Mitsubishi takes on the mainstream superminis

Mitsubishi has always been a rather difficult manufacturer to sum up. Others have tended to have a conventional range that starts with a supermini, graduating to family hatchbacks and saloons. Niche models, if there were any, were added to this mainstream of mass-market models.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi, on the other hand, has let the mainstream slip in recent years, becoming better known for SUVs like the Mitsubishi Shogun (Pajero or Montero in some markets) and the crossover Mitsubishi ASX. The other (now historical) niche has been in the performance car sector with the wild Lancer Evo cars.

Now, it seems, Mitsubishi’s attention is turning back to the mainstream with the launch of the new Mitsubishi Mirage aimed at the supermini class.

Mitsubishi has clearly read the mood-of-the-moment and has pitched the Mirage at the budget end of the scale, aiming to appeal on low initial cost and low running costs. The result is a small compact hatchback aimed at buyers on a budget.

Prices for the Mirage start at £8,999 for the Mitsubishi Mirage 1 1.0. My test car was the £11,999 Mitsubishi Mirage 3 1.2 with the five-speed manual gearbox. The CVT auto-box version costs exactly £1,000 extra.

What you get for your money is crisp (if a tad anonymous) styling and a neat interior that is not likely to polarise opinion.

Notably with the Mirage you get five doors and, for such a small hatchback, remarkably space for rear-seat passengers. It was a fairly tight squeeze, but even with the front seat set in my normal long-leg driving position, I could slide reasonably easily into the back seat. Once past the side bolsters of the seat it was remarkably comfortable. Equally, the boot is much more usable size and shape than some in this class.

When you fire up the engine, it is immediately clear that power comes from three, not four cylinders. The off-beat thrum is quite obvious. It is not an unpleasant sound, but it is quite noticeable under power, quietening down quite well when you feather the throttle. However, it comes back at higher-rev cruising on dual carriageways and motorways, along with noticeable wind noise.

Like so many other new-generation three-cylinder petrol engines, the 1.2-litre unit in the test Mirage proved to be remarkably willing. A light touch on the throttle brings an immediate and eager response. With 80 bhp on tap, the 0-62 mph time is a respectable 11.7 seconds.

Mitsubishi Mirage interior

More important, however, for the target market is the economy. The combined fuel economy of the Mitsubishi Mirage 3 1.2 is 65.7 mpg. Interestingly, this is 1.6 mpg better than the smaller one-litre car. Even driving quite hard, I was easily returning 42 mpg on town and country driving.

The added bonus is that the whole Mirage range produce 100g/km or less and, therefore, qualify for free UK road tax and exemption from the London Congestion Charge. The test car’s figure is 100g/km, while the lowest, perhaps surprisingly, is for the top-of-the-range CVT auto-equipped Mitsubishi 3 1.2 with 95 g/km.

The suspension has clearly been set for comfort and it generally does a good job of soaking up the worst of our potholed roads. However, there is the occasional thump on manhole covers and bumps.

That soft suspension means there is a bit of body roll in the corners and that, combined with a lack of lateral support in the seats, tends to limit cornering exuberance. In any case, the steering feels light and a little lifeless, so this is not a car that you are likely to hustle along twisty B-roads.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi has come into this market with a competitive offering that should appeal to cost-conscious buyers. Not only are the purchase prices keen, but there is the added incentive of free road tax and good fuel economy.

With these credentials, the Mirage should re-establish Mitsubishi in the mainstream. But, with newcomers like the Volkswagen Up! – and its Skoda and Seat siblings – the new Mirage will face strong competition in the marketplace.

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