THE MICRO-CAR MARKET IN AUSTRALIA MIGHT BE SHRINKING, BUT MITSUBISHI HAS STAYED THE COURSE WITH ITS TINY MIRAGE. It now gets a styling refresh and added equipment to keep it competitive.
Australian buyers have a choice of two specification levels, the entry level ES, or the higher grade LS tested here, with added features like alloy wheels and climate control to remove the Mirage’s ‘basic transport’ perception.
But with an all-new Holden Spark, still fresh Suzuki Celerio, and the high value Kia Picanto to fend off, can Mitsubishi’s best-selling passenger car continue to charm younger Australian buyers?
Vehicle Style: Micro hatch
Price: $15,250 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 57kW/100Nm 1.2 litre 3cyl petrol | CVT automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.8 l/100km | Tested: 5.2 l/100km
The Mitsubishi Mirage wears the cheap and cheerful tag with pride - and now, thanks to a styling and engineering upgrade earlier this year, it really is a cheery little automobile.
Mitsubishi hasn’t quite reinvented the wheel, but it has provided a vehicle of higher quality, added in some mature chrome finishing touches, and done some under-the-skin work to reduce the amount of noise and vibration that enters the cabin.
Just in the nick of time too, with the recently introduced Kia Picanto flaunting a sharp driveaway price and well constructed interior, and the Holden Spark tuned to Aussie roads, with clever connectivity standard - making things hard for the little Mitsubishi stalwart.
- Standard Equipment: Cloth seat trim, single-zone climate control, urethane steering wheel with audio and phone controls, leather-wrapped gear shifter, power windows, cruise control, auto-off headlights, remote central locking, piano black centre stack, silver and chrome interior highlights, rear privacy glass, 15-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, USB and AUX inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, four-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 235 litres - 60:40 folding rear seats
With new additions like a gloss black centre stack, and small detail changes to some of the trim materials, the Mirage hatch now moves to a level of interior finish that more closely aligns with the Mirage sedan.
But even with a few showy touches here and there, the Mirage LS can’t hide its basic beginnings. With a circa $15k price tag, however, expectations aren’t high.
While the plastics are basic, there’s still a decent feeling of quality - nothing too flimsy and little touches like single zone climate control help the Mirage feel a little bit flash.
The great shame for the Mirage is that the Kia Picanto, despite almost being ready for replacement, really showed the micro car class how to style an interior to make it feel better than basic.
Similarly, the push-button audio isn’t as tech-chic as the touchscreen in the Holden Spark, but all the basic connectivity functions like USB and Bluetooth are covered.
Seating is firm and flat, fine for short trips around town, but a lack of lower back support means long stints behind the wheel may require a few extra stops for comfort's sake.
The rear isn’t as tight as the compact dimensions might suggest, but, to get the most out of the space, front seat passengers might have to sacrifice a little leg room. Thanks to the tall roofline and square set door aperture, getting in and out is simple.
Boot space also impresses for the class, though the high load lip and narrow opening reduce outright flexibility. The 60:40 folding rear seats however help balance the ledger.
ON THE ROAD
Engine: 57kW/100Nm 1.2-litre three-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol
Transmission: CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic, front-wheel-drive
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Brakes: Ventilated front discs, rear drums
Steering: Electrically-assisted power steering, 9.2m turning circle
Under the snub little bonnet of the Mirage is a 1.3 litre three-cylinder engine, producing a cool 57kw at 6000rpm and 100Nm at 4000rpm - all with the perky off-beat throb typical of a 'three-pot'.
Changes under the skin mean that refinement has been improved, and while the Mirage isn’t quite class-leading in that respect, compared to the pre-update model, the Mirage feels slightly smoother and quieter than before.
Where the Mirage ES can be equipped with either a five-speed manual or CVT automatic, the LS is auto-only.
The transmission may lack the smarts of CVTs in larger, more expensive cars, but it still does a decent job of shuffling the Mirage around.
With conservative power and torque figures, the Mirage can feel a little timid from behind the wheel, which encourages a heavy right foot to coax the best out of it and keep up with the flow of city traffic.
Over a week of mixed driving, we recorded a decent fuel consumption figure of 5.2 l/100km, but worryingly, before any highway work was factored in, the city consumption figure (according to the trip computer) was reading a startling mid-10 l/100km.
That distinctive three-cylinder engine note is a constant companion as revs rises and fall, though somewhat surprisingly, on the open road the Mirage sets into a low 2000rpm cruise at 100km/h. This makes it one of the more settled and relaxed tourers in its class.
Suspension is soft, making it ideal for clearing rough and tumble urban tarmac and cobblestone laneways. As a side effect though, there’s also plenty of nose-dive under heavy braking and some noticeable body roll through even moderate bends.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.07 out of 37 possible points When tested in 2014.
Safety Features: Six airbags, ABS brakes with emergency brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control, front seatbelt pretensioners, three-point seatbelts in all seating positions, rear ISOFIX child seat mountings.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/100,000km
Servicing: Service intervals are set at 12 months or 15,000km (whichever occurs first). Mitsubishi’s capped price program is set at $200 for the first service and $230 for the next three up to 60,000km or four years.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Fresh metal in micro-market Australia includes the Holden Spark with its locally-tuned suspension and touchscreen infotainment, and the Kia Picanto, which pushes strong value and tries to feel less basic than other micro cars.
Suzuki is also represented with the Celerio, and despite its basic looks there’s a decent vehicle under the skin, at a very competitive $13,990 price for the CVT auto (plus on-roads). On the other hand the Fiat 500 leans heavily on its stylish appeal, and delivers a more upmarket style-led city car solution at a much higher price.
- Holden Spark
- Kia Picanto
- Suzuki Celerio
- Fiat 500
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
While Mitsubishi has made some worthwhile improvements to its little Mirage hatch, the reality is that there are better micro cars available, and for less money too.
That’s not to say the Mirage isn’t a solid package: it offers good value, is much cheaper than a Holden Spark LT but not too far behind it on equipment. The Mirage also doesn’t feel as complete as a Suzuki Celerio, but that car is very competitively priced and quite refined for its class.
Does that make the Mirage a bad car? No, not bad - just not great. In the context of this market, it loses half -a-star against the 'ten-percent cheaper' Celerio CVT, and the comparably-priced Holden Spark LS CVT.
For you, if you're considering this market (and there are lots of advantages in buying new over second-hand), it’s a case of finding the micro hatch that fits your needs best.
And that may well be the pert little Mirage.
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Mitsubishi Mirage - Price, Features, and Specifications