Mitsubishi MirageJames Batchelor

AOL Cars got the keys to Mitsubishi's new supermini months before it goes on sale. It's a crucial car for the firm – but is it any good?

What is it?
Quite simply it's the Mitsubishi Colt replacement – a car first released onto the UK market in 2004. But the Mirage is a little more than just a replacement; this is a car which has more conventional styling than the rather triangular-shaped Colt, and was designed from the outset to be as efficient and as economical as possible. It's the lightest, most aerodynamic and most fuel-efficient car in its class; it's expected to arrive in UK showrooms in April 2013.

What's under the bonnet?
Just two petrol engines are on offer: A new low-friction 1.0-litre and a 1.2-litre unit and each has three cylinders. We tried out the 1.0-litre unit which has 70bhp and a five-speed manual gearbox. It's a zippy and thrifty unit – a combined MPG figure of 67.3 is promised and the engine emits 96g/km of CO2. The larger 80bhp 1.2-litre unit will come with a manual or a CVT automatic gearbox. Unusually, it's the CVT version which has the higher combined MPG figure – a very respectable 68.9 – and it emits 95g/km of CO2.

What's the kit like?
Final trim specifications haven't been decided yet by Mitsubishi UK, but bosses promised us the basic Mirage's asking price "won't start with an eight" - so think late-£7,000s and you won't be wrong. It's expected the range will consist of three trim levels – and we drove the top-draw "3" model which has a leather steering wheel, air conditioning and heated front seats.

Mitsubishi MirageJames Batchelor


Any rivals?
Mitsubishi isn't targeting the best-selling Ford Fiesta or other volume superminis such as the Vauxhall Corsa or Volkswagen Polo, instead focussing on the more Japanese and Korean end of the B-segment. Rivals here include the Suzuki Splash, Kia Picanto and the Chevrolet Spark, but the closest competitor is probably the Nissan Micra.

Is it any good?
It's not too bad really. The majority of the interior plastics are perfectly acceptable – like most of its rivals – with the piano black centre console being attractively styled and intuitive to use. Boot space is a claimed 235 litres, and rear headroom is a little snug. Six-foot drivers will find plenty of space up front and the gear change is crisp. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre has a pleasant "thrum" to it but there's plenty of body roll in the corners. However, it's light, easy and pleasing to hustle along, thanks to a low kerb weight of just 845-865kg.

The AOL Cars verdict
We were rather impressed with the Mirage. We're not hugely won over by the looks – especially finished in the rather sudden shade of pea green – but the little Mitsubishi makes a strong case for itself. We think the firm is sensible in targeting rials from Japan and Korea as it's on par with – and, in may cases, superior to – them. We'd choose the Mirage over a Micra but take a Kia Picanto over it. However, the Korean is likely to be noticeably dearer than the Mirage, and with Mitsubishi saying they can sell as many as they want, we expect the Mirage to be a decent seller for Mitsubishi. It deserves to do well.

The knowledge
Model: Mitsubishi Mirage 3 1.2
Price: £11,000 approx.
Engine: 1.2-litre, petrol
Power: 80bhp, 106Nm
Max speed: 112mph
0-60mph: tbc
MPG (comb'd): 68.9
Emissions: 95g/km