Small cars are a difficult beast to do much with; they are, sometimes, the equivalent of a generic brand pizza…cheap, fill a hole, no long term love affair. They’re an appliance, point A to B and back. Invariably they’re on the road to help a new driver get some basic understanding of a car….sadly, basic is all they get, sometimes.
Occasionally a car comes along that suits that need and adds a little more. Mitsubishi’s new light car, another iteration of the venerable Mirage name, may just be it for a certain part of the light car market. Primarily aimed at the young female/over 50’s female (40% share for both) demographic, the Mirage was given a hasty makeover prior to Australian release. Revisions included a front sway bar, something that should have been included from the start.
Ok, let’s have a look at what and where the Mirage sits. Powered by a 1.2L, 3 cylinder engine, a coarse and thrashy one at that, the Mirage comes with a five speed manual or CVT (constantly variable transmission). The manual feel is loose, barely sprung and with a super light pressure clutch (understandable when the torque is just 100 Nm at 4000rpm) won’t trouble the muscles. The CVT seems to be the better of the two (and has hill start too) and with NSW’s insistence on teaching automatic over manual driving, should account for the bulk of the sales, even with a $2500 premium.
The interior is….well, the back seat is pancake flat and offers as much support whilst the front two pews are barely suitable. Depending on model level, there’s different prints for the cloth trim. The left and right aircon vents are the well proven push and twirl style with the centre vents a completely at odds design rectangular shape in a piano black look dash. Aircon controls harken back to the 1960’s with slide adjustment for temperature and fresh/recirculating while there’s dials for speed and direction…the steering wheel does feel ok and has basic audio and bluetooth controls whilst vision for the driver and three passengers (no hope in hell of comfortably seating five) is fine. The plastics though…..no padding, a harsh feel, the door rest grips don’t…as in have grip, it’s a smooth beige toned plastic that would slip easiy from any finger not completely dry. Some ridging inside would go a long way. The ES comes with just two speakers (surely, springing for another pair wouldn’t impact on cost???) and seemingly no sound insulation plus no USB input but does have auxiliary. Mitsubishi has stayed with the silly idea of placing the USB port inside the glovebox too, although there is a clip for the cable. The doors are tinny, lightweight, allowing excessive levels of road noise to intrude. The dash dials have a painted on blue around the centre mounted pointers, presumably to emulate a proper backlit blue light. Somewhat surprisingly too, there didn’t appear to be too much reflection into the windscreen from the dash plastic.
The ride, surprisingly, isn’t bad. It’s not unsurefooted, but the tiny 165 tyres on 14 inch steel/plastic trim wheels on the base ES don’t inspire confidence. The ES Sport and LS get slightly wider and taller (175 on 15 inch alloys) which add a little to the handling. Pushed into some very tight 15 km/h turns during a brief 2 hour intro, there was very little understeer or scrubbing while revving the engine to its maximum 57 kW @ 6000 rpm elicits a sound resembling rock on metal with no oil, plus the cutout on redline is quite brutal. Having said that, one would anticipate very few buyers emulating Mark Webber….
There’s six colours; Red Planet, Cyber Blue, Mulberry, White, Black and Silver with the ES dipping out on the Blue and Black. The Mulberry appears to be the pick of the bunch, being a vibrant purplish hued metallic, something that will have the fashionable lady standing out from the crowd. Spacewise, there’s nooks, cranny and spots to lose small items and a 60/40 split fold seat adds much needed room should that be required; unavoidable in a smallish car measuring just 3.75 metres long.
The Mirage is a car for a market that deserves more; women in the target demographic apparently base their buying decision on style and looks, petrol frugality and affordability. Decent ability and dynamics don’t come into play. “Supported” by the current lack of true driver training and education contributing to far too many crashes, the Mirage is just that. Fluffy, insubstantial and short lived in some eyes, but, for the market it’s aimed at, it fits the bill nicely.
Priced from $12990 for the ES manual (plus a $1000 Westfield gift card) up to $17740 and at driveaway pricing for an introductory offer (metallic paint is an expensive $475 option for such a small car) it is a bit of a bargain.