Bye-bye outdated Colt, hello fuel-sipping new Mirage. Mitsubishi’s new five-door only supermini is the most aerodynamic car in its class, but is a slippery shape all the Mirage has going for it? We drove the top-spec Mirage 3 to see if class honours remain an unobtainable oasis on the horizon…
Does the Mitsubishi Mirage cut through the air like its French fighter jet namesake?
The slim front grilles, over-size roof spoiler and slab-sided flanks all contribute to the Mirage’s 0.27Cd drag coefficient. It might sound like the sort of silly USP that did for Saab, but decent aero should make the Mirage efficient, quiet, and stable at speed. It doesn’t do the front-end styling a huge favour (there’s an unfortunate ‘Nissan Micra’s nice-but-dim brother’ look about the face) and the whole car loots a tad under-wheeled, even on the 14in alloys on the ‘3’ model.
Do you feel the benefits of that boxy shape inside?
Do you ever. The front quarters offer decent space, but it’s the rear where the Mirage really plays its trump card. The featureless rear bench seat offers good headroom and plenty of room for a six-foot plus passenger behind a similarly lanky driver. The catch is a meagre boot: at 235 litres, it’s 16 litres smaller than the Up/Citigo/Mii.
The dashboard certainly looks and feels more premium than the Toyota Aygo/Citroen C1/Peugeot 107 trio, and so it should – the once-commendable PSA trio is knocking on now, with the cheap and once-funky cabin really betraying the years. Of course, our test Mirage (the 3 model with glossy ‘piano black’ dash, climate control and leather steering wheel and gearknob) makes the best impression a Mirage could, so watch out for lower rent trim in cheaper models. This range-topper also gets keyless go, electric windows and parking sensors.
Is the Mirage any good to drive?
It might share a name with a military jet but the Mirage is no laser-guided weapon to drive. Worst is the steering: it’s too light, and very slow, at 3.2 turns lock-to-lock. At least the steering does afford the Mirage another class victory: tightest turning circle in its class, at 4.6m. Such slow, mute steering anesthetizes the car: it feels lazy in town where it should be spritely and nippy. It’s reason enough for even moderately keen drivers to throw their money at the VW Group’s VW Up/Skoda Citigo/Seat Mii instead.
The 1.2-litre engine makes all the right lusty three-pot noises, and has a decent slug of power: its 79bhp and 78lb ft outstrips the most powerful VW Up and Citroen C1. It adds a much-needed dollop of character to the Mirage, where a droning four-pot would’ve nailed its coffin shut.
Ticking off the other dynamic disappointments: the clutch pedal action is too light and short to easily moderate city-creep driving, using the handbrake lever feels like you’ve reached down and clicked a biro, and the squidgy ride means the Mirage leans over like a windsurfer trying to regain its balance. The VW triplets nuke the Mirage, and even the dated PSA trio feel more chuckable, stable and fun, though their gearshifts are baggier than the Mirage’s fairly tight ‘box.
What’s the cost?
The Mirage starts from a pound under £9000 for the entry-level 1.0-litre model: a Hyundai i10 is £8345, a Kia Picanto cheaper still at £8045 for its 1.0-litre version. Our Mirage 3 test car weighs in at £11,999: more expensive than its Korean rivals again and the top-dog £11,275 VW High Up. However, for Mirage-comparable passenger space you’d be looking at a VW Polo - £13,920 in equivalent spec.
It’s worth remembering that opting for the Mirage 3 means you don’t dodge road tax: it produces 100g/km of CO2, while all other versions score 96g/km. The official economy claim is 65.7mpg: our test car hovered in the high 40s, with a best of 49.3mpg. The Mirage encourages you to save fuel with its eco-meter in the instrument binnacle, which adds green bars when you're cruising and an angry orange blob if throttle pedal meets bulkhead.
Likeable as the Mirage’s thrummy engine, generous equipment and spacious cabin is, it’s too below-par to drive and noisy at speed to recommend in a class that contains the VW Up and its brethren, and it feels the heat too from the better-value Korean opposition. We’re spoiled with the capabilities of even the most basic city cars these days, and in such a competitive market, low aerodynamic drag figures aren’t enough for the Mitsubishi to topple the deserved class-leaders.