Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Mirage - hatch range
Spacious cabin, equipment levels, ride, manoeuvrability, fuel efficiency, thrummy engine, interior presentation, boot space, long warranty, Mitsubishi reliability, bright colours
Room for improvement
Overly light steering, gap between second and third gears in manual, dull styling
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21 Jan 2013
FORGET what boorish testosterone-addled reviews say about the truly all-new, LA-series Mirage. The Thai-made Mitsubishi brings the reality of dignified new-car ownership to thousands of buyers who would otherwise have to choose second-hand.
In the context of what it was designed to be – an inexpensive, roomy and easy urban commuter – the base ES model’s headline low price of a barely believable $12,990 driveaway (but only if you’re quick) means car buyers can avoid the pitfalls of entering the scary used-car underworld.
We say dignified because even the entry-level Mirage has true B-segment interior space with five doors, five seats and a decent-sized boot – items none of its sub-B rivals such as Alto, Spark and Up can really match.
Only Nissan’s Micra ST comes close in terms of space, but that costs $500 more, has a warranty that is two years and 30,000km inferior, and feels every inch the outlet mall cheapie inside. Strangely – and here’s the first of its many plus points – the Mirage does not.
While the dash might consist almost wholly of hard plastics, Oz-bound versions have an uplifting beige two-tone effect that banishes drabness. Coupled with classy piano-black trim, we thought we were actually driving the top-line LS instead of the ES poverty special. Even Up owners ought to be impressed.
Look further and you find the unexpected convenience of quick-touch lane-change indicators, a tidy three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls for the Bluetooth phone and audio, child-restraint hooks fixed behind the rear backrest, one-touch driver-side electric window, rear windows that wind down to door-top level and centre dash face-level ventilation that does a fine job.
However, there is no passenger-side vanity mirror, seat map pockets, or rear overhead grab handles, but otherwise the Mirage driver will not feel short-changed sitting on flat but supportive front seats with room to stretch, in a cabin that seems sufficiently quiet.
Being an economy car, you may care less about the Mirage’s overly light steering that is depressingly devoid of feedback than the fact that it is immensely simple to manoeuvre in confined spots (aided by slim A-pillars for good vision and a very tight turning circle), and a cinch to scoot through traffic. To that end, at least the steering reacts with speed and precision.
We are all for a comfy ride, but the soft suspension – which smoothed out most of the brutal urban Sydney roads on a three-hour drive – results in a car that does not feel as controlled, taut or glued-down through faster corners as we would like, at least in the ES with 14-inch wheels. It was a bit roly-poly.
The 57kW/100Nm 1.2-litre three-pot petrol engine pushes the Mirage off the mark with vigour and relative finesse, with a thrum that seems to appeal and repel people in equal measure. We like it.
This powerplant enjoys a rev, and offers more than enough oomph for the Mirage’s intended urban duties. It even cruises quietly enough at 110km/h along the motorway. And there is no denying its frugality as we slipped beneath 6.5L/100km even after driving through some heavy traffic.
However, second or third gear ratios need a rethink as the engine often fell into a flat spot changing between these gears, especially on Sydney’s hilly terrain.
Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to assess the CVT auto version that will account for about two-thirds of Mirage sales, but stay tuned as a review of the base ES CVT is coming soon to GoAuto.
Indeed, a more thorough assessment is required because we feel that maybe Mitsubishi really is onto something worthwhile with the Mirage.
After the avant-garde design of the preceding Colt and pert cuteness of the 1990s Mirage, we feel the newcomer is a bit of a styling letdown, especially in a class where competitors are becoming increasingly more vivid, but we’re willing to let that one slide – as well as the light steering – because this unpretentious baby really does exactly what it sets out to do.
The likely buyer should just love the low price, cheap running costs, peace-of-mind five-year/130,000km warranty, fixed servicing charges, roomy interior, heaps of standard kit, sound ergonomics, easy driveability and promised reliability.
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