive alternative.

At less than $83,000, it is one of the cheapest cars available here. (It costs nearly $6,000 less than the cheapest Mazda2 hatchback.)

It is also one of the smallest cars here. Measuring 3,795mm long and 1,665mm wide, it is a Lilliputian among increasingly oversized cars.

That makes its relative roominess all the more amazing. At the wheel, you will appreciate the car's dimensions, especially when it comes to parking.

It will zip up and down the tightest carpark ramps with ease.

And when there are no more marked parking spaces available, you can slot it into any nook. Its small turning circle of 4.6m makes it effortless to steer in tight spots.

Likewise on the road, it offers a level of manoeuvrability that only small cars have.

But for all other aspects of driveability, the Space Star requires drivers who expect it to perform like a modern hatch to dial down their expectations.

The car shines brightest when it is driven leisurely. Its 78bhp engine is languid below 3,000rpm and strained above 4,000rpm.

It is thus happiest between 3,000rpm and 4,000rpm, where, thankfully, most tasks can be accomplished, only not especially swiftly.

Just as well too. The car's chassis is susceptible to body roll at the slightest provocation. Even on a straight road, it requires constant steering correction, just like cars in the 1980s.

It is also a bit tinny, offering less insulation against external noises if driven fast.

There is one more reason not to drive the Space Star hurriedly: fuel economy.

Mitsubishi claims an economy of 4.3 litres/100km but the best figure achieved during this test drive was 6 litres/100km, attained with much restraint. It would have performed better if it had a lower rolling resistance.

Otherwise, the car passes muster. Its cabin is plasticky, but does not come across as cheap or flaky.

You will find modern conveniences such as keyless system, USB port for the sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, and a multi-function steering wheel that allows you hands-free access to your phone.

It also comes with automatic headlights and windscreen wipers. And there are six airbags onboard.

The Space Star offers the versatility of a modern hatchback. Its rear seats are foldable in a 60:40 split configuration.

Lastly, it is not bad looking, even if it is unlikely to win any design awards. It certainly looks more youthful than the Attrage.

If you are the sort who prefers to take it easy on the road, the Space Star might suit you. Otherwise, a car like the Mazda2 works better.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2017, with the headline 'Tossed in Space'. Print Edition | Subscribe