The Finn, who drives for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi team, was 0.7sec faster than anybody else through the 6.27-kilometre test in the Llano Grande region, 20km away from the rally base in Leon.
Ford Fiesta RS driver Evgeny Novikov was second fastest, with Mads Ostberg and Thierry Neuville – also in Fiestas - joint third, 2.5sec further back.
Hirvonen, who this weekend takes over from Sebastien Loeb as Citroen team leader, used Michelin’s soft compound Latitude Cross tyre for the qualifying session and will get first choice of road position for Friday’s opening day of the rally.
“It was a good clear drive, so I just need to try to do that on all the stages,” said Hirvonen. “Everything worked perfectly. I was maybe a little surprised that some people went on a hard tyre but for us it worked fine so I’m happy with my tyre choice.”
Novikov felt he could have gone quicker, and admitted to a couple of small mistakes. Ostberg also admitted to making one small mistake but remained confident about the weekend ahead. Neuville said the stage had been very rough and that he had hit a lot of big stones.
Championship leader Sebastien Ogier was fifth-quickest in his Volkswagen Polo R, 3.9sec slower than Hirvonen. Hirvonen’s Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo was sixth, with Jari-Matti Latvala seventh in the second Volkswagen.
Ogier and Latvala were the only two drivers to use the hard compound tyre for qualifying, a decision which in hindsight Latvala felt was wrong. “Soft would have been the best option,” he said. “Looking at what qualifying means for the weekend, was it clever to have run hard compound or not? I don’t know but it’s too late, we’ve done it now.”
Crews will select their starting positions for Friday’s stages from 13:00hrs local time.
Here are the Qualifying Stage times of the WRC crews:
1: Hirvonen. Citroen DS3 WRC. 03:57.2
2: Novikov. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 03:57.9 (+0.7)
=3: Neuville. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:00.4 (+3.2)
=3: Ostberg. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:00.4 (+3.2)
5: Ogier. Volkswagen Polo R WRC. 4:01.1 (+3.9)
6: Sordo. Citroen DS3 WRC. 04:01.2 (+4.0)
7: Latvala. Volkswagen Polo R WRC. 04:01.5 (+4.3)
=8: Atkinson. Citroen DS3 WRC. 04:01.6 (+4.4)
=8: Al Attiyah. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:01.6 (+4.4)
10: Block. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:06.6 (+9.4)
11: Guerra. Citroen DS3 WRC. 04:09.4 (+12.2)
12: Prokop. Ford Fiesta RS WRC. 04:12.2 (+15.0)
13: Kosciuszko. MINI Countryman JCW. 04:14.2 (+17.0)