On level ground, the combination is adequate, but no more; some outlets have reported just short of 12 seconds to 60 mph, but our test car seemed to be taking a second more. Keep your right foot light, and the powertrain is easygoing and tolerable; push deeper and the engine heads into its raucous and unrefined upper ranges.
Less spectacular mpg when driven quickly
And when we started asking more of the combination, driving the Mirage in a more spirited fashion and aiming to move right with the flow of traffic in nearly all instances, our average over another 40 miles ended up at about 36 mpg—a figure that's marginally lower than what we saw a few weeks earlier with the far more enchanting (and not much more expensive) Ford Fiesta SE.
Don't expect much precision in the Mirage's driving experience, either. While other minis and subcompacts, from the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit to the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500, all pride themselves in offering a communicative, somewhat sporty experience, the Mirage is light and detached. Oddly, the electric power steering is way too light and overboosted above 20 mph, with a disconcerting dead spot around center that leaves you bouncing back and forth between lane boundaries, but assist is remarkably absent when you're trying to get quickly out of a tight parking spot.
And the suspension is way softer (under sprung and under damped) than I'd expect in this kind of car—to the degree that it skips over potholes or expansion strips with nonchalance but then heaves up and down once or twice afterward. This isn't the sort of car that is enjoyable to drive on any kind of corner or curve, and you'll be slowing down for cloverleaf-style expressway ramps if they're poorly surfaced.
A critical mass of disappointment that not even purple paint could mask
It's also more of a one-size-fits-all car than Americans might be used to. The driver's seat doesn't seem to slide fore and aft with as much range as we expected, and the steering-wheel doesn't telescope at all; luckily for this driver it was set about right, but we think it might be too close for some shorter drivers.
Front seats are very short in their lower cushions, so taller drivers such as this one will find all the seat pressure on their rump, leaving nothing to rest a splayed right leg on either. The seats, in our top-of-the-line ES, were covered with a mouse-fur type material that we also haven't seen much of since the 1990s. The dark shade with purple checks at least gave it some visual interest.
The Mirage actually has a very roomy back seat. It's easy to get into and out of, and both headroom and legroom are quite good. But comfort isn't as good as it could be, because of a squishy lower cushion that feels like it's made of foam pillow material.