A Golf R driver's perspective: 2018 Mirage ES-plus Canadian Spec Review
Wall of text follows read at your own risk...
Yesterday I went for a short test drive in a 2018 Mirage ES-plus, Canadian spec hatchback, so the CVT with A/C, power door locks, front/rear power windows, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay integration, not really sure what other differences there are between the ES and ES-plus. If I were to buy I'd like the GT trim, even though the price becomes obscene. In much of Canada heated seats are very nice to have, in Ottawa with our fantastic winters heated mirrors are a plus. Bi-xenon HID's over halogens any day. The human-machine interface should be nice, I prefer leather wrapped steering wheels over polyurethane. The seat trim in the GT looks nicer in pictures, but I haven't seen it in real life. Finally I find that the 15" OEM alloys on the GT trim look good too. I just don't know about the $-value increase from $14,798 to $18,498 (not including Freight/PDI yet), are all of the upgrades really worth 3,700 CAD more ?
Driving dynamics were fine, acceleration was adequate and with the CVT a bit deceptive (smooth acceleration, looks down at speedometer and oh I'm going 10 KPH over), steering was a bit "darty" but it's not like it wandered within the lane, rather I'd say it moved with "purpose". The R feels more planted with much wider summer-only performance tires, less "darty", I think the best description would be more input required to carry out a directional change compared to the Mirage. There's a big discrepancy in HP/torque between the R and the Mirage, but when you're surrounded by cars in traffic the Mirage moves effectively. You can really only go as fast as the cars around you, and the Mirage keeps up just fine. Starting out there's a bit of engine noise, but after about 20 KPH it quiets down. Braking was fine, you push brake pedal it slows and eventually stops. Overall road noise was fine; the R is actually kind of loud (might be attributed to the "soundaktor" simulated noise generator, but there's also a lot of tire noise), the Mirage didn't appear too much louder (I do have poor hearing though). Getting on to the highway it just sort of went. I merged, I hit 100 KPH, I cruised. Background: I'm a right-lane highway driver and I get there when I get there, I'm neither out to win races nor receive speeding tickets. I would be fine commuting back and forth to work in the Mirage based on the driving characteristics.
It passes the front/rear space test, if I set everything up for myself in the driver's seat I can fit in the passenger seat directly behind. Rear hatch space is a bit less than the Golf, but it's a physically smaller vehicle so if one uses their brain this can be expected. I managed to fit a boxed Sunday Model C BMX bike in the back of the Golf with the rear seats folded down, I don't think I'd be able to in the Mirage.
Fit and finish isn't up to the boring but predictable VW standards, door gaps, use of rubber seals etc. but there's a huge base price discrepancy between the two cars so I'm not concerned, in other words this is to be expected. That said there were no noises/rattles. Reminded me of the fit/finish of our 2007 Yaris, except the middle two HVAC vents in the Mirage felt really cheap, almost like they were an after-thought add-on that the interior designers had forgotten about.
The air conditioning to me was a let-down. I had it on blower speed "3" and cabin recirc, and I still felt warm. The R cools down quickly, no tint on the windows and I'm usually down to 2 bars (HVAC fan speed ranges from 1-8 bars or something silly) and either "LO" or 20*C ( 68*F ) for the temperature setting. The R is the second best A/C I've had in a car, topped by the 2014 base-model Wrangler which would freeze one's gonads solid if one preferred that sort of thing. To the actual owners, how is the HVAC in your Mirage? The A/C felt like the A/C in the 2007 Yaris that we previously owned, marginal at best I suppose. There's only so much compressor that a 1.2L engine can drive.
I'm still undecided. On one hand I know I could live with the Mirage for the daily commute, which is really all of the car I require and the R is completely overkill for it. On the other hand the A/C performance really was not that great and I hate sweating when I'm not exercising.
Why not consider something else like a Honda Fit ? Well if I go for a Fit I'd want leather, so that's $26K CAD; why not get a Crosstrek with AWD for our "Canadian winters" then it's only $33K CAD, but hey look at that, Golf R's are only about $10K more with a lot more performance and a sort-of-AWD system, hence how I came about owning a Golf R (I always wanted a GTI too) and why I don't really want a Honda Fit.
That's all I've got for now...
View my fuel log 2018 Mirage GT 1.2 automatic: 38.0 mpg (US) ... 16.1 km/L ... 6.2 L/100 km ... 45.6 mpg (Imp)