Nine years after it was withdrawn from Australia, the Mitsubishi Mirage has returned. Previously it was a three-door hatch, this time around it’s a five-door aimed more at the family market than the bright young singles.

Mirage has a clear target audience with sales primarily in the metropolitan areas, with the majority of buyers being young females and drivers over 50 years downsizing from larger cars. Many the former will be first-time buyers of new cars. The all-new Mirage gives Mitsubishi entry to the booming light car segment that has risen from a modest 12,000 units in 2007 to last year topping 60,000 - up 21,000 vehicles in 2012 compared to 2011.

Value

As before, the Mirage features sharp pricing, indeed its recommended retail has barely altered in the nine-year absence. During the Mirage launch phase buyers will pay a driveaway price of $12,990. As a bonus, private buyers ordering before the end of January 2013 will get a $1000 gift voucher from a major shopping centre, effectively pricing the car $11,990. There are three specification levels, Mirage ES, Mirage ES Sport and Mirage LS.

Technology includes Bluetooth 2.0, including media streaming, USB and Aux input, and a CD player. The steering wheel features telephone and audio controls. The wheel has height adjustment but no adjustment for reach. The latter surprises us in this day and age, but we guess costs have to cut where they can in this cutthroat market segment.

Mitsubishi say the 'affordable' tag assigned to Mirage includes not just the price but also the service charges. The first four services – 15,000 km, 30,000 km, 45,000 and 60,000 km – are each fixed at $250. On top of that the Mirage comes with Mitsubishi's five-year, 130,000 warranty.

Technology 

It has an all-new 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine with a choice of five-speed manual or CVT auto transmissions. The engine produces 57 kW at 6000 rpm and has maximum torque of 100 Nm at 4000 rpm. Mitsubishi Mirage ES with a manual gearbox has officially been rated at 4.6 litres/100 km fuel consumption with the slightly heavier Mirage LS rated at 4.8L/100 km in the manual and 4.9L/100 km with the CVT transmission.

Design

Reflecting the buyer profile the new Mirage comes in a series of fun colours including mulberry, red, silver and white with ES models also being offered in blue and black.

Affordable it is, but buyers may well be surprised by the interior quality and design. Beige and black softer plastics create a light, airy interior assisted by a relatively narrow A-pillar that gives the driver good vision. The dash is highlighted by a glossy piano black centre stacker. The cloth seats are comfortable and there is a surprising amount of rear-seat leg room for a car in this class.

The rear seat has a 60/40 split that allows the cargo area to be greatly increased when needed. With the seats in use the luggage area is adequate, but has a fairly high lip. There’s room for five passengers, though the person in the centre rear should be on the slim side.

Driving

At the launch in and around Sydney northern beach suburbs we were able to drive both the five-speed manual and the CVT variants. The CVT has a $2250 premium over the five-speed manual transmission although Mitsubishi expects the CVT to outsell the manual. During our road test we found the engine a little breathless when linked to the CVT, and preferred the smooth manual shifter which seemed to get more out of the engine. We had no trouble keeping up with Sydney's hectic traffic in either variant.