Motoring writers and enthusiasts have not warmed up much to the Mitsubishi Mirage, knocking it for poor driving dynamics and lackadaisical performance. But despite this, it has been a hit with economy buyers. With a lot to offer for the money—at least locally—the mini-Mitsubishi has forced other players to adapt or die.
More refined cars like the Kia Picanto and the Hyundai Grand i10 have struggled to compete on price, while cheaper cars have struggled to match it on space and specs. But with the Celerio now boasting Mirage-rivaling space, can the face-lifted Mirage still retain its market lead?
First impressions are good. The recent facelift boasts a new grille and sharper front-end sheet metal than the blobby old car. The interior is still a sea of hard black plastic, but ambience goes up a notch with the inclusion of the touchscreen head unit from the GLS.
The seats are comfortable on long drives, if a bit lacking in thigh and lumbar support. Legroom is still better than in most small cars, beating even the upsized Celerio. While taller rear passengers will find the roof a bit low, generously reclined seatbacks make for good long distance comfort.
The driving position is still on the low side, but it can be adjusted for rake. The five-speed gearbox still suffers from a vague clutch biting point and floppy shift quality, but it proves quick and stress-free to use. Unfortunately, also unchanged is the weight- and cost-saving dual engine-mount setup, which leaves the Mirage more prone to shuddering under load than the Celerio.
The 3A92 three-cylinder engine itself, however, is still a champ. While lacking in low-end torque compared to other 1.2- and 1.3-liter units, MIVEC valve trickery and optimized breathing give it some high-rev zing and the ability to do 26km/L at 80kph. Going over 3,000rpm at 100kph, it still pips the 20km/L mark, making it a viable long distance cruiser.
The old GLX wasn’t quite suited to the open road, plagued by a bouncy ride, wooly steering, and poor tracking over ruts. Stiffer springs now eliminate the boat-like wallowing, while a recalibrated steering rack makes for more precision and quicker turn-in. That said, the steering is a bit too flighty, and at full-blast, body roll in corners is still severe. Even in sedate driving, the tires are noisy, and the Mirage can feel rattly over potholes. Add in a cheap-sounding horn and a flimsy tonneau cover, and it’s obvious where Mitsubishi has cut corners to get the price down.
That said, the cost and weight savings result in an astonishingly light car that seats five and aces global crashworthiness requirements. The lightness and the tiny engine pay dividends as well, in terms of running and maintenance costs. And the finger-twirl steering, along with the ample engine grunt, makes it feel much zippier than most small cars through traffic. It’s hard to find this much space and equipment elsewhere at this price—but Suzuki just might have something to say about that.
SPECS: Mitsubishi Mirage
Engine: 1.2-liter DOHC I3
Power: 77hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 100Nm @ 4,000rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
UP NEXT: Suzuki Celerio