No surprises from Mitsubishi, with its latest bargain basement Mirage
It is an inescapable fact that some new car buyers just want a cheap motorcar and, suggests Iain Robertson, with Suzuki having withdrawn its ‘not so green’ Celerio from UK retail sale, the £10.5k Mitsu (top version just over £14k) is unrivalled.
Actually, the Mirage is not strictly the only flag-bearer in the low-cost segment but, as the Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10 continue to reach ever more upwards and there is no denying their appeal, perhaps it is only the Romanian Dacia that offers a larger but not necessarily better value package. At this end of the new car scene, price IS everything, even though it can be chivvied along by a decent equipment level.
The market for tiddlers, which includes those models that have matured from their original Far Eastern ‘kei-class’ roots, is surprisingly well defined. Pensioners are a clear target but so too are the ‘yummy-mummies’, where the realities of high vehicle operational costs are a key consideration. Yet, the ‘stoodent’ market, consisting especially of parents not stashing their nearest and dearest into the confines of an aging Fiesta, Corsa, or Polo, is also core to the uptake rate.
While Mitsubishi possesses a moderate reputation for dependability and structural integrity, it is a brand on a downwards slide not helped by an increasingly poor corporate stance. Its parent corporation, which has been, at various times during its history, the world’s largest, has never really understood its troublesome little car company, despite it having endured over a century of historical relevance. It is a factor that has never aided its cause and, since Mitsubishi Motors became part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, its position has seldom seemed shakier.
Ironically, despite needing an ‘entry-level’ model in its UK line-up, the Mirage, which used to be Skoda Fabia sized, has not exactly been the most-revered carrier of Mitsubishi’s Three Red Diamonds. Its dealers have treated it as a ‘chuckaway’ vehicle, not worthy of a place in their showrooms and not even a half-decent discussion starter. Needless to say, the UK distributor (based in Cirencester) would attempt to ‘stuff’ its dealers with a mix of the previous generation of Mirages, not without receiving considerable resistance, even anger.
While a comprehensive change of model may have been demanded, strapped for development cash Mitsubishi has been forced into creating a better version of the older model instead. It is not entirely satisfactory but the changes have been extensive and more than enough to warrant calling it an entirely new car…although peering closely does reveal the truth.
In a nutshell, the new Mirage gains sharper, more dynamic exterior styling, complete with the corporate ‘Dynamic Shield’ family grille and front bumper. Its interior benefits from a judicious restyle, in the hope of making it more elegant and it is helped by higher equipment levels. Glitzy new headlights (dependent on trim level, also available with LED daytime running lights and headlamp units) are allied to the chunky new bumpers that broaden its stance and give it a less flimsy appearance.
Mirage’s rear end is also given the wider restyle and greater presence, thanks to the squared-off treatment of the bumper corners and all-new LED combination tail-light clusters. New 15.0-inch diameter alloy wheels (14.0-inch standard), which still make the car look top-heavy and topply, are available with two-tone diamond-cut styling, and are set off by two new exterior colour choices: White Diamond and Sand Yellow, which will help with increasing showroom appeal
Once inside the new Mirage, you can see where the money has been spent, as the detailing is far more user-friendly and stylish. The new door cards and switch panels, complete with new high-contrast instrument dials and smarter new upholstery, are contributory to raising the image of the sub-compact hatch model. Connectivity has been enhanced with the inclusion of Mitsubishi’s Smartphone Display Audio (SDA) system (as fitted to the Eclipse Cross model), with a 6.5-inch touchscreen located at the top of the centre stack, for much improved legibility and operational ease. The SDA system also provides full smartphone connectivity, including Bluetooth hands-free calling, as well as both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto linkups to users’ mobile devices. I also like the fact that satellite navigation is incorporated.
Beneath its bonnet, the latest Mirage continues to be powered by the well-proven 80bhp, 1.2-litre, three-cylinder MIVEC petrol engine. However, Mitsubishi has seen fit to revise it for improved fuel economy (up to 56.5mpg) and exhaust emissions (113-127g/km CO2). No surprise for the class, a sweet enough five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a CVT automatic option on either Design or First Edition versions. Personally, I prefer the manual.
Three trim levels are available, from the entry-level Verve (£10,550), mid-range Design (£12,495) and high specification but limited number First Edition (£14,035). Both of the latter models can be ordered with the CVT gearless system for an extra £825. Standard equipment includes remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, rear spoiler, air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver’s seat and Bluetooth connectivity, including music streaming. The Design level factors in the black and silver alloys, keyless entry and push-button start/stop, the SDA touchscreen, fake leather and fabric seats, height adjustable passenger’s seat, front grille with red accent, rear privacy glass, electric folding door mirrors and a leather-trimmed gear knob.
The First Edition variant adds an array of safety and luxury equipment including Forward Collision Mitigation system (FCM), LED headlights and DRLs, front grille with chrome accent, rear parking sensors, cruise control, heated front seats, climate control, front fog lights and First Edition badging. As a useful cost management aid, a choice of three, or five years, all-inclusive and transferable servicing plans are available from £425 to £875. Mitsubishi has also worked hard to reduce the insurance ratings on the Mirage, which now range from 14D to 18D dependent on trim. To be fair to Mitsubishi, Mirage is a face-saving model. With the dealers being hit by reduced demand in some areas for the Outlander PHEV and still no signs of a replacement for the aged Shogun, any extra sales volume could come from the Mirage, if they can get over their prejudices.
Conclusion: If the budget is tight but you still desire a new car, a Mitsubishi Mirage has modest potential. Its driving experience is fine, if lacking in inspiration, but it is not a bad package overall.