Steve Sharpe drives Mitsubishi’s latest hatchback
The Mirage is Mitsubishi’s entry into the ultra-competitive small hatchback sector.
It’s a company probably more associated with bigger, rougher, tougher models that can handle themselves in any situation – cars like the Shogun, Outlander, L200, even the new and impressive ASX.
More recently, though, Mitsubishi has looked to broaden its appeal with models like the electric i-Miev and now this Mirage, which is a replacement for the ageing Colt in the Mitsubishi line-up.
The company declares the main competitors in its sights are the Kia Picanto, Nissan Micra, Suzuki Splash and Chevrolet Spark, but with the recent raft of fabulous little city cars like the VW up!, the Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii in its price range, the small car sector is more crowded than ever.
With the range starting at just over £9,000 for the entry-level model, rising to £12,000 for the top-spec version, it’s priced in the same ball park as many of its competitors, although more expensive than the city cars it’s up against.
There are three versions available in the range – two 1-litre petrol versions and a 1.2-litre petrol, all with a five-speed manual gearbox, although a CVT automatic is available as an option on the 1.2litre, the car that I tested.
It turns in a sprightly performance, eager off the mark and lively through the gears.
As you move through higher gears the acceleration is best as the revs get higher, but there are few times when the 1.2litre engine is left high and dry.
Mitsubishi have made this model the lightest, most aerodynamic and most efficient petrol-powered five-door hatchback range on the market.
This is great news as far as economy is concerned – the Mirage turns in fuel figures around the mid-60mpg mark – but it has an effect on the handling too.
There is a fair bit of body lean when cornering.
Take a gentle corner and there’s a good amount of grip and only a little lean, but take a fast one and although there’s still enough grip you really feel the lean. The steering is light and easy to manage around town, but it’s not the most precise you’ll get, although you do get used to it after a while.
The suspension is soft so most of the potholes and tarmac clumps are easily absorbed, but you can feel the bigger ones judder through the suspension.
These cars are going to spend most of their working life in and around town but there will be times when longer journeys are a necessity.
We took the Mirage down to South Yorkshire for the weekend and although it can comfortably reach motorway speeds and cruise, it’s not at its happiest.
The little 1.2 engine is noisy at motorway speeds and there’s a fair amount of wind noise whistling around the sites.
Road noise is also apparent, especially on the rougher areas of motorway.
We were on the road on one of our gloriously English summer days – moisture in the air and a wicked wind blasting across the countryside, which constantly nudged the little hatchback sideways in its lane.
But despite this it is surprisingly comfortable on longer journeys – the seats are supportive and you don’t feel cramped at all.
Mitsubishi describe the Mirage as “no nonsense”, which always rings a few alarm bells, and once you’re inside there’s no doubt that its on the cheaper end of the price range.
But it’s nicely designed – the central section which houses the music system and the heating controls is a lovely, sleek black design – and incredibly straightforward to use.
Elsewhere, though, the plastics in the cabin are hard and not particularly impressive.
The Mirage is quite a dinky little car but there’s a decent amount of room in front and back and you can fit a third person in the rear , although I wouldn’t want too long a journey in that position.
There’s enough room in the boot for a week’s shopping and the rear seats fold up, allowing more space if necessary.
Although the Mirage is at the cheaper end of the scale it’s not the cheapest but what Mitsubishi have done is pile on the equipment to make the hatchback full of goodies.
The entry level 1.0-litre car comes with front electric windows and a two-speaker stereo with a USB socket and the 1.2 gets two extra speakers, rear electric windows and air-conditioning.
The top-spec 1.2 also get alloy wheels, keyless entry, climate control, fog lamps and front and rear parking sensors, although these are the most enthusiastic ones I’ve ever encountered.
If you park close to a car on two or three sides the interior of the car starts pinging like a Kraftwerk album.
There’s also a satisfying array of safety measures on board – every Mirage comes with stability control and emergency brake assist, plus front, side and full-length curtain airbags .
The Mirage is a worthy successor to the Colt, which had a big following amongst Mitsubishi fans.
It’s economical – every model is fitted with a Stop and Go system, which cuts the engine when stationary – and should be reliable, given the brand’s repuation. Its also the only hatchback that is below the 100g/kg emissions mark on every model, so is exempt from road tax or the vehicle charge if you venture into London.
The Mirage is up against some strong opposition but it’s a likeable, easy to drive car that’s well-equipped, looks cool and is economical, ticking quite a few boxes as it goes.
Engine: 1.2litre petrol.
Transmission: Five-speed manual.
0-60: 12 secs.
Top speed: 112mph.