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JUST A MIRAGE?
Published on Sunday 19 May 2013 03:08
Ten Second Review
Mitsubishi claims its Mirage supermini is the first all sub-100g/km vehicle range in the UK and when coupled with a very low asking price, it does seem an interesting option for the budget-minded driver. It's not luxuriously finished or especially dynamic to drive but at these prices who's complaining? Worth a look.
Mitsubishi tends to do small cars rather well. Not that you'd know, because they don't always get the marketing push they deserve in this country. The old Mitsubishi Colt was a really good fun supermini that spawned the Smart Forfour. One of those cars that was somewhat overlooked by the masses falling over themselves to get into Corsas and Fiestas, the Colt now makes a great used buy.
Mitsubishi have gone back to the drawing board with their latest supermini, the Mirage, and has come up with a vehicle that really chimes with the economic times. If you want to keep your motoring costs down and still enjoy the peace of mind of running a new car, the latest Mirage could well be worth consideration.
You don't have to spend too long looking at the engineering of the Mirage to realise that it's been developed down to a price, with cost of running as a priority. Therefore it's not really fair to expect it to be a pin-sharp driver's car. You get the choice of two engines, both petrol-powered. The entry-level powerplant is a 70bhp 1.0-litre unit, which is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Pay a bit more and you can choose a 79bhp 1.2-litre manual car with the option of a CVT automatic gearbox that really takes the drag out of city driving. This engine is quite perky, getting to 60mph in 11.7 seconds and running onto 112mph.
The suspension has been tuned for ride comfort rather than handling precision, which is what most buyers need for urban use. The 1.0-litre powerplant is naturally a little more strained than the 1.2-litre when you get it out of town and you will notice a fair amount of wind noise at speed, with the three-cylinder engine also adding a thrumming accompaniment. The steering is geared for ease of use at low speeds, which makes parking very easy at the detriment of high-speed precision. All round vision out of the car isn't at all bad, with just the thick rear three quarter pillars that affect most superminis earning a demerit.
Design and Build
The Mitsubishi Mirage looks quite smart, if a little unadventurously styled. It's neat and a little bulbous, in much the same way that most superminis looked five years ago, without the big signature design flourishes of the latest generation of cars. But then if you wanted something like a Renault Clio, you'd probably be paying around quite a bit more. There are some nice details though. I particularly liked the deep side sculpting, the very cleanly-styled rear end and the slotted front grille.
Drop inside and it feels fairly basic, although if you can specify the piano black dash treatment, that lifts the ambience a little. There are quite a few hard plastic finishes on display although it's excusable given that the 1.0-litre model weighs just 845kg. This light weight offers all sorts of benefits in terms of efficiency, so carping over the fact that there aren't too many heavy, slush-moulded soft finishes seems a little churlish. The driving position's not too bad, although the steering column doesn't adjust for reach. The rear door aperture isn't the biggest and knee room in the back can be a bit limited but Mitsubishi can only do so much with the wheelbase they're working within. Boot space isn't at all bad at 235-litres and the 60/40 split rear seatbacks give some extra luggage capacity. In-cabin storage consists of three cup holders, pockets in the front door, a deep storage tray at the base of the centre stack and a reasonably sized glove box with a small tray above it.
Market and Model
With prices starting from around £8,000, the Mitsubishi Mirage is campaigning in a sector of the market populated not by the Fiestas, Polos and Clios, but by fare cheaper fare such as the Dacia Sandero and the Nissan Micra. Suddenly, it looks quite a competitive item and it doesn't do too badly for equipment either.
Cost of Ownership
Here's where the Mitsubishi Mirage really gets into its stride - day to day running costs. Yes, I'm aware that most superminis are pretty good in this regard, but it's often been the case that the less you spend on your supermini, the older and less efficient the engine is. It can indeed be a false economy to buy the cheapest car only to be saddled with mediocre fuel economy, poor emissions and a next to useless warranty.
The Mirage counters with low emissions with all models scoring less than 100g/km. Thanks to features like 'auto stop and go' that cuts the engine when you don't need it, regenerative braking, low friction tyres, a high efficiency alternator and a sleek 0.27Cd drag factor, the manual 1.2-litre model registers just 96g/km. Paying for road tax and the London congestion charge becomes a non-issue. The quickest car in the range still manages to extract 68.9 miles from one gallon of unleaded on the combined cycle.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is a car that rewards a little perspective. Drive it after stepping out of a Fiesta or a Clio and you may well be left a little flat. Remind yourself that it's not really gunning for this sort of opposition and look at it in the context of a Dacia Sandero or a Nissan Micra and suddenly it leaps to the fore. It's not perfect; you may well dislike the steering at speed and the interior doesn't push any particular boundaries, but there are certainly compensations.
It looks good, the fuel economy and emissions figures are excellent, it's very keenly priced, you just know it's going to be metronomically reliable and it's been designed to work very well in town. We don't know whether this one is going to do any better than its Colt predecessor, but if you want something a little different and your new car budget isn't stretching too far, you might find a lot to like here.