Cheap and cheerful
Here’s one for beginners at the affordable end of the market
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.
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.
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.