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Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Mirage - sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Excellent value for money, surprisingly zippy performance, super tight turning circle, spacious cabin
Room for improvement
No folding rear seat – not even a ski port, lack of parking sensors even as an option, real world fuel economy nowhere near claimed figure

Gallery

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Mitsubishi logo13 Nov 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON and TUNG NGUYEN

Price and equipment

MITSUBISHI injected some youthful energy into its local line-up earlier this year when it introduced the Mirage sedan to sit under its ageing Lancer stablemate.

The Mirage sedan is, unsurprisingly, based on the Mirage hatch that arrived in local showrooms in January 2013, but the booted version is only offered in two trim levels – base ES manual starting at $14,490, plus on-road costs (the CVT adds $2000), or the more generously specified LS, tested here for $17,490.

Available with a CVT only, the LS undercuts the next cheapest sedan in the Mitsubishi line-up – the Lancer ES at $18,990 – and is also cheaper than the top grade versions of light sedan rivals such as the Honda City VTi-L from $21,390 and soon to be discontinued Nissan Almera Ti which starts at $20,990.

After recently spending time with the new Jazz-based Honda City at its Australian launch, we were pleasantly surprised by the level of standard specification it offered and by the overall quality of the vehicle.

The standard kit in the Mirage LS sedan is nothing to be sniffed at for the price, but it can’t quite stack up to the City, however the plucky little Honda is a good $3900 dearer than the Mitsubishi.

So what do you get for your hard earned cash? The Thai-built LS features a leather steering wheel, tinted windows, black embossed knit trim, climate control air-conditioning, push-button start, dusk-sensing headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

This is on top of the standard gear from the ES, such as Bluetooth phone and audio streaming with controls on the steering wheel, USB input, power mirrors and windows, chrome highlights and 15-inch alloy wheels.

We think this is all decent kit for the money, and Mitsubishi has done well to keep the price so low. Any more standard equipment than this and you would expect the little Mirage to be a bit pricier.

Unfortunately parking sensors are not included anywhere on the equipment list, even as an option.

Interior

While it is based on the diminutive hatch, the Mirage sedan adds 535mm to the length and 5mm to the width of the hatch, while stretching the wheelbase by 100mm.

This naturally makes for more space in the cabin for occupants, with legroom up by 194mm in the rear and 157mm up front for the booted version, and it is noticeable too. We felt there was more leg and headroom than some models a whole segment larger.

Lurking under that boot is a rather generous 450 litres of cargo space, which is a 215-litre improvement over the hatch, but it trails the likes of the Nissan Almera with 490 litres and the Honda City’s massive 536-litre boot.

But unless you are planning on hauling around four golf bags, the Mirage boot is more than enough.

What is very disappointing, however, is the fact that the rear-seat backrest does not lower at all. There is not even a ski port.

So if you actually did want to lug the aforementioned golf bags or just head to Ikea and pick up a flat packed bookcase, you might have to get it delivered or look elsewhere.

We can appreciate that a car-maker will do anything to keep costs down when producing a vehicle at this price point, but surely including a folding back seat can’t add that much in engineering and manufacturing costs?It’s not just Mitsubishi either. Nissan’s Thai-built Pulsar sedan suffers from the same annoyance.

Moving into the cabin, the Mirage sedan follows the same lines as the hatch and, frankly, is about what you would expect from the interior of a sub-$17,000 light car.

Hard plastics and uninspiring grey tones dominate the cabin, but it is thankfully broken up an attempt at premium touches, such as the black gloss inserts and leather steering wheel, which is height-adjustable only and pleasant to touch.

The front seats are flat and unsupportive, but there are plenty of handy storage compartments throughout. There is also excellent forward and rear visibility.

There is no escaping the bargain basement feeling of the Mirage sedan, and the tinny doors serve as a reminder when getting in and out.

While the Honda City, in top-spec guise at least, is nearly $4000 more, it feels more solid, better built and dare we say it, a little more premium than the Mirage.

Engine and transmission

Generally speaking, priorities for buyers at this end of the light car segment include a competitive entry price, low running costs and fuel efficiency.

The Mirage seems to comfortably tick all of these boxes, thanks in part to the tiny 57kW/100Nm 1.2-litre three-cylinder MIVEC petrol engine – the same unit found in the hatch.

The 940kg Mirage LS matched with Mitsubishi’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) sips 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle and emits 116g/km of CO2. Incidentally this is the same figure for the five-speed manual version.

Our figure after a week of pushing the little sedan hard, cruising around town, and some freeway driving resulted in a fuel consumption figure of 8.3L/100km, but we suspect that would have been lower if we weren’t having so much fun.

The tiny triple is not built for sportscar-like performance, but the Mirage is light enough to perform reasonably well in a straight line and even quite spirited in city traffic.

The three-pot gets a bit noisy when pushing the throttle hard, but is surprisingly relaxed when coasting, meaning less intrusive engine noise in the cabin when pottering around town.

There is the expected drone from the CVT, but the unit works well enough with the engine.

What surprised us about the Mirage sedan was how much we enjoyed darting around city streets – particularly quiet city streets of an evening – in the little jigger.

Ride and handling

The Mirage sedan’s 9.6-metre turning circle is one of the tightest we have experienced in a while and made parking and maneuvering in and around the city a breeze.

Unfortunately the Mirage’s surprisingly zippy in-line performance does not make for surprisingly agile dynamic ability. In this area, it feels like a circa-$15,000 light sedan.

Again, cruising around town is fine, enjoyable even, but pushing it into a corner even at fairly modest speeds highlights the Mirage’s shortcomings.

But what should we expect right? It’s a Mirage, not an Evo.

The car tips to the side when tackling corners with a bit of roll, and while the electric power steering is more than adequate, there is little in the way of weighting and we would stop short of describing it as sharp.

The MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension set up makes for a fairly harsh ride in the Mirage sedan, meaning the Mitsubishi lags behind its rivals, particularly the Honda City, when it comes to ride quality.

Interestingly the brakes pulled the Mirage up particularly well when called on in a near-emergency stopping situation.

Safety and servicing

The Mirage sedan has been awarded a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating and it features standard safety gear such as six airbags, including head-protecting curtain airbags, hill-start assist, a hydraulic brake assist, the Emergency Stop Signal which triggers the hazard warning lights under heavy braking and the RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body structure that absorbs and redistributes force away from the passenger cell in a crash. Mitsubishi offers a five-year/100,000km warranty and the Mirage hatch and sedan are both covered by the company’s four-year capped-price servicing with intervals of every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever occurs first.

Verdict

The Mirage sedan throws up an interesting dilemma in that it offers some very strong points for and against it.

On the one hand it offers tremendous value for money, especially when taking into account its dearer rivals, such as the Honda City, but it lacks that car’s sophistication and overall quality.

It really is a case of getting what you pay for in this segment. The City is more expensive but it is also more polished, and if extra tech goodies and build quality are important, it is the car for you.

But the Mirage is a likeable little car with a fun personality and it offers solid value for money in a spacious and safe package, so it deserves consideration.

Just don’t go planning any trips to Ikea.

Rivals

Honda City VTi-L from $21,390, plus on-road costs
The City is a more polished light sedan and offers plenty of gear, but it also about $4000 dearer than the Mirage. It looks sharp, is also pretty spacious and it has a smoother ride than Mirage.

Nissan Almera Ti from $20,990, plus on-road costs
Unpopular from the get-go, the Almera has been ditched from Nissan’s local line-up, and probably with good reason. Dowdy styling inside and out don’t help, nor does the poor rear headroom. Not as likeable as its mechanically related Micra hatch sibling.

Holden Barina CDX sedan from $20,590, plus on-road costs
The Barina used to be a class leader back when Holden was sourcing it from Opel, but the latest car to wear the badge is middling at best. While it offers reasonable kit for the cash, it trails rivals for cabin quality.

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