Based on the Lancer platform with similar front-end panels, the Mirage looked a squat package with a wheel at each corner stance – a feature that was to show up in its good handling.
Models and Features
The vehicles came with a 1.5 litre SOHC engine that was to continue virtually unchanged through the model's life. Manual transmission was standard.
Standard equipment included an adjustable-height steering wheel, cloth trim, engine immobiliser, 2-speaker radio and remote hatch and fuel door releases. A CD player, air conditioning, airbags, power steering and automatic transmission were optional.
On the early series, grey bumper bars were standard unless you ordered the optional power steering package that included colour-coded bumpers and a rear-window wiper.
1998 saw a minor facelift and in 2001, a driver's airbag, power steering and a four speaker CD player were added as standard features during another facelift.
In 1999–2000 a limited edition model designated the VR-X was released that added alloy wheels, CD player, power steering, power windows, cassette player and spoiler kit to the standard models, however there were no mechanical changes.
The Mirage range was discontinued late in 2004.
On The Road
Stepping into a Mirage is easy through the large opening doors and the seats are comfortable and supportive. The rear seat room is sufficient however probably better suited to the little folk.
Forward visibility is good and only a thick rear pillar detracts from an otherwise good all-round outlook. Clutch and brake efforts are light.
A feature of this car is the engine's good low down torque that gives it a strong feeling, good acceleration and pulling power. The engine matches well to either the 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic gearboxes.
There is a feeling of security when seated in a Mirage. The car has a solid feel about it, its interior appears spacious and the controls fall easily to hand. This size car would seem better suited to city driving, which it does with ease, however out on the highway long distances are easily handled. The suspension will iron out most road roughness although the occasional jolting will be felt. Winding roads are coped with comfortably.
Road noise can be noticeable depending on the road surface; otherwise there is generally a lack of wind or mechanical noise.
When purchasing, check that the recalls for the brake booster hose on the June-Aug 1997 models and the crankshaft pulley bolt on a number of 1999-2001 models have been carried out.
Also check that the engine timing-belt has been changed at its 90000km intervals.
Mirage was a fairly reliable gadget, but general wear and tear could be an issue given their age. So a professional pre-purchase inspection to help separate the chaff from the corn is advised.
Fuel economy is good and expect around 6.0 to 8.0 litres/100kms for steady highway and moderate city driving respectively.
For an indication of what you would pay for this vehicle please go to RACQ's online car price guide or contact our Motoring Advice Service on 07 3666 9148 or 1800 623 456 outside the Brisbane area.