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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For The Carisma is economical, well built and remarkably reliable

Against It’s poor to drive and virtually devoid of flair

Verdict Carisma is a misnomer. It should have been called the 'Dependable'

Go for… 1.8 GDI Equippe

Avoid… Base spec, 1.6 and old non-D-ID diesels

Mitsubishi Carisma Saloon
  • 1. If the previous owners didn't use super-unleaded fuel, there’s a risk of engine failure around 60,000 miles in 1.8 GDi models
  • 2. There was a recall to amend the retaining cap ring of the in-tank fuel pump, which could shatter - ensure the necessary work was done
  • 3. Getting comfy in the driver’s seat is tricky because of the limited range of height adjustment
  • 4. The dash is well laid-out, but it's very dull and bland
  • 5. There's room for two adults in the rear, but it's a crush for three
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Mitsubishi Carisma Saloon full review with expert trade views

People joke that Mitsubishi left the ‘h’ out of the Carisma’s name, but it lacks more than that. A limited range of engines, a choppy ride and disappointing handling with plenty of lean through corners all count against it. Passengers won’t be wowed by the road noise or the suspension that thunks over bumps, either.

However, the Mitsubishi provides reasonable space up front as well as room for two adults in the rear. The back seats fold down to increase your carrying options.

Inside, it’s hard to deny that the Carisma’s cabin lacks, well, charisma. It's all terribly bland, although, to be fair, the dash is well laid out, there’s useful stowage and it's well made and decently equipped. Steering column adjustment is limited to angle only, and getting comfy in the driver’s seat is also hampered by the small amount of seat-height adjustment.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Alternative to a Corolla and cheaper. Confusing range. 1.6 GLX best buy

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Try the 1.8 GDI petrol, or the 1.9-litre DI-D diesel introduced in 2002, and skip the weedy 1.6-litre petrols. The pre-face-lift non-GDI 1.8 is decent, but the pokier yet more economical GDI is better, whereas the older 1.9 turbodiesel is fine for motorway cruising, but less satisfying than the later D-IDs.

Aim for Equippe spec on cars built after the 1999 face-lift, because this adds air-con to the electric windows, central locking, power steering, CD player and alloys of the Classic trim. With a pre-face-lift car, GLX trim offers similar treats to Classic (but not the alloys), while the 1.8 GLS-GDI brings air-con.

GL spec (pre-'99) and entry 1.6 spec ('99-on) are too basic, and the range-topping Mirage spec came in from 2001.

The Carisma came as a saloon until 2001, when it was dropped to leave just the more practical hatchback.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Downward pressure on prices especially petrols, Mirage sought after

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Cheap running is the Carisma’s real strength. Both generations had respectable economy, with the petrols returning mid- to high-30s mpg. Both diesels promise at least high-40s – as much as 51.4mpg for the D-ID.

However, bear in mind that the favoured 1.8 GDI was designed for superunleaded, not regular 95, which will nudge up costs.

Insurance is slightly higher than for a comparable Ford Mondeo, but still not excessive. Our preferred 1.8 GDI is in groups 11 to 13, depending on trim, and a 1.9 D-ID diesel in groups 9 to 11. The 1.6-litre cars start at group 7.

Warranty Direct ranks the Carisma as one of the most reliable cars – markedly better than a Mondeo and a Nissan Primera. However, average repair costs are around 35% more than for a Mondeo, and over 25% more than a Primera, despite the fact that labour rates at franchised and independent garages should be below average.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Alternative to a Corolla and cheaper. Confusing range. 1.6 GLX best buy

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Although it's noted for its proven reliability, there are a couple of points to be aware of when choosing a Carisma.

First, the 1.8-litre GDI was designed for superunleaded fuel and, if the previous owners didn't use it, there’s a risk of engine failure around 60,000 miles, due to carbon build-up. Decoking the engine is possible, but it's best to look elsewhere.

Secondly, there was also a recall to amend the retaining cap ring of the in-tank fuel pump, which could shatter. Find out if that was done, because early cars may have missed out, and be wary if there is a smell of fuel.

Finally, ensure all switches and buttons works as expected, and that any air-con system is effective - older systems may need regassing.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Downward pressure on prices especially petrols, Mirage sought after

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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