Road test: Mitsubishi Mirage ’3′ 1.2 Petrol
The small car segment is hotly contested but there is always room for a new boy. Mitsubishi’s Mirage is its Micra contender and while expectation is for just 4,500 sales in 12 months, it is still important for the company.
Looks-wise, it is a bit snub-nosed and bereft of any real corporate brand imagery. This is a shame because the outgoing Colt and others from the range such as the now well-matured ASX are pleasingly distinctive. There isn’t anything particularly remarkable about the rear either but apart from the large, ungainly spoiler on this ‘3’ model it is tidy. Of course, the smoothed styling is for aerodynamic benefit and this, along with careful weight control means the whole range (1.0 litre for the ‘1’ and 1.2 for the ‘2’ and ‘3’ models) sits in VED band A.
Did everything asked of it
The Mirage appeared and on day one, I couldn’t fault it operationally – the car simply did everything asked of it. I ran the gentleman who dropped it off to the station and performed various errands, 10 miles in all. The three cylinder engine isn’t much of a novelty now with many mainstream manufacturers dropping them into smaller models and the 1.2 unit here thrums eagerly. The seating is comfortable, offering good support for the lower back and the materials used around the cabin all look fine. On the ‘3’ trim level, a different setup with the locking system involves rubberised buttons on the driver’s door and boot in place of key holes and like the keyless ignition, these are operable only when the key is near the car; I found the mechanism extremely convenient.
It is worth pointing out that the USB-to-iPhone connectivity works perfectly first time (unlike far too many car systems) and while there is no telephone functionality on this model (it’s an option), the audio worked well and sound quality is on the good side.
A tad noisy
Day two is a 200 mile round trip to a press event and an ideal opportunity to stretch the little Mirage’s legs. With moderate traffic on the outbound hundred miles, the car pottered over the Derbyshire Dales happily and once up to motorway cruising speeds gobbled-up the M1, albeit a tad noisily with wind and tyre sounds both significant. Steering on the Mirage is quite low geared and is bereft of much feel in the straight-ahead position. Through gentle corners it weights-up pleasingly and manoeuvrability is good with an excellent turning circle.
Examining the inside more closely, it is actually very spacious and nudges into B-segment territory for room. In terms of instrumentation, there is nothing remarkable – which is a good thing; conventionality is often underrated. The indicator ticker is a bit quiet and I’d argue that the eco gauge is superfluous; it will happily show a full three green bars for considerate driving when in fact steaming along at 35mph in second gear, albeit on light throttle.
The day’s clear skies remained and heading back up the M1, the gathering side breeze unsettled the Mirage so a fair bit of corrective steering was in order. Off the motorway and with just a few trucks between me and home, I worked the Mirage harder to clear the traffic and enjoy one of Britain’s most scenic landscapes. It’s never going to be described as rapid but the 1.2 litre unit gave its best and with a very slick gearbox, good progress and safe overtaking is possible. The Mirage’s biggest challenge? Corners. Even setting the car up properly through the bends, the shortcomings of the live rear axle setup makes the car feel nervous. This non-independent arrangement means that whatever one rear wheel experiences is echoed at the other side via the beam between the wheels; on a little, light car such as the Mirage, it is very noticeable. It’s done to save money and to be fair, in this segment, many mightn’t be interested in out-and-out cornering ability. However, the issues on the Mirage can be experienced at moderate speeds when the road camber changes.
The Mirage is a very competent town car with excellent emissions credentials and tolerable ride for occasional longer runs. Up against stiff competition in both the looks and handling departments (and undercut by a basic Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500 Pop and top specification Skoda Citigo), it will need a following (not a side) wind to meet targets.
Power: 70 bhp (@ 6,000 rpm), torque: 106 Nm (@ 4,000 rpm), emissions: 100 g/km CO2 (band A), 0-62 mph: 11.7 secs.
Motor Writer rating: ●●○○○