New & Used Mitsubishi Mirage: In Depth
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage, Quebec City, Sep 2013Enlarge Photo
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The Mitsubishi Mirage disappeared from the U.S. market in 2002, but it has returned for the 2014 model year. The new subcompact five-door hatchback is the most fuel-efficient car the struggling Japanese automaker will sell, starting in Fall 2013. The model that features a continuously variable transmission has earned an EPA rating of 40mpg combined, the highest of any non-hybrid sold in the U.S.
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 with surprisingly clever features inside and a base price below $13,000.
For more details on the revived nameplate, see our 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage preview.
The new Mirage is a somewhat plain car, sitting tall on small 14-inch wheels and tires. Mitsubishi's latest rounded front-end styling is good for aerodynamics, but a bit of a snooze in a category where even subcompacts and minicars can be stylish. Its claimed 0.28 drag coefficient is remarkably low for such a short vehicle, however, so there's method to the madness.
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 a European Mirage transmitted a lot of road noise, wind whistle, and engine noise into the cabin. 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. No NHTSA or IIHS crash-test results are available yet.
As well as a low price--not yet announced as of summer 2013--the Mirage's claim to fame will be 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 likely 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. Those ratings will likely make the Mirage one of the slower new cars on the market--our first drive of a Mirage in European specification certainly proved it's no speed demon. 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. Its electric power steering proved numb, and it bounced awkwardly over certain types of bumps.
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.
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 Mirage name vanished altogether after that, until it was resurrected for the 2014 subcompact.