The Mirage is back - as a sound choice for first-time car buyers.
The Mitsubishi Mirage sees the return of another popular nameplate in Australia.
It replaces the Colt as the Japanese brand's city car competitor, though is priced from below the likes of the Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta and more closely aligned with micro cars such as the Nissan Micra and Suzuki Alto.
The Mirage, which arrived in Australia this month, costs from $12,990 driveway - with a temporary $1000 Westfield gift voucher deal effectively making the base model Mirage ES Manual $11,990 driveaway for the rest of January.
From the outside it appears that Mitsubishi has continued its current trend of designing vehicles that are no longer seen as aggressive or excessively masculine. This may not have had the desired effect on the recently released Mitsubishi Outlander, but it seems to work better on the Mirage.
Reason for that being the target audience is 66 per cent likely to be female with 40 per cent of them under 35 and 40 per cent over 50. As with all light cars, the market is predominantly buying automatics.
Interestingly, the company expects 91 per cent of Mirage buyers will be living in metro areas, so it believes its 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine is more than adequate for the Mirage’s expected daily duties.
With 57kW of power and 100Nm of torque, the Mitsubishi Mirage is not exactly full of muscle on paper, but given it weighs just 865kg (in manual, add 25kg for the automatic) it gets up and goes without too much stress. It officially sips a very reasonable 4.6L/100km for the base model manual and up to 4.9L/100km for the automatic.
The five-speed manual makes far more use of the power and torque on tap, with a better sense of acceleration and a more enjoyable driving experience than the automatic.
The automatic gearbox – a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that doesn't have individual gears but instead one gear with a variable ratio – is ideal to save fuel and is more advanced than the traditional gearboxes, but tends to hinder the Mirage’s performance to an extent – particularly going up hills.
This is a weak point for the Mirage when compared with its direct competitors, the Nissan Micra and Suzuki Alto, both of which make use of traditional four-speed automatics that have a minimal negative affect on the fuel economy but it provides a more familiar and effective driving experience.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is aimed at younger first time buyers and those looking for a second car as a city runabout, and for that purpose it’s well priced, available in a variety of bright colours, comes with all the safety kit, which include six airbags and electronic stability control, while offering a five-year unlimited kilometer warranty with fixed priced servicing ($250 for each of the first four services at 15,000km or 12 month intervals).
Mitsubishi hasn’t skimped on the basic technology necessities, either, which means all Mirages come with full Bluetooth capabilities, including telephone connectivity and audio streaming (wirelessly transmitting music from your smartphone). There’s even a USB port, which we tested with an iPhone 5 and found it useful for both charging and native playback through the in-car stereo.
It’s unfortunate, though, that the base model Mirage ES only comes with two speakers (located at the front), meaning you’ll need to pay an extra $1500 to step up to the ES Sport ($14,490 driveaway for the manual) for the extra two speakers, but at least you’ll also get 14-inch alloy wheels and a roof spoiler.
Pay another $2500 for the range-topping Mirage LS and automatic windscreen wipers, headlamps and smart entry as well as 15-inch alloys and fog lamps will be added on.
An additional $500 for metallic paint will be worth it if you’re after a vibrant colour.
On the inside the new Mirage is similar to cars such as the Suzuki Swift that have far more room than you’d expect. You can fit four average-sized adults in the cabin comfortably (though expect to go up hills slowly if you're in the CVT version). There’s plenty of headroom and the boot, though not large, can be extended if the rear seats are folded down flat.
The interior is made largely of hard plastics and surfaces, though this is common at this price range. No attempt has been made to hide a whole bunch of fuses and cables when you open the glovebox, though, and there’s no option for an integrated satellite navigation system. At least there is plenty of clever storage spaces built in.
The Mirage is simple to drive with reasonable steering and well laid out instruments. The manual gearbox is straightforward and nothing to be afraid of. When pushed hard around corners there’s noticeable body roll.
There’s a fair bit of engine noise that flows into the cabin during acceleration, something that will be a common experience owing to the need to work the little three-cylinder hard for momentum.
For the same price, buyers can also look at the Suzuki Alto and Nissan Micra. To some extent the Volkswagen Up! also fits the bill, though it’s only available in a manual for the moment and the $13,990 starting price can increase easily with desirable options.
What the Mirage lacks in driving dynamics and a sense of fun behind the wheel, the Up! delivers in spades with the Micra not far behind, but the Volkswagen comes with two less airbags and both Micra and Up! miss out on the five-year warranty and capped priced servicing offered by Mitsubishi. The Alto is certainly worth comparing to the Mirage for the price, though it does have an even smaller engine with less oomph.
Overall, the 2013 Mitsubishi Mirage would make an excellent candidate for a first car or the family’s second runabout. It comes with top-notch safety, plenty of standard kit, excellent warranty and servicing costs and a wide pallet of bright colours. The CVT automatic transmission is without doubt the Mirage’s Achilles’ heel, but if you can get past that – or buy the manual – it’s a sound package for the price.