Thrifty and nifty
It’s an anonymous-looking surprise packet — and it’s one of the best sedans $14,490 can buy
MEET Australia’s cheapest sedan from a mainstream brand, the new Mitsubishi Mirage.
Its boot is almost as big as a Holden Commodore’s and, thanks to a super-frugal threecylinder engine, it’s almost as miserly as a Toyota Prius hybrid.
It’s not the prettiest but chances are that buyers’ eyes will be more keenly focused on how much money they’re saving.
The starting price of $14,490 plus on-road costs (typically adding $2000-$2500 at this end of the market) undercuts the Honda City by $1500 and the Nissan Almera by $2500.
Automatic adds $2000 and metallic paint $495 but these prices also apply to most rivals (auto in the Honda adds $2500).
The Mirage sedan is not only one of the cheapest cars to buy but it’s also one of the cheapest to run, with servicing costs about half as much as rivals, and a fuel bill that comfortably undercuts both.
Cheap it might be but it’s certainly not nasty. The usual mod cons such as six airbags and aircon are there but so is Bluetooth audio streaming. The dearer of the two models comes with a remote sensor key and push-button start.
How does Mitsubishi provide this much gear for such a low price? As with most cars in this category, the sedan comes from Thailand, with whom we have a free-trade agreement.
So the Mirage lands here without the 5 per cent import tariff and the exchange rate is favourable, too.
These significant head starts apart, the price of the Mirage is still super sharp — the Honda and Nissan also come from Thailand and receive the same financial leg-up.
Sure, the little Mirage isn’t as large as a big Aussie sedans but with its roomy cabin, big boot and frugal motoring it suits the needs of an ageing population.
Indeed, the people who helped drive the sales success of locally made Holdens and Fords in the 1980s and 1990s are now approaching the Mirage sedan stage of their lives, whether they are ready to accept it or not.
Mitsubishi has taken the lessons from the Mirage hatch released six months ago and made worthwhile refinements.
The three-cylinder engine feels smoother and the automatic transmission less whiny in the sedan than in the hatch. Extra noise deadening has made the whole experience quieter too.
Mitsubishi also wisely revised the steering and suspension. The sedan drives a lot better than the hatch, thanks to its larger footprint.
To reduce the “slip” sensation when accelerating, the constantly variable transmission has a smaller torque converter, new ratios and new gear shift control calibration.
Noise and vibration are suppressed thanks to a third mount on top of the engine.
Do you think the sedan’s bum looks big in these photos? That’s because it is. Small sedans are popular family cars across Asia and boot space is a key requirement.
The Mirage stacks up pretty well with 450L of boot space (the Holden Commodore has 496L) but can’t match the Almera (490L) and City (536L).
Inside the roomy cabin, allround vision is good thanks to the large window area, and wide-view mirrors on both sides to provide a much better view of traffic in the blind spot over your shoulder.
Finishing touches: Mitsubishi fits alloy wheels (when most rivals come with plastic wheel covers), a chrome grille and front fog-lights to spruce up the sedan’s appearance.
Six airbags, stability control and a strong body structure contribute to the five-star safety rating. There are adjustable head rests and three-point lap-sash belts in all five seats.
A rear camera is standard on the Honda City (a class first) but the Mirage sedan does not even get rear parking sensors; these are a $300 dealer-fit option (make sure to get the genuine accessory, not an aftermarket item).
This cut-price, anonymouslooking, three-cylinder sedan is one of the biggest surprises of
the year for me. Its $14,490 tag makes it all the more remarkable. It resets the benchmark in this most affordable end of the market.
Why is it so good? Mitsubishi has used the lessons learned from the hatchback it released six months ago, and made numerous necessary improvements. Never before have two versions of the same car differed so much (now for Mitsubishi to make the same upgrades to the hatch).
The steering is easy, light and yet direct. The turning circle is among the smallest of any new car (9.6 metres), making it a cinch to manoeuvre in car parks and tricky situations.
The suspension is comfortable over bumps yet the car feels stable, and the driver confident, in corners.
Even now it is not easy to design suspension that is comfortable in a straight line and agile around corners. The Mirage sedan aces both.
The brakes have a reassuring feel and all controls are well placed and easy to see and use.
The tiny three-cylinder sedan suits those with a more relaxed attitude to driving. It’s more than capable of city and suburban commuting.
It’s so easy and comfortable I would happily drive it around Australia — if it had cruise control (which is being readied for an update, so maybe I should be careful what I wish for).
Areas of improvement? The Bluetooth works well but is a nuisance to connect initially.
As with most cars in this class, the only way to open the boot is via the remote key or a tab near the driver’s seat (there is no release lever on the boot). Rear vision is good but parking sensors would be handy.
The best sedan this amount of money can buy.
Plain to view, frugal to boot: The Mirage sedan has luggage capacity to rival a Commodore