New & Used Mitsubishi Mirage: In Depth
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The Mitsubishi Mirage is one of the smallest vehicles for sale in the U.S. market, and it's also one of the least expensive new vehicles you can buy.
The Mirage nameplate was first used in the U.S. back in 2002, and it made a return for 2014 on this subcompact five-door hatch. It's the first new model for the product-starved brand in a long while, and also its least expensive and most fuel efficient, with combined EPA ratings of up to 40 mpg. That gives it the best fuel economy of any non-hybrid gasoline car in America.The Mirage competes with a much more polished set of subcompacts than it did a decade ago. They include the well-received Chevrolet Spark, the Ford Fiesta (newly updated in 2014), and the Japanese trio comprised of the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris. There's also the Chevy Spark minicar, an even smaller five-door hatchback.
For more details on the revived nameplate, see our 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage preview.
The Mirage sold in the U.S. from 1997 through 2002 was actually the fifth generation of a model first launched in the late 1970s. That car was sold as the Dodge Colt even before Mitsubishi began to offer its cars under its own brand in the U.S. The final generation of Mirage was a compact car in those days, offered as a two-door coupe and four-door sedan and powered by a 1.8-liter engine in its last years. While the Mirage coupe lasted through 2002, the sedan model was replaced by the Mitsubishi Lancer for 2002.
The new Mitsu Mirage
Today's Mirage looks pretty plain. The car sits very upright on its little 14-inch wheels, with a version of Mitsubishi's newest front-end styling giving it a rounded look that helps the car cheat the wind but does little for it styling-wise. Mitsubishi claims a drag coefficient of 0.28, which is a nice low number, so the designers can't be blamed too much for going the staid route up front.
The simple interior of the Mirage is equally plain, though with modern safety features under the rounded shapes formed from hard plastics. But the closer you get, the cheaper the Mirage looks inside. Folding down the split 60/40 rear seat back of the show car, for example, produced wrinkles in the thin carpet covering the seat back. Many interior panels are just painted metal, some areas with exposed seams; overall, the impression is more Nineties econobox than smart, stylish, high-quality 2014 model.
The front seats seem comfortable enough, and with a lot of dickering, four six-foot adults can fit inside. But the Mirage is a light car, with a curb weight projected at about 2,000 pounds even in U.S. trim. That doesn't leave a lot of margin for noise suppression, and sure enough the Mirage's cabin is quite noisy (with vibration the real issue). Seven airbags are fitted as standard, along with the usual suite of now-mandatory electronic safety systems. Brake assist and hill-start assist come standard on models fitted with the CVT. A rearview camera for reversing is optional.
The Mirage's claim to fame isn't just a low price (one of the lowest on the U.S. market) but also fuel efficiency estimated at 40 mpg combined (37 mpg city, 44 mpg highway). That's the highest of any non-hybrid gasoline car on the market, bested only by the Toyota Prius C subcompact hybrid hatchback--which starts many thousands of dollars above the entry point of the Mirage.
All Mirage models are powered by a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine that puts out just 74 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. In several drive opportunities, we've found this model to have a bouncy ride, numb handling, and acceleration that's barely adequate, at best. The optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the one that will earn that 40-mpg rating, with the standard five-speed manual gearbox coming in a few mpg lower--although perkier in real-world performance.
The base DE trim level includes automatic climate control, keyless entry, power windows, and a four-speaker audio system including USB input. That could make it a good value for money, depending where the base price is set. Then there's the more upscale ES model, which replaces steel wheels with 14-inch alloys and adds a "Start" button rather than key ignition, front fog lamps outlined in chrome, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and Bluetooth pairing. Options include an in-dash navigation system, a parking-sensor system, LED interior lights, and the rearview camera.