Gareth Butterfield spends a week in the Mitsubishi Mirage Juro
I’VE read a lot of reviews of the Mitsubishi Mirage Juro and many of them have been quite unkind. In fact, one reviewer recommended: “You should avoid it at all costs”. Surely it can’t be that bad? I’ve just had one delivered, a top-spec version in white and, to be honest, it looks smart.
It’s got a handsome front end and it sits a little high at the back, but its bulbous protrusions give it a modern stance. What lets it down is its tiny wheels. They look a little out of proportion in this day and age.
Inside it’s smart and fairly comfortable. The door shuts with a fairly cheap and metallic clang and nothing feels particularly expensive, but I’ve honestly sat in worse.
Fundamentally, I’ve got an automatic gearbox, heated leather seats and plenty of buttons and switches to play with for a week. It really doesn’t seem that bad.
THE Mirage has a brilliant little engine. It’s quite harsh and resonates in the cabin a bit too much, but it’s so eager and peppy, it gives the car a real character. It marries up well with the CVT gearbox, too. I don’t usually like these in a car but the 1.2-litre, three cylinder engine only spits out 79bhp so it never feels overworked, like they do in a Toyota Prius, for example.
I say “only” 79bhp but one thing I’ve quickly noticed is that the Mirage is very light. I scoffed at the small 15″ wheels yesterday, but actually anything bigger would be silly. This is a car from the old school, in a sense. Bigger wheels would add weight and affect the ride which, incidentally, is a bit bouncy, but quite good.
I’m also liking the interior layout. It’s simple and well thought out. This car is an evolution of several small cars that Mitsubishi has peddled before it and it’s often said that they’re best at producing big mud-pluggers, but this is the best-designed small car I’ve sat in from the Japanese firm.
THE array of standard kit you get in the Mitsubishi Mirage is brilliant. I’ve got automatic air conditioning, automatic headlamps and wipers, a leather steering wheel and gearknob, keyless entry, heated front seats, cruise control, front fog lamps, powered folding mirrors, parking sensors and a DAB stereo system with Bluetooth compatibility.
The leather seats in my test model cost an extra £1,000 and that gearbox is a £1,000 extra. There’s a lot to play with and it all works very well.
It’s fairly roomy too. The back seats are OK for a couple of adults and they split 60/40. Boot space isn’t at all bad at 235-litres and in-cabin storage consists of three cup holders, pockets in the front door, a deep storage tray at the base of the centre stack and a reasonably sized glove box with a small tray above it.
THE Mirage Juro, as I’ve said before, has absolutely bags of character and, although it’s not fast and it pitches and wallows instead of cornering flat, it’s quite fun to drive. Those small wheels and the bouncy suspension make it handle in an old-school sort of way. It reminds me of my first car, it’s quite endearing listening to that oh-so-eager engine singing away as you progress.
In fact, I’ve realised today what the Mitsubishi Mirage Juro reminds me of. It’s like an excitable puppy. From the minute you start it, it’s yapping at your heels. Prod the accelerator and it doesn’t exactly headbutt the horizon, but it leaps into action, always feeling like it’s itching to get the journey underway and always eager.
The interesting thing is, though, as much as its enthusiastic nature wills you to press on, it’s not as if you’ll ever be driving so fast you’ll make your passengers ill or you’ll break the speed limit. It’s not a fast car, obviously, but it’s fun and feisty at any speed.
Speaking of which, it’s quite astonishing how economical the Mirage is proving to be. Mitsubishi says it will manage 65mpg and I’m nudging 60mpg most of the time. That’s really impressive, given how much I’m being egged on by what is essentially the automotive equivalent of Scrappy Doo.
I’VE done a few long journeys in the Mirage and I’m finding it really hard to dislike it. Yes, it’s a bit flimsy and the driving position could be more comfortable and the stereo is a bit tinny, but it’s just so nippy and charming.
The wife is borrowing it for an 80-mile run to a business trip today and she came back gushing about it. We both agree that, for a cheap, small car, it ticks all the boxes remarkably well. There’s a few obvious contenders which do things better but it’s really not a bad package, especially with all the gadgets you get thrown in.
“How much do they cost?” asks Mrs B as she gives me the keys back. “Oh, that’s a point, I haven’t even looked yet,” I replied. I had a quick gander on Google and my heart sank. My version, with its leather seats and automatic gearbox is£13,499. I genuinely thought, or at least hoped, I was falling for a sub-£10,000 car.
The famously cheap Dacia Sandero can be had for a lot less than half that money and, even a fully-loaded one only just breaches the £10,000 mark.
Even an MG3 – which is a car I think feels quite similar to the Mirage – weighs in at less than £12,000 with all its boxes ticked.
In fact, and here’s its biggest problem, a basic Ford Fiesta can be had for the same money as a top-spec Mirage. And, I’ve got to be honest, the Fiesta is a much better car. Drive the two back to back and you’ll have some idea of what those reviewers who panned the Mitsubishi were on about.
THE Mirage Juro goes back tomorrow and I’m really torn. On one hand I love it. I love its back-to-basics, exuberant personality and the fact it feels like an over-confident puppy squaring up to a Doberman. I like the fact that it has so many gadgets thrown in, more than is actually available on a lot of small cars.
But then I look at the likes of the Toyota Aygo and the Kia Picanto and I question whether I’d actually be able to justify the extra cost.
I guess one thing it does have to its advantage is exclusivity. Possibly because it’s been panned by the motoring press, it’s hardly a familiar sight on the roads. I genuinely think it’s been given a raw deal. It’s nowhere near as bad as some of the reviews make it out to be. In fact, I think it’s actually pretty decent.
But not only are its rivals cheaper, in some cases they’re better cars. And that’s the Mirage’s biggest downfall.