The Mirage is the second new model launched by Mitsubishi since the start of this year. Following on from the successful release of the Outlander in January, Mitsubishi hopes interest in the Mirage will match that of its larger 4X4 sibling.
For a small car, it’s a big deal. Called the Space Star in other European markets, the Mirage replaces the nearly 10 year old Colt and aims to compete with the Nissan Micra, Toyota Yaris, Kia Picanto, Suzuki Splash and Chevrolet Spark in the A-segment.
Geared towards maximum efficiency, the entire Mirage range is road tax and Congestion Charge exempt, a first for any vehicle line. It has the smallest turning circle in its class and the entry-level model weighs a paltry 845kg. But is it any good?
The Mirage is an entirely new design conceived to be efficient from the outset. Though it won’t win any design awards, its simple functionality fits the intended brief and it can be painted in a range of vibrant colours, including the metallic green hue of our test car.
More rounded and aerodynamic than its predecessor, the Mirage achieves a windtunnel-honed .27Cd drag co-efficient, which is best in class and better than a Porsche Boxster (not that buyers of the latter will compare).
At 3,710mm in length, it is 230mm shorter than the Colt, yet retains a near identical wheelbase. Its tiny wheels might offer low rolling resistance, but look far smaller than their 15-inch diameter would suggest. They don’t do the stance any favours.
From the driver’s seat, the interior plastics are low-rent and the overall quality feels cheap. The rising beltline and tapering glasshouse make rear visibility more challenging than it should be and the C-pillars are just too wide for a car this size.
Though the Mirage has a smaller footprint than the Colt model it replaces, it’s interior is more spacious, with more legroom for both front and rear occupants than most of its rivals.
Engineers moved the rear seats further back to make the cabin larger, so the same cannot be said for the boot volume. At 235 litres, it’s larger than the Spark, Splash, and Picanto (by 65-, 57- and 35-litres, respectfully) but smaller than the Micra and Yaris (by 30- and 51-litres).
With the rear seats folded, luggage capacity extends to 600 litres, which is smaller than all of its competitors bar the Splash and Spark. It also falls short in interior storage compartments.
Performance & Handling
The Mirage is available with a 1.0-litre, 70bhp three-cylinder engine in the entry-level 1, or a 1.2-litre engine in 2 and 3 guises. We tested the top-spec model with the 1.2-litre, which generates 79bhp and 106Nm of torque.
Though the powerplant is lively enough, the Mirage is not a performance car by any stretch of the imagination. Its top speed is a best in class 112mph but it doesn’t get there quickly. It’s also rather noisy higher in the rev range.
The engine can be mated to a CVT automatic in the Mirage 3, but buyers who opt for the 2 or 1 will have to make do with a conventional five-speed manual, the transmission fitted to our test car. It’s a nice, smooth gearbox though, with a good feel through shifts.
The suspension is compliant though perhaps a bit too soft. Older customers will probably love its supple ride, which absorbed bumps and potholes well during our stint behind the wheel, but the steering felt disconnected and hollow.
And while the small wheel and tyre combination may help the Mirage achieve good fuel economy, we found they do little to help grip or curb the inevitable oversteer when the car’s pushed through a bend.
Economy & environment
The Mirage’s three-cylinder mill was always going to be fuel efficient, even more so if you opt for the CVT automatic transmission. Mitsubishi claims 68.9mpg, which is matched only by the Micra S. We couldn’t test this for ourselves as no automatics were on offer at the launch.
The 1.2-litre engine is equipped with an auto stop/start function as well as regenerative braking, a high efficiency alternator and low-friction tyres. Though official figures have the manual Mirage 3 achieving 65.7mpg in the combined cycle, our 56-mile drive saw a 44mpg average fuel consumption.
The CO2 figure ranges between a nominal 95g/km and 100g/km, earning the Mirage range exemption from road tax. A three-bar eco-assist display in the instrument cluster also helps consumers keep an eye on their driving to extract maximum efficiency from the engine.
Equipment & Value
Prices start at £8,999 for the 1.0-litre Mirage, which comes with power windows in the front, piano black interior trim pieces, a CD/radio with AUX input, colour-keyed front and rear bumpers and a USB port in the glovebox. The Mirage 2 adds air-con, remote central locking, power windows and speakers at the rear, electric door mirrors, auto headlights and rain sensing wipers for £2,000 more.
The Mirage 3 we drove came with power windows all round, auto lights and wipers, 15-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, and front and rear parking sensors for £11,999. A leather steering wheel and shift knob and push button start button also liven up the chintzy interior. The automatic adds another £1,000 but substitutes the 15-inch wheels for 14-inchers.
It’s not bad value, but it’s far more expensive than a Skoda Citigo and about £500 dearer than a comparably equipped Kia Picanto. And while Mitsubishi offers a three-year warranty, the Kia’s seven-year warranty is its trump card.
Mitsubishi expects the 1.2-litre models to make up 95 per cent of Mirage sales, with a 20-25 per cent mix for the top spec CVT automatic.
At the core of the Mirage is Mitsubishi’s RISE steel safety cell – a monocoque structure made from ultra-high tensile steel that’s designed to maximise protection in the event of a crash.
All Mirage variants come fitted with front, side and curtain airbags for the driver and passenger as well as traction and stability control, ABS, brake assist and an emergency stop system (ESS), which flashes the hazard light to warn other drivers of a sudden stop.
At the front, daytime running lamps are also standard kit, while child locks at the rear prevent your offspring inadvertently opening the doors and falling out.
There are no official NCAP figures yet, but Mitsubishi claims the Mirage scored highly amongst segment rivals in Japan.
For a small urban runabout, the Mirage has a lot of selling points. It’s compact, has a tight 9.2-meter turning circle and is exempt from road tax and the Congestion Charge. It is also suitably well equipped, spacious and boasts the highest fuel economy compared to other segment rivals.
Ultimately the design is lacking the character of more contemporary offerings from Korea and Germany. The quality of its interior plastics is below par and its on-road dynamics leave you cold. The similarly priced Kia Picanto is better to look at, better to drive and has a better warranty to back it up.
For budget-minded consumers looking for frugal daily transport the Mirage is a good choice, but there are better options.
Model tested: Mitsubishi Mirage 3
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder
Torque: 106Nm of torque
Acceleration: 0-62 in 11.7 seconds
Top speed: 102 mph
Economy: 65.7 mpg
Emissions: 95g/km CO2