Cheap and cheer­ful

Here’s one for be­gin­ners at the af­ford­able end of the mar­ket

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRAHAM SMITH grah.smith@big­pond.com

NEW

IN a pre­vi­ous life, the Mi­rage badge was at­tached to a short­ened ver­sion of the Lancer. It adorned a new model when Mit­subishi re­turned it to the mar­ket in 2013.

Even in the new guise, it re­mained true to its roots. It was still a tiny car aimed at young driv­ers, or those whose bud­get might steer them to a used ve­hi­cle.

There was no ques­tion about it, the Mi­rage was small, fit­ting into the cat­e­gory dubbed “light”, smaller than what we nor­mally call small cars.

The new Mi­rage be­gan life as a prac­ti­cal five-door hatch but a four-door sedan was added to the choices in 2014. The vari­ants were ES, Sport and LS.

In­side, the cabin was quite roomy given the small size of the Mi­rage, with a high seat­ing po­si­tion that con­trib­uted to the feel­ing of roomi­ness.

The ma­te­ri­als used in­side were typ­i­cally hard and un­wel­com­ing, giv­ing it a cheap-and-cheer­ful am­bi­ence. It didn’t have ev­ery fea­ture you might have wanted but had most.

All mod­els had power steer­ing, airconditioning, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity and power win­dows and mir­rors. Im­por­tantly all had five safety stars from ANCAP due to the six airbags and a host of elec­tronic sys­tems.

Power was pro­vided by a three-cylin­der en­gine, which was smooth, although it be­came a lit­tle noisy at higher revs. You could have had a fivespeed man­ual gear­box but most went for the au­to­matic op­tion, in this case a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion.

On the road the Mi­rage felt smooth and com­fort­able, its sus­pen­sion dealt with bumps and pot­holes with­out con­cern and the en­gine pro­pelled the tiny car with sur­pris­ing zest.

NOW

The Mi­rage is just two years old and no sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems are show­ing up.

At this age it’s a pretty good time to think about buy­ing a used ex­am­ple, the first slug of de­pre­ci­a­tion hav­ing passed and the re­main­ing war­ranty giv­ing a sense of se­cu­rity.

The Mi­rage was sold with Mit­subishi’s five-year/ 100,000km war­ranty, so there’s about three years or 60,000km cov­er­age to go.

Be mind­ful, how­ever, that the Mi­rage is at the poverty end of the mar­ket, some­times bought by peo­ple who can’t af­ford to main­tain it prop­erly, so make sure it’s been ser­viced.

Also, be mind­ful that it’s a car of­ten bought by young peo­ple, or by par­ents for rookie driv­ers, who learn by bump­ing along the road as they gather ex­pe­ri­ence.

Thor­oughly check any car you’re con­sid­er­ing buy­ing, look­ing for dings and scratches that might sug­gest con­tact with the scenery or other mov­ing ob­jects.

Given that most peo­ple would buy the CVT, it’s im­por­tant to test-drive the car to make sure you’re happy with the way the trans­mis­sion works. It is not a con­ven­tional au­to­matic of the sort we’ve been used to for the past 50 years or so, it’s a clever new bit of kit that drives quite dif­fer­ently and can be off-putting if you’re not pre­pared for it.

The CVT is de­signed to main­tain a con­stant en­gine speed by vary­ing the trans­mis­sion ra­tio. The en­gine speed stays rel­a­tively con­stant, al­low­ing it to achieve op­ti­mum fuel econ­omy. It just feels a bit weird.

When you’re test-driv­ing a car with a CVT, check for any shud­der­ing, vi­bra­tion or surg­ing.

Walk away if you find any sign of a fault.

There are a cou­ple of re­calls to be aware of. One re­lated to in­suf­fi­cient wa­ter­proof­ing of sen­sors that could cause false warn­ings to ap­pear on the dash­board, or in the ex­treme could af­fect brak­ing and steer­ing. Another re­lated to the weld­ing of the fuel filler pipe in pro­duc­tion, which could break. Yet another re­lated to air left in the brake lines that could af­fect the op­er­a­tion of the sta­bil­ity con­trol, a cru­cial safety fea­ture.

OWN­ERS SAY

Ni­cholas Power: I’m en­joy­ing driv­ing my ES with the CVT but I have a few com­plaints, such as the lack of ba­sic fea­tures like an arm­rest and light­ing for the switches on the driver’s door — I have to fum­ble around in the dark to find the but­ton I want.

Diane Page: Mine is a truly great car. It’s com­fort­able and easy to drive. The en­gine and CVT are noisy when you take off at the lights.

Bob Miller: My ES CVT ac­com­mo­dates two adults com­fort­ably, the boot is quite large and it per­forms well. I love it.

Martin Bran­ton: I use my Mi­rage man­ual for ev­ery­day com­mut­ing. It per­forms well, isn’t noisy and I find the in­te­rior is well laid-out as well as com­fort­able.

SMITHY SAYS ★★★1/2

Ap­peal­ing small car for city com­muters or rookie driv­ers.

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