2017 Mitsubishi Mirage vs. 2017 Toyota Yaris: Compare Cars

November 21, 2016
2017 Toyota Yaris

2017 Toyota Yaris

The Mitsubishi Mirage and the Toyota Yaris both started life as five-door hatchbacks, but the Mirage is slightly smaller than the Yaris subcompact hatch. Each has been joined for 2017 by a companion four-door sedan model. Neither vehicle rates very high in our full-review system, but each of these small cars has advantages—and drawbacks. 

MORE: Read our reviews of the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage and the 2017 Toyota Yaris

Neither car is a particularly high scorer on our ratings system, and both come in below most other cars on sale this year. The Yaris scores a 4.5 overall on our scale, above the Mirage at 4.2. The Mirage would have been lower still, however, if it weren't for its truly high fuel-economy ratings. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

The Mirage has been adapted for North American sale from a global vehicle built in Thailand and sold throughout Asia. Like the Chevrolet Spark subcompact car, it's family transportation in less affluent countries, but the Mirage is neither as sophisticated nor as cheerful as the Spark. The Yaris, on the other hand, is the smallest and least expensive car in Toyota's U.S. lineup—although it's not a particular sterling example of small-car design.

Both hatchbacks have relatively tall shapes with angled accent lines through the upright sides, but the Yaris is a little plainer. The nose of the Mitsubishi has been restyled for 2017, so it's less round and bland than it was, but "round and bland" could be the theme for the rest of its shape. It will hold four adults, however, with some negotiating between front and rear. The front end of the slightly bigger Yaris was recently restyled with a gaping maw below the bumper, giving it a strange, vacuum-cleaner appearance, but the rest of the car is tidier—and we like the resolution of the hatch area and the taillights that stand proud of the body.

New sedan variants

For 2017, the Yaris was joined by a sedan, formerly called the Scion iA, with which it actually has no parts in common (it's a Mazda under the badges). The Mirage hatchback also acquired a sedan sibling, known as the Mirage G4. We prefer the sedan version of the Yaris to the hatchback, but because the former Scion is so different to the Yaris hatch, this comparison largely applies to the two cars' hatchback versions. We'll leave the fight between the Mirage G4 sedan and the Yaris iA for another day.

Inside, both cars are basic and anonymous—but the Toyota is clearly made of better-quality plastics and has more solid-feeling switchgear. It also has a plethora of bins, cubbies, and other storage areas, and even a dash of silver trim, plus some newly-added soft-touch surfaces. The Mirage, on the other hand, is reminiscent of the old "econoboxes" of 20 years ago, and some of its fittings are downright flimsy.

2016 Toyota Yaris

2016 Toyota Yaris

2016 Toyota Yaris

2016 Toyota Yaris

2016 Toyota Yaris

2016 Toyota Yaris

Neither car has a particularly enjoyable powertrain. The main specification for the smaller, lighter Mitsubishi is its combined fuel economy: 39 mpg for the version with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). That's the highest gas-mileage rating for any non-hybrid sold in the U.S. But with only a 78-horsepower 1.0-liter 3-cylinder engine, the Mirage is neither fast nor powerful. If you drive it hard, the performance around town is fine, although it runs out of breath very quickly once it's on highways. A 5-speed manual gearbox is also available—at a savings of $1,200—but it cuts the combined gas mileage to 37 mpg.

The performance of the 106-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that powers the Yaris is tepid, and that's if you opt for the standard 5-speed manual gearbox. The 4-speed automatic is one of only a very few left on the market, and a painfully wide gap between third and fourth gears makes the Yaris feel almost as slow as the Mirage. Its fuel economy isn't very good for a car its size, at 33 mpg combined for the manual and only 32 mpg for the automatic. (The Honda Fit, by way of comparison, comes in at 36 mpg for its CVT version.) If you want a small Toyota with the highest gas mileage, have a look at the Prius C subcompact hybrid, which starts about $4,000 higher than the Yaris.

Handling not a strong suit

Handling and roadholding isn't a particularly strong suit for either car. The soft suspension of the Mirage gives it a lot of body roll and tire squeal, and a dead spot in the center of the steering can find the car drifting toward the edges of its lane without any driver feedback. It wallows, wobbles, and floats at highway speeds. Its tiny 14- or 15-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 soar—and broken pavements are jarring. The Yaris received a suspension upgrade this year that includes softer springs, a stiffer rear torsion beam, and stiffer shocks. Its electric power steering is better than that in most Toyotas, and the stiffer suspension and thicker anti-sway bars of the Yaris SE give flatter handling without much impact on ride comfort.

Each of the cars is light for its segment and was designed before the advent of the new small-overlap front crash test from the IIHS. Safety test results for both cars have been a mixed bag from both the IIHS and federal testers. For 2017, Toyota fitted relatively advanced safety systems to the Yaris, including lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and automatic high beams. The Mirage doesn't offer any of that, even as an option, although admittedly that tech is rare at this low price point. 

All Mirages come with automatic climate control; 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/FM/CD audio system has a USB port, an auxiliary input jack, and there's a 12-volt power outlet in the console. The base SE model has standard steel wheels with silver plastic wheel covers. The ES model is a $1,200 upgrade that adds alloy wheels, keyless ignition, cruise control, a height adjustment for the driver's seat, Bluetooth pairing, and audio controls on the steering wheel. A new GT top-of-the-line version adds features like heated front seats and 15-inch alloy wheels.

The Toyota Yaris comes as the base L, the mid-level LE, and the sporty SE. All versions now definitely come better-equipped than the Mirage, as they include a split-folding rear seat, a height-adjustable driver's seat, and an Entune Audio system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, a USB port, an auxiliary input, voice recognition, and Bluetooth pairing and streaming. Top SE models stand out; they add 16-inch machined-finish alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, projector-beam headlights, LED daytime running lamps, upgraded seats with sport fabric, leather trim, and a rear spoiler. Navigation is available as a dealer-installed option.

Inexpensive and slow

Neither of these small cars ranks at the top of its segment. Either will provide inexpensive transportation for one or two people, but both are slow—the Mitsubishi because of its small engine, the Toyota due to its ancient 4-speed automatic transmission. The Toyota is nicer inside and offers more standard and optional equipment, but the Mirage is a few thousand dollars cheaper and offers better fuel-economy ratings.

You get what you pay for, but Mitsubishi has sold almost three times the number of Mirages it expected to, so clearly there's a market for inexpensive, minimal subcompact cars—even in the U.S. Despite its lower score, we can see why some might pick the Mirage, but the Toyota may be a better fit for most buyers.

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Summary

4.2
Expert Rating
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage likely won't delight you or impress your passengers all that much, but it's a lot of efficient transportation for the dollar.
4.5
Expert Rating
The 2017 Toyota Yaris iA adds a good sedan to the lineup this year. So good, in fact, we're not sure why the hatchback is around any longer.

Styling

3.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage now has a conventional front end, but its sedan model has odd lines and its interior is econocar-basic.
Read More
3.0
Expert Rating
The Yaris makes a statement: It's not always about looks.
Read More

Performance

2.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is slow; it has very little power in reserve; and it wanders, wobbles, and floats at speed like no other car we've driven.
Read More
2.0
Expert Rating
Buyers will have to overlook performance to pick the Yaris over many of its competitors, but the iA sedan is surprisingly good to drive.
Read More

Comfort & Quality

4.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage has a comfortable ride and surprising room inside, but its materials are basic.
Read More
4.0
Expert Rating
Front seat passengers won't complain, back seats are suitable for children or in-laws.
Read More

Safety

3.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is among the lower-rated vehicles in the U.S. for safety.
Read More
3.0
Expert Rating
The Yaris is aging in test scores; the Yaris iA does much better.
Read More

Features

4.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage shows its very basic roots in a limited array of features and a few surprising omissions.
Read More
7.0
Expert Rating
Base hatchbacks are built to hit a price; Yaris iA models are a much better deal.
Read More

Fuel Economy

9.0
Expert Rating
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage has some of the highest fuel-economy ratings of any non-hybrid car sold in the U.S.
Read More
8.0
Expert Rating
The Yaris isn't as fuel efficient as its small-car size would lead you to believe, but it's not bad compared to the universe of new cars.
Read More

MSRP

from $12,995
from $15,250

Invoice

from $12,712
from $14,641

Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway

35
33

Engine

Regular Unleaded I-3, 1.2 L
Regular Unleaded I-4, 1.5 L

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
Front Wheel Drive Read Full Specs
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