There’s a buzz here
Mirage is billed as Australia’s most affordable five-star car. It doesn’t get any cheaper than this so don’t expect much. ES manual is from $12,250 or the auto is $15,990 drive-away. (The better equipped LS with auto is $15,250 or, for now, $16,990 drive-away.) The ES comes with aircon, cloth trim, 14-inch steel wheels, spacesaver spare, Bluetooth phone and audio with voice control and two-speaker audio with steering wheel audio and phone controls plus remote inputs. The LS adds larger alloys, fog lights, cruise control and an extra pair of speakers. The warranty is five years/ 100,000km and there is five-year roadside assist. Servicing is $660 for three years.
Typically of three-cylinder engines, there is coarseness from being unbalanced and so plenty of noise and vibration, particularly at idle and under hard acceleration. The velourtrimmed seats are reasonably comfortable. There’s enough room in the rear for at least two adults but the seats are small and designed mainly for short trips. The steering wheel lacks reach adjustment though the driver’s seat adjusts for height.
The Mirage was among the first of the tiny hatches to get ANCAP’s five stars for safety. It has six airbags, a full suite of driver aids but lacks a rear-view camera. Hill start assist is now standard on the manual. ANCAP says there is a slight risk of serious chest injury for the driver and passenger in frontal offset crashes and a slight risk of serious leg injury for the driver. It scored well in side impact and pole tests.
A city car designed for short trips and economy, the Mirage is the proverbial Japanese buzz box. Peak torque arrives at 4000rpm and you need to rev the engine reasonably hard to get there. Once you’re up and running it’s not bad but it doesn’t like to be hurried through corners. Steering is good but the skinny wheels and tyres provide tenuous grip. On the motorway however the car is surprisingly quiet and smooth and keeps up easily with the traffic flow. The CVT works well, with a setting that provides downhill engine braking. Fuel economy is claimed at 4.6L/100km for the manual (4.9L auto). On test, the Mirage averaged 5.7L over 300km. The base model misses out on cruise control, which is a must for anyone using it as a commuter and clocking up high kilometres. It was difficult to pair the phone using the voice control — until we changed the default rolling pin number to a fixed four zeros, then the phone hooked up straight away. There’s a boot release inside the cabin but to open the boot from the rear requires the key. It’s the least powerful of the group and its crash score is the kiss of death in today’s market. Four stars for safety. Thirst: 4.7L-4.8L/100km. Spark gets five stars and the advantage of a more powerful four-cylinder engine. The drive experience is much better as a result. Five-star safety. Thirst is 5.2L-5.5L. You’ll be lucky to find any Micras left because Nissan rationalised its range and pulled the plug on the car. Four safety stars. Thirst: 5.9L-6.5L.
It fills a need, just not mine. The car will appeal to those seeking cheap transport as well as to parents wanting to put their daughters into something cheap and safe. Their sons probably won’t have a bar of it.