Mitsubishi’s cute Mirage will grow on you

off-my-wheels“It pootles along quite happily on the flat’’

“Cute” was the remark I most often heard about Mitsubishi’s Mirage which arrived in South Africa late last year to compete against the likes of the Honda Brio and Nissan’s Micra.

It’s hard to believe that  the engineers who developed the iconic Pajero, Triton and Outlander came up with the “miniature” Mirage which weighs 824kg and it is just 3.71 metres long and that makes it easy to handle and park in city traffic. Oh, and it’s front wheel drive. Passenger comfort (apart from the bumpy ride), well finished interior, keyless entry and starting in the high-spec models, in this market sector, are unusual. Carbon emissions are 115g/km, which makes it a green car. Safety features include dual airbags in front, ABS with EBD, as well as central locking and an immobiliser.  

Mitshubishi’s new Mirage which it calls a “supermini” Picture: QuickPic
Mitshubishi’s new Mirage which it calls a “supermini” Picture: QuickPic

These are the plusses but there are some negatives. Among them poor handling, a noisy cabin, vague steering and a ride that feels almost every bump, even though its comfortable to sit in. The test car was the top-specced Mirage MIVEC 1.2 GLS which features keyless entry and starting; power steering; electric windows, a good audio system; colour coded bumpers; a spoiler, a driver’s seat which is height adjustable, a steering wheel you can tilt and an infotainment centre.

Even the entry level  MIVEC GL has keyless entry but not keyless starting. Although you’re not going to leave any rubber behind when you pull off at the green, the three-pot motor is quite perky with one up, and to borrow a phrase from Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr Bean: ‘it pootles along quite happily’ on the flat. It puts out 57kW  at 6 000 rpm at 100 N.m. The five-speed gearbox is not ideal for quick changes and the Mirage fully loaded with two rear seat passengers does battle to stay the distance so you have to stir the pot a bit.

Inside, despite the Mirage’s small dimensions it’s quite spacious. There is nothing fancy about the cabin and the finishes are on a par with some of its rivals, if not better. The controls are ergonomically sited, which means they are close at hand and the instrument panel is easily readable. The cabin is quite noisy while the gearbox sometimes has a whine all its own. Designwise,  it is amorphous and you will probably have difficulty finding it in the urban sprawl of a mall.

Fuel economy isn’t too shabby: I recorded figures of nearly 5.9 litres/100km on a test route that included Riebeek Kasteel and in the opposite direction with heavy traffic, not a few steep hills to Stellenbosch and points in between, with four in the car. Mitsubishi claims figures of 4.9 litres/100km. So the 35-litre fuel tank should give you a range of about 600km.

The Mirage, which Mitsubishi calls a supermini,  is aimed at young buyers and some funky colours include Lemonade Yellow Metallic and Red Metallic, the livery of the test car.

For an extra R15 500 you can personalise your Mirage with  a cargo organiser, rear parking sensors and SatNav, among other nice-to-haves.

It has won several awards overseas and Top Gear magazine in the Philippines called it “the sweetest deal in town” for single people or young couples on a budget. Forbes Magazine named it as one of the ’12 Greenest Cars of 2014′ – one of only two non-hybrid vehicles to make the list.

Despite the negatives I’ve listed the Mirage does grow on you but you would have to get used to its foibles. However , a “supermini” it isn’t.

The launch price of the Mirage MIVEC GLS is R144 900 including a year’s comprehensive insurance. All Mirages have a 3-year/ 100 000 km warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000 km and a 2-year/ 30 000 km service plan is included.

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