2013 MITSUBISHI MIRAGE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Light hatchback
Price: $14,190 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 57kW/100Nm 1.2 litre 3-cyl / 5-speed manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.6 l/100km | tested: 7.3 l/100km
Mitsubishi’s Mirage nameplate is back in the form of a Thai-built, five-door light hatchback.
Gone is the cheeky three-door bodystyle of the much-loved former model; it bit the dust over a decade ago.
The new Mirage is entirely different, smaller, lighter, taller - a city car in the mould of the Nissan Micra.
Can the new Mirage match the charm of its predecessor and, more importantly, take on its light hatch competitors from around the world?
We spent a week in the mid-range Sport manual to find out.
Quality: In the Mirage’s otherwise attractive two-tone interior, quality is acceptable at the price. That said, we don’t expect a car at this end of the market to astonish us with soft textures and surfaces.
But the headlining here is flimsy to the touch and our tester, while no doubt having led a hard life on the press fleet, was already beginning to rattle and squeak.
There’s also a heady whiff of the ‘eighties’ in here, with slider controls for the air conditioning, no padding on the doors and exposed screw heads scattered throughout. Also, the wiper and indicator stalks make cheap, snapping noises when actuated.
Comfort: The front seats are quite comfortable, but the rear is ordinary. There’s plenty of headroom front and rear though, and the rear passengers get heaps of foot-room under the high-set front seats.
Equipment: Like the ES, the Mirage Sport comes with more than the bare basics. It gets a tick for standard Bluetooth, USB smartphone connectivity, auto up-and-down electric windows all round, keyless entry, air-con and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The stereo however is a four-speaker unit that isn’t up the task of drowning out the other noises in the cabin. Its voice control is also remarkably un-intuitive but has to be used for a number of functions.
Storage: The boot is a reasonable 285 litres, which can be expanded via the 60/40 split rear seat.
The cabin boasts a good-sized glove box with an open slot above for your phone when it’s USB-connected. Front door pockets with small bottle holders, three cupholders and a wallet-and-phone sized tray under the central stack complete the picture.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With just 865kg to lug around, the engine is perky enough for around-town work (once you’re moving) but expect some nervous moments on freeways or breaking into fast-moving traffic.
The 1.2 litre MIVEC three-cylinder engine delivers predictably meagre figures - just 57kW and 100Nm of torque. That ‘Sport’ badge really is a bit of a stretch.
Also, when driving, you have to push through very noisy low and mid-ranges to extract its best. It does rev freely though, which was a nice surprise.
On test, we managed only 7.4 l/100km - to achieve any closer to the claimed figure of 4.6l/100km would require use of a bicycle lane. The tiny 35 litre tank means an effective range of around 470km.
The electric steering is very light and, curiously, noisy.
Refinement: The racket this engine makes is quite unfortunate. The whole car buzzes when you pile on the revs to get away from the lights and the pedals fizz through the soles of your shoes.
Having said that, it’s almost silent at idle.
The manual gearbox is also noisy, it whines in gears (like an old Mini) with a similarly vague clutch to the old-timer. We found the CVT the more appealing option in our multi-car comparison, but it too adds to the price.
Suspension: The Mirage Sport can be a bit roly-poly even during moderate cornering (the high-profile tyres perhaps don’t help) but so too are most in the light car segment.
One consolation is that Mitsubishi has fitted an anti-roll bar and Yokohama tyres to the Australian Sport. Tyre size is the same as the ES base model, though wrapped around alloy wheels rather than steel.
On the plus side, the springs and dampers handle big bumps well, but jitter on smaller, high frequency imperfections, and some thuds and clunks can find their way into the cabin.
Braking: With discs up front and drums at the rear, the brakes are perfectly fine around town, but a long, soft pedal action takes a while to get used to.
The Mirage did well in our recent light hatchback braking test, even with four fellows aboard, so they’re up to the task.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: ABS, electronic brake force distribution, vehicle stability control, six airbags, front, side and curtain airbags. The front seatbelts have pretensioners and all seats have three-point belts.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 5 year/130,000km, 5 year perforation corrosion warranty.
Service costs: The Mirage needs servicing every 15,000km or 12 months. Each of the first four services is capped at $250, so four years of servicing is a round $1000.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Up! five-door ($14,990) - The best of the light hatchback crowd, the Up is certainly better-looking and has a few spec surprises.
You’ll need to spend $500 more the Maps + package to get Bluetooth (but, as the name suggests, it comes with sat-nav), yet a specced 5 door Up will still cost less than a Mirage Sport.
It stands alone in the segment with city emergency braking. (see Up! reviews)
Holden Barina Spark ($12,490) - The Korean-built Spark missed out on the top safety rating (ANCAP 4-Stars), but has a longer spec list (although no Bluetooth in the manual), more power and slightly better handling but we find it a bit slow on the uptake.
Against the Mirage Sport, the Spark wins hands-down on value, even the servicing is cheaper. (see Barina Spark reviews)
Nissan Micra ST-L ($15,490) - The Nissan Micra is irritatingly referred to as “cheeky” when it is in fact a very serious little car.
It drives and handles well, the engine is reasonably strong and despite being built in an emerging market (India versus Thailand), is very nicely put together and well-equipped.
It might be the oldest of the crowd and the most expensive, but it remains a good car. (see Micra reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Mirage is neither the best nor the worst in its segment, but is closer to the latter. The Sport model tested here is around $18,000 driveaway for what are largely cosmetic improvements over the ES.
The pick of the Mirage models is the bargain-basement ES, which makes a lot more financial sense at the persistent $12,990 launch price.
Spending any more on the Sport is to ignore much better cars and is quite an impost for two stereo speakers, some plastic body bits and tiny alloy wheels. Bizarrely, it’s cheaper to add accessory packs to the ES to achieve a similar spec.
Its 5-Star ANCAP strengthens its case, but the wayward handling and sub-par refinement chip away at the Mirage Sport’s value-for-money proposition.
Pricing (excluding on-road costs)
- ES - $12,990
- ES Sport - $14,190
- LS - $15,490
- ES - $15,240
- ES Sport - $16,440
- LS - $17,740