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The Mitsubishi Mirage is one of the smallest cars offered for sale in the U.S., and it's one of the most rudimentary ones too. Compared with its closest rival, the Chevy Spark, the Mirage is more fuel-efficient, but the Spark has more space, and it's a more rewarding car to drive.The Mirage name was last seen in North America as a new car way back in 2002. The 2014 Mirage is sold in the U.S. and in Canada (where it competes with not only the Spark but also the Nissan Micra, a five-door minicar not sold in the U.S.). With the Mirage base-priced at less than $13,000 (before the mandatory delivery fee), Mitsubishi is targeting first-time buyers and those on very limited budgets. One of the main selling points, though, is its rated fuel economy: At 40 mpg combined, the new Mirage has the highest EPA gas-mileage rating of any non-hybrid gasoline car sold.
That fuel economy comes at a cost, though. With a 74-horsepower 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine, the Mirage is neither fast nor powerful. Paired with a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), its performance away from stoplights and around town is fine if you work it hard. A five-speed manual transmission is also offered--for $1,000 less--but it reduces the gas mileage to 37 mpg combined. At highway speeds, though, there's very little margin indeed for acceleration or passing, regardless of which transmission you choose.
Looking at the Mirage, about the best you can say is that its design is inoffensive. There's a reason for the bland, characterless front end: aerodynamics, meaning that the rounded nose smooths the little car's path through the air and uses less fuel to do it. The rest of the car's design is generic small hatchback, perhaps with a hint of last-generation Nissan Versa at the rear.
The materials inside are inexpensive, but Mitsubishi has crafted a straightforward dashboard that doesn't really betray its hard-plastic surfaces. Upholstery is simple black cloth with a subtle purple check (it's not as bad as it sounds). The front seats are comfortable, but the seat cushions are short; the rear seat will fit two adults, but while Mitsubishi calls this a five-passenger car, the rear seat will only fit three if they're exceptionally skinny teens or younger.
The 2014 Mirage suffers from a soft suspension with a lot of body roll and tire squeal, along with a dead spot in the center of the electric power steering that can find the car drifting toward the edges of the lane with no feedback to the driver. The very small 14-inch wheels and tires may be at least partially to blame. The ride is smooth and quiet on good roads, but acceleration causes the engine noise to rise substantially--and broken pavements and surfaces are frequently jarring.
Competitors for the Mirage range from minicars to subcompacts. The Mirage fits between minicars and subcompacts: It’s larger than the Smart ForTwo, Scion iQ, Fiat 500, and even the five-door Chevrolet Spark. But it’s smaller than all other subcompact hatchbacks, which include the Toyota Yaris, Mazda 2, Kia Rio5, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, and the largest of the class, the Nissan Versa.
Granted, there's a single and very rare stripped-down model of the Versa that undercuts the new Mirage on base price--but it's extremely hard to find one, and that model is really just a lure to get you in the door so the dealer can sell you a nicer model. But Mirage is pretty much a case of what-you-see-is-what-you-get. And for its $13K-plus-delivery price, you get standard automatic climate control and a few other features.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is offered in just two trim levels: the base DE and the better equipped ES. Beside the standard automatic climate control, all Mirages have power locks, windows, and mirrors; a 60/40 split folding rear seat back (although it doesn't fold flat); and variable intermittent wipers. The AM/FMCD audio system has a USB port, an auxiliary input jack, and there's a 12-volt power outlet in the console. Standard steel wheels are fitted with silver plastic wheel covers.
For $1,200 more, the ES adds alloy wheels, pushbutton start, cruise control, a height adjustment for the driver's seat, leather wrappings for the steering wheel and shift knob, fog lamps, Bluetooth pairing, and audio controls on the steering wheel. It has more chrome and silver trim accents as well. Even a top-of-the-line Mirage won't be much above $15,000, and Mitsubishi offers both trim levels with either transmission.
For trivia fans, the Mitsubishi Mirage is also the first passenger car sold in the U.S. to be built in Thailand. A dedicated factory there can build up to 125,000 Mirages a year for global markets. In the U.S., however, Mitsubishi has modest aspirations for the Mirage: It hopes to sell about 7,000 during 2014. The Mirage will likely do somewhat better in Canada, where small and inexpensive cars take a larger share of the market.
- High fuel efficiency, low price
- Real-world mileage may be higher
- Five-door practicality
- Good low-speed response
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- Marginal acceleration
- Mushy handling
- Dead spot in steering
- Cutesy color choices