MUCH is riding on the small shoulders of Mitsubishi's new Mirage.
The pint-sizer is carrying the sales burden of an aging Lancer fleet as the Japanese brand aims to reinforce its passenger market share.
The return of this little Thailand-built rocket may be just what the sales doctor ordered.
Priced well to garner attention from youngsters and penny-pinching over-50s, Mitsubishi has positioned its Mirage at the bargain end of the light-car spectrum.
Those who get in quick can get even better value for money. Orders before January 31 will get an option of a $1000 Westfield voucher or that figure off the price - dropping it to $11,990 drive-away.
Hard plastics highlight its market positioning. Like the vast majority of competitors in this realm you can tell the Mirage is built to a price, but the environment is inviting and easy on the eye.
Black and ivory two-tone dash and door trims are used across the range. It's designed to create a feeling of space, and the little hatch does feel roomy.
While the range-topping LS gets more features and a swanky black and purple seat trim, we wouldn't be disappointed with the basic polka-dot pattern in ES derivatives.
It's a basic set-up of dials and operations with no need for an explanation from the manual. The seats are flat but comfy, and head and leg room is reasonable front and back.
Those in the rear do have limited space, which can be improved if those in the front sacrifice some comfort.
On the road
Those shopping in this aisle want reliability, cheap and functional A to B transport - and the Mirage delivers.
A little 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine is under the bonnet, but it's only hauling 865kg.
Off the line is zesty enough to keep up with the traffic but the manual would be the pick for those who want better acceleration or tackle hilly terrain regularly.
Typical continuously variable transmission whine emanates from the automatic if you work it too hard, but this is one of the smoother CVTs we've sampled.
Its performance can be surprising, and the Mirage impressed in some twisty terrain and cruised easily and quietly at about 3000rpm at 100kmh.
Boasting a super tight turning circle, and light steering, it makes easy work of the urban jungle.
Mitsubishi has bolstered sound deadening materials in the rear to provide a quiet cabin, while the suspension copes well with bumps and lumps - although we didn't tackle many pot holes or poor surfaces on the test route.
What do you get?
Entry-level models come with a two-speaker CD player, USB and AUX input and Bluetooth with audio streaming, trip computer, as well as a three-spoke leather wrapped steering wheel that features phone and audio controls.
Sport models also gain 14-inch alloys and two additional speakers.
Step up into the range-topping LS and you gain auto lights and wipers, keyless entry with push button start, 15-inch alloys and climate-controlled air-conditioning.
Australian crash testing is still under way, but expect it to be highly rates courtesy of six SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and stability control.
This a challenging genre, the main rivals being the Holden Barina Spark ($12,490), Suzuki Alto GL ($11,790) and the Chery J1 ($9990), while for those with extra coin there is the Mazda2 Neo ($15,790), Nissan Micra ($13,490), Toyota Yaris ($14,990), Volkswagen up! 5D ($14,990), Kia Rio ($15,290) and Honda Jazz ($14,990).
The official fuel consumption figure is below five litres per 100km, although our brief test proved much thirstier. Capped price servicing and a five-year warranty are great peace of mind.
You can carry four adults, five at a pinch. The rear seats fold with a 60-40 split, and while the boot isn't massive it's reasonable for the size.
Three child seat points are available in the seat backs.
Boasting a fun personality with six colour options (blue and black are available only on Sport and LS models), the Mirage is not a stand-out but it's friendly from all angles.
What matters most
The good stuff: Value for money, quiet ride, economy, smooth automatic performance.
What we'd like to see: Cruise control, less plastics - but Mitsubishi is not alone here.
Warranty and servicing: The warranty is five years or 130,000km with roadside assist if you maintain the servicing schedule. Capped price servicing is available for four years or 60,000km, $250 every 12 months or 15,000km.
The writer was Mitsubishi's guest in Sydney.
Model: Mitsubishi Mirage.
Details: Five-door, five-seat front-wheel drive light-size hatchback.
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder which produces maximum output of 57kW @ 6000rpm and generates peak torque of 100Nm @ 4000rpm.
Transmission: Five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 4.6 litres/100km (manual and auto ES and Sport); 4.8 L/100km LS manual and 4.9L/100km LS auto.
CO2: 109g/km in ES models, 113g/km LS manual and 115g/km LS auto.
Bottom line: ES $12,990, Sport $14,190, LS $15,490 (automatic transmission is a $2250 premium).
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