First drive review: Mitsubishi MirageMotor Reviews New Car Reviews Motor News
First drive review: Mitsubishi Mirage
Mitsubishi Mirage ES Red Planet
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Mitsubishi Motors Australia has made an 11th-hour rescue of its all-new Mirage, insisting a raft of changes be made to the five-door hatch in the tight time-frame between a media preview drive in Thailand and the local introduction.
The revised production version that goes on sale around Australia from January 23 should respond to several areas of criticism, including road-noise, a disconcerting body roll, and a cheap-feeling, shiny, plastic-y interior.
Extra sound-deadening in key areas, the addition of a front stabiliser bar on the suspension, and revised trim materials (including a welcome move to a beige/black two-tone on fascia and doors) all contribute to a much improved commuter car.
The new Mirage is still way short of being a great car. But it's a better car than it threatened to be a few months ago. Mitsubishi now believes it can boost its flagging passenger-car fortunes to the tune of about 1000 sales monthly.
Its appeal to its target market is a combination of its hot launch pricing – the base model ES manual starts at $12,990 drive away, with a bonus $1000 Westfield gift card for early buyers – surprising interior room, manoeuvrability and its class-leading fuel efficiency of 4.6 litres/100km from its 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine.
The standard gearbox is a five-speed manual, with tall gearing to help achieve the good fuel economy numbers. But our pick is the excellent auto CVT – continuously variable transmission.
While it's not quite as economical as the manual, it always seems to be in the right gear for the task. Mitsubishi expects around two-thirds of buyers to fork out the extra $2500 for the CVT.
The expected market for the Mirage is two-thirds female and heavily skewed to the young. The average income of Mirage shoppers is about $60,000. Because so many are first-time buyers, brand loyalty will be rare.
Two women, aged 19 and 25, who sampled the Mirage during the press launch, loved its value, economy, user-friendliness, audio-streaming, funky colour choices, and general playfulness.
They were unconcerned with trivialities, such as its indifference to climbing hills, or its inelegant shape.
In this end of the market, cute apparently beats chic.
Mitsubishi's 130,000km/five-year warranty and capped servicing costs for the first 60,000km are other attractions to buyers on a budget.
The Thai-built Mirage doesn't come close to matching the price of Australia's cheapest car, the Chinese-made Chery J1, a piddling $9990 drive-away.
But the Mirage is a much better vehicle to drive to the shops – and to have a crash in, thanks to six airbags and standard stability control.
Although reasonably well specified, the 1.3-litre Chery J1 has just two airbags and no stability control system.
The Mirage's other light-car market combatants will be Toyota Yaris, Suzuki Alto, Honda Jazz, Holden Barina Spark, Hyundai i20, Kio Rio and the European VW Up. Most are more expensive.
With a maximum output of 57kW at 6000rpm and of 100Nm of torque at 4000rpm, the Mirage will never threaten occupants with whiplash. But in all but climbing situations, it motors along acceptably, although its maximum load of five adults might be a tough test.
Mitsubishi says modern buyers worry less about engine size than in the past, and that the 1.2-litre three-cylinder won't dissuade shoppers.
The Mirage engine chases the green vote with Mitsubishi's variable valve timing system that optimally matches intake valve timing to engine speed and load. At the same time, the pursuit of ever-better fuel economy means that air intake and exhaust systems, fuel system, cooling system and other ancillary systems have been subjected to extensive weight-paring, while friction losses and loads in all moving parts have been reduced.
There are three grades, starting with the well-featured ES, which is offered standard with the aforementioned six airbags and stability control, air-conditioning, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, USB/AUX input, CD player, power windows and mirrors, rake-adjustable steering column, electric power steering, leather steering wheel with phone and audio controls, and central locking with keyless entry.
The seat trim is plain knit black seat fabric embossed with a polka-dot pattern. Storage bins and drink holders are located all around the cabin. There is a modest 235-litre luggage area, made more versatile by the 60-40 split rear seat. Spare is a space-saver, acceptable for a car destined to be used mainly in metro areas.
Hill Start Control is standard on all models with CVT.
The (only slightly) sportier-looking Mirage Sport has 14-inch alloy wheels, door sash blackout, four speakers (up from two) and a body colour rear spoiler with high mount stop lamp. The Sport is an extra $1500 on the base ES.
Starting from $16,990 drive away, the LS gets better-looking, soft, waffle-weave seat fabric in black and purple, keyless entry and start button, climate-control air, automatic rain-sensing wipers, automatic dusk-sensing headlamps, front fog lamps, roof spoiler, door sash blackout and 15-inch alloy wheels.
From behind the wheel, the Mirage has excellent forward and side visibility due to the low-set belt line and location of A-pillars.
Headroom is generous in any of the five seats, while a person of 187cm can get comfortable in the rear while perched behind a driver of similar height.
The front buckets are nicely contoured to support the upper body. Rear seats are flat – all the better, says Mitsubishi, to mount baby car seats. All three rear seats have head rests and lap/sash belts.
On some twisty stuff on the outskirts of the urban sprawl, the Mirage never got close to scaring or maiming its occupants. The addition of a front stabiliser bar has removed much of the excess body roll without exacerbating any tendency for the front to push out in corners – also known as "understeer".
The engine, with its guttural throb reminiscent of the old three-cylinder Daihatsu Charade seems at its best when linked to the CVT automatic.
It pulls well enough on the flat and is at its happiest down hill. Recently added sound-deadening in the rear doors has reduced road noise to acceptable.
Brakes – disc fronts and drum rears – kept on keeping on, helped, no doubt, by the all-up weight of about 890kg.
The electric power-steering, criticised by some at the earlier drive on a race track, was not an issue around the 'burbs. And the ride was okay, although on one dip in the road, the left front tyre possibly grabbed the inner guard under suspension compression.
Skinny tyres are de rigueur with the Mirage but they hang on well enough. A small turning radius makes the Mirage a snip to park and manoeuvre.
Of course, many potential buyers will be more interested in colour selections than the Mirage's dynamic abilities: for them, the colour palette is Mulberry, Red Planet, Cyber Blue, Midnight Black, Cool Silver and White.
Price (all prices drive-away): $12,990 (ES), $14,490 (Sport), $16,990
(LS); CVT auto costs another $2500
Engine: 1.2-litre 3-cylinder
Power: 57kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 100Nm at 4000prm
Transmission: 5-speed manual (optional CVT)
Weight: 865kg (manual), 890kg (auto)
Fuel consumption: 4.6L/100km (manual), 4.9L/100km (auto)
C02 emissions: 109g/km (manual), 115g/km (auto)