What is it?
Forget the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo. I know, you know, everyone knows, they’re the best superminis in the class: pleasing to drive, pleasing to sit in. But some people don’t really care. Ride and handling? Perceived quality? Surprise and delight and touchy-feely design? Not interested. They want value, space, some kit, low running costs and the peace of mind they perceive comes with a car from the Far East.
Here, for those people, is the Mitsubishi Mirage. It replaces the Colt, on sale since 2004 and, you might remember, a car that shared a platform with the badge-engineered Smart Forfour. There’s nothing like that this time around. The Mirage is as far removed from the Forfour or, say, the likes of a Fiat 500 or Vauxhall Adam, as it gets. It’s basic, unpretentious, good value and heroically efficient: Mitsubishi says it’s the first car range on sale in the UK whose every variant emits less than 100g/km of CO2.
Mostly that’s down to lightweight engineering and neat packaging. The Mirage is just 3710mm long (yet seats four adults comfortably and has a 235-litre boot) and is claimed to weigh, remarkably, just 845kg in base 1.0-litre form.
What is it like?
Our test car was a top-spec 1.2 but it shouldn’t carry too much of a weight burden: both 1.0 and 1.2-litre engines are petrol triples, mated to five-speed manual gearboxes (there’s also a CVT option for the 1.2). Some fine aerodynamics mean the Cd is 0.27, hence the CO2 output of a mere 96g/km.
Does the Mirage feel tinny as a result of its weight, as Nissan’s Micra does? A bit. The interior plastics feel brittle, save for an interesting centre console top. The roof lining is thin, too, but the aerodynamics keep wind noise low. The three-pot thrums away vocally but appealingly, while the gearshift is delightfully precise.
But while some light cars exude a feeling of dynamism and agility (think Mazda 2), the Mirage doesn’t manage it. Light bodies are easily deflected, so the Mirage's reasonable comfort and body control are to be applauded. The problem is the steering: it’s slow, at over three and a half turns between locks, and vague, plus it's short on self-centring. Dynamically, it’s the weakest spot of the car by a distance.
Should I buy one?
So although the Mirage is easy to drive around town, that looseness leaves it more out its depth than it deserves elsewhere. Shame it’s uninteresting to drive, because otherwise there’s much to commend it.
Mitsubishi Mirage 3 1.2
Price: £11,000 (est); 0-62mph: 11.7sec; Top speed: 112mph; Economy: 68.9mpg; CO2: 96g/km; Kerb weight: 870kg (est); Engine: 3 cyls in line, 1193cc, petrol; Power: 79bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 78lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual