The most basic Mirage is quite sparsely equipped – 1 trim has daytime running lights, split/folding rear seats and electric front windows – so we reckon it’s worth going for 2 trim, which adds welcome features, such as remote central locking, automatic wipers, a better stereo, air-conditioning and electric front windows. Top-of-the-range 3 trim adds front fog lamps, a leather steering wheel, parking sensors and climate control, but all that lifts the list price uncomfortably high.
In a world where first impressions last, the Mirage is not off to a good start: it can only be described as bland. It’s easy to find rivals that look more cute, more chic or more distinctive. You need to buy the most expensive 3-trimmed model to get standard alloy wheels, while the cheapest model misses out on the colour-coded door handles, tinted rear windows and rear spoiler that come on every other model.
Step inside a Mirage and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you had gone back in time. The plastics and switchgear look like they’ve been lifted straight from a late-‘90s supermini and nothing feels particularly well screwed together. While the dials are clear and easy to read, they look cheap and flimsy compared to what you’ll find in the Mirage’s key rivals – and it’s the same story on the centre console. The seats are also unacceptably hard and uncomfortable, too, and there’s no height adjustment on the driver’s seat on the most basic trim. Mind you, even on models with a height-adjustable seat, the range of adjustment is limited, while the steering wheel adjusts only for reach and the chunky rear pillars can restrict your rear three-quarter view.
There are two engines available with the Mirage, but we’ve only driven the more powerful of the two three-cylinder petrol units, the 79bhp 1.2-litre, which is only available with the upper two trim levels. It’s undeniably clean and economical, but it’s also very noisy and you have to keep working the vague gearbox to keep it on the boil. At least it performs reasonably well when you do that.
One of the Mirage’s saving graces is the generous amount of space on offer. As well as there being decent room up front, there is plenty of room in the back for two adults, and three children could fit with little or no trouble at all. What’s more, the five-door layout also means that it’s easy to get in and out. The boot is also reasonably large, capable of swallowing 235 litres of luggage, which is among the class-leaders.
According to figures from Warranty Direct, Mitsubishi cars are about average when it comes to reliability. However, it’s more encouraging to see that the Mirage’s predecessor, the Colt, has been very reliable; and, the Mirage has a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, including three years’ pan-European breakdown and recovery service.
Ride and handling
Despite the Mirage’s low weight, it never feels nimble or sharp. The controls lack any semblance of crispness and the large steering wheel makes manoeuvring the car more difficult. To make matters worse, the car rolls and lurches through sharp direction changes, which – combined with a ride that gets worse as the speed rises – means it gets nowhere near the class-leaders in terms of dynamic entertainment or capability.
The Mirage looks a cheap car on the face of it, but look more closely and you realise that you need to buy one of the higher trims to get decent equipment – which is when the car’s financial advantages over its rivals start to diminish. On the other hand, every model averages well over 60mpg and none has CO2 emissions of more than 100g/km, which keeps fuel and tax bills down. The only area where the Mirage is notably beaten by its rivals is in insurance, as many other city cars are in much lower groups.
Every model in the range has the same list of safety features – and it’s a very comprehensive one. As well as anti-lock brakes and stability/traction control, the standard kit includes twin front, side and curtain airbags, and ISOFIX child seat mountings on the rear seats. However, the car is yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, so we have no independent assessment of the car’s safety.
The low emissions and good fuel economy of the Mirage look attractive, and the standard safety kit is impressive, but you’ll have to be willing to put up with some major weaknesses if you want to buy and live with a Mirage.