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After a 12-year hiatus, the Mitsubishi Mirage subcompact has returned to the U.S. market for 2014. The five-door hatchback isn't actually the smallest car offered by Mitsubishi--that would be the i-MiEV electric car--but it's the most fuel-efficient gasoline car in the range, and will likely sell for a price roughly half that of the plug-in i-MiEV.
The 2014 Mirage, which will arrive at dealerships in the fall of 2013, faces off against new and considerably more stylish offerings than it did in its last iteration--which left the U.S. after the 2002 model year. Competitors now include the Chevrolet Spark minicar and Sonic subcompact, plus the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris subcompacts--though likely not the pricier and more lifestyle-oriented Fiat 500 and MINI Cooper lines.
The Mitsubishi Mirage has always been sold on simplicity, low price, and high gas mileage, and that won't change much for the 2014 model. But its design, both inside and out, is neither striking nor noteworthy. The somewhat rounded lines carry the new Mitsubishi corporate nose--said to be aerodynamic, but also remarkably bland--and it sits tall on relatively small 14-inch wheels. Inside, the dashboard and door panels continue with rounded shapes in hard black plastic.
The new Mirage's main claim to fame is likely to be its gas-mileage rating, which is estimated at 40 mpg combined (37 mpg city, 44 mpg highway). That's higher than any other non-hybrid car sold in the U.S., including the diminutive two-seat Smart ForTwo (36 mpg) and the equally small "3+1 seat" Scion iQ (37 mpg). It's exceeded in the subcompact segment only by the Toyota Prius C hybrid, also a five-door hatchback. But the Prius C starts at close to $20,000, many thousands more than the Mirage is likely to go for.
The high fuel-efficiency rating comes courtesy of a small 1.2-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine that puts out a modest 74 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. It can be paired with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the latter being the one that offers the 40-mpg combined rating. Despite its modest power, the Mirage is remarkably lightweight, likely coming in at about 2,000 pounds in U.S. trim. It also has a claimed 0.28 drag coefficient, very low for such a short vehicle--so that rounded front end has a functional purpose even if it's not stylistically striking.
Performance is still modest, though, as we learned during our first drive of a Mirage in European specification (and fitted with the five-speed manual transmission). That car's quoted 0-to-62-mph acceleration was a leisurely 11.7 seconds, though our reviewer said it felt better on the road than the figures would suggest. But the electric power steering was almost entirely free of feedback, as numb as the worst of the class. The Mirage also felt underdamped, with certain types of bumps sending it off line under cornering and a lot of bouncing over rough surfaces.
The front seats appeared comfortable enough, and the cabin feels wider than that of the Chevy Spark, so it's possible for four six-foot-tall adults to occupy the Mirage with a bit of horse-trading for legroom among front and rear passengers. Interior refinement of the European Mirage we tested wasn't particularly good, with a lot of engine roar, road noise, and wind whistle--one drawback of light weight being a paucity of sound-insulation materials, perhaps. The rear seat is split 60/40 and folds down, though the resulting load floor isn't flat.
But the quality and attention to detail of the Mirage aren't up to the best in the class--or at least they weren't in the car that premiered at the 2013 New York Auto Show. While the interior looks all right from five feet away, it seems to get cheaper as you approach, with--for example--wrinkles appearing in the thin carpet on the rear seat backs as they were folded down. Many unfinished areas with exposed metal seams are painted in body color, and overall, the impression is more Nineties econobox than smart, stylish, high-quality 2014 model.
In terms of safety equipment for what most American buyers will view as a very small car, the Mirage has seven airbags as standard equipment, along with the usual anti-lock brakes, electronic stability and traction control, and both brake assist and hill-start assist on models fitted with the CVT. Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet rated the 2014 Mirage for crash safety.
For the U.S., the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage in the DE trim level comes standard with automatic climate control, keyless entry, power windows, and a four-speaker audio system including USB input. Step up to the ES model, and you get 14-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps outlined in chrome, a "Start" button rather than key ignition, Bluetooth, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls mounted on it.
Optional equipment includes a rearview camera for reversing, LED interior lighting, a parking-sensor system, and an in-dash navigation system. Mitsubishi warrants this new model for five years/60,000 miles, and provides five years of roadside assistance regardless of total mileage. A limited powertrain warranty extend to 10 years or 100,000 miles.
We haven't yet driven a U.S.-spec 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage, but we'll bring you all the details when we do. The car should arrive at Mitsubishi dealers in the late fall of 2013, and both full specifications and pricing information will be released closer to that date.
- Very high gas mileage
- New subcompact competitor
- Room for four adults
- 'Econocar' fit and finish
- Leisurely acceleration
- Struggling Mitsubishi dealers