Well at last I got to have a decent drive of the Mirage when we went to Napier during the weekend, a 600km round trip, so here are my initial impressions.
A couple of things to bear in mind when reading these impressions. First we have already replaced the stock rims and tyres with 14" alloys which as well as being wider (6" vs the 4.5" steels), have less offset (38mm vs 46mm standard) so the car now has a wider track than standard and more rubber on the road. Second, we had the bike rack and two bikes on the back so the car was carrying about 40kg of additional weight behind the rear wheels. Both I would expect to have an effect on handling.
Travel conditions were rat**** with the outward trip being dark and windy, while the homeward trip was dark and windy with torrential rain. If nothing else, the headlights got a good workout and they are pretty reasonable.
The car was pretty comfortable for my 184cm frame. There was plenty of head and leg room, even when cruising around Napier with an extra couple in the rear seats. The people in the rear weren't complaining. The manual air conditioning kept the windows clear under trying conditions and we were able to get a comfortable climate inside.
Power wise it is adequate. Coming into and out of Napier there are some pretty serious hills and given that the car is still "running-in" we took it pretty easy but were still able to run with the traffic. On the straights the car feels very relaxed indeed wombling along at our 100km/hr speed limit with plenty to spare for passing. In fact the car seems to have a sweet spot around this speed so no complaints there.
The CVT gearbox I'm still trying to get my head around. The Mirage replaces a 2006 Mitsi Colt Sport which was also CVT. I have read somewhere that the Mirage CVT assembly runs in conjunction with a two speed planetary gear set to give a wider range of ratios whereas I don't believe the Colt had this. Of the two I do prefer the Colt setup which was totally unobtrusive. The Mirage does fluff about a bit, a little like a conventional automatic hunting for the right ratio, and going down hill with light braking applied the CVT seems to "drop to a lower gear" as it were, second guessing what the driver is doing with the brake pedal. This results in too much deceleration so I release the brake pedal and the CVT then "changes up". Maybe it is just the gearbox settling in and the electronics learning as I believe they do. By and large though it isn't a bad gearbox.
Handling. Hmmm, here's the rub. There's plenty of grip once the car is set up in a corner, and the steering is pretty responsive, but the fun and games come as the steering is turned to enter a corner. The car almost seems to lurch as the steering is turned, then it settles down again and follows a good line through the corner if the road is smooth. If there are any significant bumps in the corner, the car bump steers significantly. I don't believe the car has bad suspension, but suspect that the problem is the shock absorbers have very little low speed damping in order to produce a very smooth ride, but at the cost of very little control of the initial roll of the car as it is turned into a corner.
It is always possible of course that the lurch is exacerbated by the greater grip afforded by the wider tyres fitted.
Jamiec commented that the Aussie market Mirage comes standard with an anti-roll bar and I suspect that one of these would sort things out and produce a nice handling car. I'm working on this, hoping that someone will post a photo of the anti-roll bar for me to palagarise.
Fuel economy was a long way short of the brochure but not bad considering that the car is new, the trip was done with the air conditioning running constantly, two adults plus baggage for the weekend and two bikes on the rack behind. We recorded 44.3mpg (6.4ltr/100km). No complaints there at all. For comparison, my 2010 Suzuki Alto, 70,000km on the clock, with similar loading including the bikes on a similar run returned somewhere around 52mpg on a similar run recently.
So overall the Mirage is not a bad wee car at all, and I do believe that with the addition of an anti-roll bar it will be a very endearing car.
Regards to all