By Jonathan Crouch
Mitsubishi's little Mirage is a rational but surprisingly appealing five-door petrol-powered citycar that revitalised its proposition in this improved post-2015-era form. Passenger space, safety and efficiency are all strong selling points but the high equipment levels are probably what you'll remember most about it. It's not the most dynamic choice you could make in this segment from the 2016-2021 era, but in all other respects, we think it's well worth a look.
Small cars are designed for people who want motoring conducted on a very small operating budget. But that doesn't necessarily mean that buyers of this sort are looking for a budget feel. Some want their sense and sensibility with a bit of style - and maybe a little of the luxury that they've been used to when owning larger cars in the past. It's at these people that Mitsubishi targeted this model, the updated post-2015-era version of their Mirage citycar.
You haven't heard of it? Then you're not alone. Which in period was disappointing for Mitsubishi since when it turns its hand to compact little cars, this Japanese brand tends to do them rather well. Not that this happens very often. Prior to this Mirage model's original arrival here in the Spring of 2013, you have to look as far back as 2004 to find the last time this manufacturer brought an all new design into the small car sector - and that under-rated Colt model was more of a Fiesta-sized supermini. This Mirage represented Mitsubishi's first stab at the more affordable citycar segment for slightly smaller runabouts, one dominated in this period by models like the Volkswagen up!, the Peugeot 108 and the Fiat Panda.
The early 2013-2015-era version of this Mirage struggled to make much of an impact, not because it was a bad car but more because of slightly muddled market positioning. The Mirage wasn't really priced low enough to interest hair shirt budget citycar customers wanting something really cheap, people buying models like Suzuki's Celerio or bargain basement products from Dacia or MG. Nor did it feel plush and sophisticated enough to interest folk prepared to pay premium prices for upper-spec versions of cars in this segment. A bit of a re-think was needed. A bit of a re-think took place. And in 2016, Mitsubishi re-launched the car, initially only in plush 'Juro' form.
That 'Juro' version came equipped with the kind of features you simply wouldn't expect for a car of this kind - things like heated seats, power-folding mirrors, cruise control, Bi-Xenon headlights, a DAB radio and much more. But Mitsubishi couldn't make it pay and the 'Juro' disappeared from Mirage price lists in 2018, to be replaced by a lightly updated range featuring models that generally were less plushly trimmed. These had to return to an emphasis on attributes that the original version of this model had always had but that previously, no one really took much notice of. Things like the frugal 1.2-litre three cylinder engine, the strong standards of safety and, perhaps best of all, the class-leadingly light body weight that drives down running costs. The Mirage sold in this form until Mitsubishi pulled out of the UK market at the end of 2021.
What You Get
Even if you didn't know that the Mitsubishi design team had set out to style the most aerodynamic small car you can buy, you might guess the fact from a look at this Mirage. Everything about the shape - the front grille with its minimal opening, the wind-cheating front bumper, the deeply sculpted sides - all of it's there to optimise a slippery airflow, and though the result certainly isn't the most distinctive look in the citycar sector from the 2016-2021 era, it's one that effectively achieves its objectives, with a 0.27Cd drag co-efficient that embarrasses boxier rivals.
And inside? Well it was upgraded in post-2015-era Mirage models, particularly with the plush 'Juro'-spec models that feature classy piano-black trimming and black leather upholstery. There's also plenty of storage space, plus Bluetooth connectivity with music streaming, a USB slot, an aux-in point and a DAB radio. Other rare features to find in this sector at an affordable price from this period include heated seats and climate control for the air conditioning.
On the back seat, things are just as they were with the original version of this design, save for the classier upholstery trim. There's a usefully low transmission tunnel, the low window line makes things feel light and airy and, as we said when we tested the earlier version of this car, the overall amount of space you get in the back is impressive given the diminutive exterior dimensions. And cargo space? Well fitting in larger items is slightly impeded by the high-ish loading lip and restricted hatch opening, but once you've got your stuff in and pushed forward the 60:40 split-folding rear bench, there's 600-litres of capacity if you load up to the window line and 910-litres of space if you're able to load up to the roof level. Not many cars in the class from this era can better that.
What to Look For
One of the main reasons you're probably looking at buying a second hand Mitsubishi Mirage is the expectation that it'll hardly ever go wrong. Our second hand survey amongst buyers bears this out. We really only came across one common complaint, namely that the front brake pads wear out far sooner than they should. Pay particular attention to this on your test drive. Many examples may have been very lightly used, so this may not be an issue, but it's something you have to look out for. As for the only other problems we came across, well one owner reported difficulties connecting in his 'phone using the Bluetooth system while another reported ESC stability Control issues. That was it. And of course, insist on a fully stamped-up service history.
(approx based on a 2018 Mirage 1.2 ex VAT) An oil filter is in the £4 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £25-£31 bracket. A front brake disc is around £50. A wiper blade is in the £10-£17 bracket. An air filter is around £10.
On the Road
There was only one engine choice, a 1.2-litre petrol unit. Mitsubishi didn't set out to make this Mirage an exciting car to drive but the engineers made a few suspension tweaks to this later version that'll make it feel happier than before at taking to the open road. As you'd expect though, this car's comfort zone is very much town-orientated. For typical citycar buyers, the fact that the driver's seat offers such a wide field of vision and that you can place this vehicle during parking manoeuvres more easily than most small runabouts we can think of from this era will be more than adequate compensation for the fact that it isn't designed to be driven on its door handles.
A key attribute of this design is its light weight; it's one of the only cars in the segment to tip the scales at under 850kgs. That helps the impressive fuel economy - 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and around 100g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures), whatever variant you choose. It also makes the car reasonably rapid by class standards: 62mph from rest occupies 11.7s en route to a class-leading top speed of 112mph. Those figures are for the manual model: there's also a CVT auto transmission option offered for urban-based folk.
This was truly a Mitsubishi of its time, efficient, comfortable, capable and exceedingly well appointed. In return for a reasonable price, you get a no-nonsense runabout that puts safety, reliability, economy and low emissions high on its CV and packs enough room to carry family and friends into the smallest possible roadway footprint.
Overall, if you've been with us throughout this review, you'll already know that this is a car we think makes a lot of sense. If we were looking to buy a new car as a second family runabout, we'd want it to be affordably priced, able to comfortably take three kids and their luggage in the back and regularly deliver frugal running costs. The fact that this Mirage can do all this while spoiling you a little in terms of its specification is enough to make it worth a lot more attention in this segment than it's likely to get. Thoughtful citycar buyers in search of a model from the 2016-2021 period ought to go and try one.