You need look no further than the Mitsubishi Mirage for confirmation the budget end of the compact car segment provides tremendous value for those seeking to stretch their bucks. Buyers have voted with their wallets this year with the Mirage lapping the field to dominate the sales chart.
And that’s not due to a lack of competition – Nissan and Toyota are just two of the big-name brands with skin in this game. All the more reason to put the Mitsubishi Mirage on the shopping list.
Unlike most, Mitsubishi offers the Mirage in both four-door sedan and hatchback models. A smart alternative as the sedan’s massive boot has appeal to many and combines with the abundant interior space which is a Mirage standout.
Surprisingly, due to slow sales, Nissan withdrew its Almera sedan from the compact sedan segment earlier this year (we actually rather liked the Almera). Nissan Almera’s vanishing act has left the competent Mitsubishi Mirage sedan to slug it out with only the Proton S16 in this sub-$12,000 sedan league.
Mitsubishi Mirage Overview
With six airbags, ESC and ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, for parents buying a first car for P-platers there’s a lot going for the Mitsubishi Mirage. Likewise with a top tether and ISOFIX anchorage points the in the rear, the Mitsubishi Mirage shapes-up well for those buying a second car for mothers with young children.
Mitsubishi rolled-out updates for the Mirage hatchback earlier this year to align its specifications with the sedan models. Pleasingly, on the technical front the updates saw considerable work to improve Mirage’s refinement – additional sound insulation, new engine mounts and a new transmission mount.
Back-to back for two weeks www.carshowroom.com.au tested the entry grade ES model Mitsubishi Mirage sedan with a CVT automatic transmission and a top-spec LS model hatchback with a five-speed manual transmission. So our sedan was priced at $16,490 and the hatch at $14,490.
Amongst their extras, LS model hatchbacks gain cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, a roof spoiler, climate-control air-conditioning, four-speaker audio, upgraded seat trim and some interior chrome highlights. So the exceptional value of the Mitsubishi Mirage is obvious.
Mitsubishi Mirage Engine
Mitsubishi joined the three-cylinder engine family when the Mirage was launched. Like Nissan with the Micra, Mitsubishi’s petrol-fuelled three-cylinder is 1.2-litres in capacity (Ford’s remarkable EcoBoost three-cylinder is a 1.0-litre and of course BMW now has a turbocharged 1.5-litre engine in the all-new 2-Series Active Tourer).
So maximum power for the Mitsubishi Mirage is 57kW and peak torque is 100Nm (56kW/100Nm for the Nissan Micra).
We though the CVT automatic transmission in our Mitsubishi Mirage ES sedan was excellent - step changes when accelerating hard and a pleasingly small amount of ‘buzzing’ under moderate acceleration. Our LS-spec Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback was fitted with a five-speed manual.
Combined-cycle fuel consumption for our test cars is rated at 4.6l/100kms for the sedan and 4.8l/100kms.
Mitsubishi Mirage The Interior
With prices this sharp, naturally there’s not a whiff of leather inside the Mitsubishi Mirage. But we reckon first-time buyers will be genuinely surprised at just how well the budget-friendly hatchback and sedan present when you climb inside.
Even our entry-grade ES sedan provided a centre stack in gloss black and reasonably supportive front seat seats. As we mentioned, in the up-spec Mitsubishi Mirage LS, the interior gets a few extras.
Naturally the instruments are a tad plain, the steering wheel plastic is a bit thin and the wheel only adjusts for rake. But in this league the Mirage isn’t ‘Robinson Crusoe’ with those specifications.
Interior space is one area where buyers who may have sampled some segment rivals will be surprised with both Mitsubishi Mirage body styles. Up-front, there’s noticeably more shoulder room and in the rear you could reasonably carry three passengers (the middle one perhaps not overly keen on an interstate road trip!) with good headroom and reasonable legroom.
Out-back there’s a massive 450-litres of cargo space for the sedan or 285-litres for the hatchback (60:40 split-fold rear seat in-place).
Mitsubishi Mirage Exterior & Styling
Apart from the obvious difference in the rear-end (that would be the boot), in comparison to the hatchback the Mitsubishi Mirage sedan gains an extra 100mm in the wheelbase. But the changes don’t end there with the two compact Mitsubishis also sporting distinctly different appearances at the front (a larger grille for the sedan).
Both have prominent side creases for a bit of extra pizzazz.
We like the large, modern headlights in both versions and the rising glass line and muscly rear three-quarters give the hatchback some on-road presence - as does the LS model’s roof spoiler.
Mitsubishi Mirage On The Road
Our Mitsubishi Mirage LS manual hatchback tipped the scales at 865kgs and our ES sedan automatic weighed-in at 890kgs. Given the 57kW/100Nm three-cylinder engine under the bonnet that’s significant (Nissan’s identically-powered Micra ranges from 942kgs to 970kgs).
Significant because while our Mirages were no Mitsubishi Lancer EVOs, they didn’t feel under-powered. And you got that hallmark three-cylinder growl under acceleration.
Matched to the CVT auto in our Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback, acceleration was handy even in freeway merging. And we must say the response of Mitsubishi’s CVT puts some more expensive rivals to shame.
Our Mitsubishi Mirage sedan ran the five-speed manual which, over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, allowed for better response when accelerating up hills or out of corners. It was also light and easy to use which enabled frequent gear swaps in city traffic to keep the 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine on-song for accelerating into gaps.
And of course parking was a breeze thanks to good all-round visibility and a tiny 9.6-metre turning circle.
Underneath the Mitsubishi Mirage runs a MacPherson strut front-end and torsion beam rear. This set-up has become common as the torsion beam rear has a lower manufacturing cost, but perhaps more significantly, affords better cargo space.
Mitsubishi Mirage Issues
However it must be said the Mitsubishi Mirage’s suspension calibration is a long way from the best in this league (that would be Toyota Yaris and Honda City/Jazz in our opinion). Compression and rebound tune needs some work for Aussie roads as the current set-up is too hard over imperfections and too soft when cornering.
Our other points deduction is for the rear drum brakes (although astonishingly in that department the Mirage isn’t alone in this segment). A no-no as these days as rear disc brakes are no more expensive to manufacture and assemble than drums.
And we reckon some of the Mirage’s interior trim plastics are some way short of some rivals for quality look/feel.
Mitsubishi Mirage Verdict
Buying in this segment is intense – dealers battle over a cent here and a floor mat there to capture sales. So the Mitsubishi Mirage’s super-sharp prices (hatch from $11,490 and sedan from $14,490 remember) weighs heavily in reaching a verdict.
And the fact is the Mitsubishi Mirage does give you a lot of car for your coin.
OK the 57kW/100Nm 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine is giving away a little oomph to some more expensive rivals (as does the identical Nissan Micra). But with fuel consumption below 5.0l/100kms (5.9l/100kms for the Micra) the Mirage does reward at the petrol bowser.
Then there’s the interior space (can’t think of any comparable rivals with more) and the practicality of the sedan’s large boot. And let’s not overlook build quality – both of our test cars were well screwed together and pleasingly free of squeaks and rattles.
So, as an all-round package the Mitsubishi Mirage shapes-up well.
Mitsubishi Mirage The Competition
Starting with sedans, only the Proton Preve (starting $14,990) gets close to the dollar value of the Mitsubishi Mirage.
For a bit more coin (starting from $15,990) the Honda City sedan is definitely worth a look. The 1.5-litre engine and Honda’s renowned quality stamp the City as a worthy contender.
Holden Barina is in the picture too (sedan from $15,890) and it gains a powerful 1.6-litre engine. Maybe not on the same page as the Mirage for interior space, the Barina is a nice drive.
Turning to rivals for the Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback and things get very interesting given the Mirage’s $11,490 and $12,490 price tags.
The British-designed Nissan Micra starts at $13,490, the Honda Jazz starts at $14,990, Holden Barina starts at $15,390, Toyota Yaris starts at $15,690 and the Suzuki Swift starts at $15,990. We certainly give the ‘thumbs-up’ to the Micra, Jazz and Yaris but in a market segment where every cent counts there’s no denying the Mitsubishi Mirage has a considerable edge.