There’s a buzz here

The Advertiser - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE -


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.

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