- High fuel efficiency, low price
- Real-world mileage may be higher
- Five-door practicality
- Good low-speed response
- Marginal acceleration
- Mushy handling
- Dead spot in steering
- Cutesy color choices
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage five-door hatchback is larger than a minicar, smaller than a subcompact, but offers practical transport at a low price--and the highest non-hybrid gas mileage of any car sold--at the cost of weak acceleration and sloppy handling.
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.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is almost the generic small car inside and out; neither ugly nor stunning, it's almost invisible.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is not a car you’ll stop and gape at on the street. Its rounded shape, especially at the front, is bland to the point of invisibility. Like Mitsubishi’s much larger Outlander mid-size utility vehicle, the Mirage has a rounded nose with a slit-like grille and swept-back headlamps that conveys almost no personality at all. Perhaps the only unusual features at the front are a pair of canards, small wing-like protrusions toward the corners of the front apron.
The roof and upper body of the five-door hatchback narrow slightly toward the rear, in which the company calls a teardrop shape. The back of the car has a hint of last-generation Nissan Versa to the hatch shape and rear lights. Like most such cars, the Mirage is tall for its length, and the small 165/65 tires on 14-inch wheels look much too small for the car. The front wheels are also set deep into the wheelwells, which exacerbates their small size.
It’s all in the service of aerodynamics, and what Mitsubishi’s stylists have sacrificed in distinctive looks has gone to the service of low wind resistance. The company says the 2014 Mirage’s drag coefficient is a remarkable 0.28, which is not only low on an absolute scale but more laudable yet for such a small vehicle.
Inside, the Mirage is straightforward if plain. Seat upholstery is black cloth with purple threads forming a fine-grained check pattern (it’s more attractive than it sounds). Every interior surface is covered in hard plastic, without soft-touch materials even on the door arm-rests. But the textures are good enough that the interior doesn’t feel cheaper than you’d expect in a car with a $13,000 base price.
The gauge cluster is simple—a large speedometer, a small tachometer, and a gas gauge are the dominant elements—and knobs and switches for the automatic climate control and audio system are large and relatively intuitive. The console isn’t large, but it includes two cupholders and a small tray for oddments.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is okay in town but lacks power at higher speeds; its steering and suspension need work.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is not a fast or powerful car. It comes with just one engine, a 1.2-liter three-cylinder that puts out 74 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. That puts it among the least powerful cars sold in the U.S., in the same category as the Smart ForTwo (at 70 hp). Even the Scion iQ has 94 hp; the Fiat 500 offers 101 hp, and if you move up the price scale to hybrids, the Toyota Prius C powertrain is rated at 99 hp and the Honda Insight at 98 hp.
The Mirage offers two transmissions: a five-speed manual gearbox or, for $1,000 more, a new and very compact continuously variable transmission (CVT) that delivers the highest gas-mileage ratings. The CVT has a wider range (7.3 to 1) between its lowest and highest ratios than most, because its belt drive is supplemented by a small two-speed gearbox that’s part of the unit.
The Mirage is also, however, a remarkably light car. Mitsubishi put enormous effort into weight reduction in every facet of the car ,and the results are remarkable: This five-door car with seats for four adults has a curb weight of 1,973 pounds in its most minimal form, rising only to 2,051 fully loaded. It’s a remarkable achievement; the Smart ForTwo weighs 1,808 lbs, the Chevy Spark is 2,269 lbs, the Fiat 500 comes in at 2,363 lbs, and so forth.
The Mirage has been tuned for city and suburban use; the CVT version accelerates away from stops smartly. It also has hill-start assist. The manual gearbox, however, has a first gear high enough that moving away without stalling takes a bit of practice. On the top, fifth gear in the manual isn’t particularly high, so the engine is turning over 3,500 rpm at just 70 mph.
And it’s at higher speeds that the Mirage’s lack of power shows up most clearly. To pass a car ahead requires a long clear space and advance planning, and generates a lot of engine noise for very slow gains in momentum. The brakes (discs up front, drums in the rear) have a solid feel and work fine for such a light car. One possible anomaly: A panic stop momentarily overwhelmed the anti-lock brakes on our pre-production car, leaving stripes of rubber on the road. Mitsubishi engineers said they were unable to duplicate the behavior.
The handling and roadholding are only adequate. The electric power steering has a large numb area in the center—larger than virtually any other car we’ve driven lately—that can let the car wander if the driver doesn’t pay close attention. Mitsubishi says it has one single set of suspension tuning for every Mirage, no matter where it’s sold—and the company needs to go back and retune it for North American driving conditions. The ride is good enough on smooth pavement, but sudden maneuvers like lane changes produce a great deal of body roll and a wobbly and uncertain feeling until the car evens out again.
The 2014 Mirage is a nimble urban warrior, though. Its turning circle is a minimal 30.2 feet, so it can make U-turns into parking spaces across the street with ease.
The Mirage is a car that’s much more comfortable running around town than making long road trips—especially if those trips involve hills, lots of passing, or sudden changes in direction. It’s not unsafe, but it’s slow and the handling is hardly inspiring.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
Comfort & Quality
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is a simple, inexpensive car; the ride, noise level, and materials reflect that.
The front seats of the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage are comfortable, but most drivers—taller ones especially—will find the lower cushions slightly short. Bolstering in the backrest is good, though, and the seats were comfortable over several hours of test driving. The steering wheel tilts, but does not telescope.
The rear seat is relatively thin, and while there’s legroom in the back for adults, it requires negotiation with front occupants. Four adults will be a tight fit, but are at least possible—unlike three-door minicars with four nominal places, like the Fiat 500 or MINI Cooper. Mitsubishi calls it a five-seat car, but fitting three in the rear would require all of them to be children or skinny teenagers.
Cargo space is good for the segment, with 17.2 cubic feet of volume with the rear seat up and 47.0 cubic feet with the rear seat folded forward. While that's relatively large for such a small car, the load floor is not flat with the seat folded. Ultimately, the Mirage has nowhere near the versatility of the Honda Fit’s Magic Seat arrangement, which permits removal of the entire rear seat if needed. A cargo tray and cargo net package is $95 extra.
At steady rates of travel, the Mirage is decently quiet, and it rides well on good road surfaces. Press the car hard, however, and engine noise rises to a loud howl and stays there. Broken roads bring out the worst in the Mirage, as its small 14-inch wheels crash over ruts and expansion joints.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage has seven airbags plus electronic safety systems, but gets one Poor rating from the IIHS.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage comes standard with seven airbags—driver and passenger front and side bags, side-curtain bags over the front and rear windows, plus a knee airbag for the driver. It also has the usual suite of electronic safety systems, including active stability control, traction control, brake assist, brake override, electronic brake-force distribution, anti-lock brakes, and seat-belt pre-tensioning.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the new Mirage its top rating of Good for moderate-overlap front impact, side impact, roof strength, and seat/head restraint safety. On its new and tougher small-overlap front impact test, however, the IIHS rates the Mirage as Poor--the lowest of its four ratings, and possibly a warning flag for safety-conscious buyers. By comparison, the Chevrolet Spark (also a five-door minicar) gets an Acceptable rating for small-overlap front impact--far better and only one notch below Good.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet rated the 2014 Mirage. though it has told Mitsubishi it intends to test the car.
Mitsubishi says it’s put enormous effort into safety structures that disperse the energy of a crash along multiple structural members in the shell of the car. That means that while the area in front of the windshield may be crushed, the passenger compartment will remain intact as energy is dispersed around its perimeter. For what it’s worth, the Mirage earned the top rating of five stars on the ANCAP tests, Australia’s equivalent of NHTSA ratings.
A rearview camera is offered, but only as part of the $900 navigation system. Its angled rectangular housing is a very obvious add-on to the left side of the tailgate, rather than being integrated into the rear trim or license light as on most other cars.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage has automatic climate control and power accessories--but don't expect anything close to luxury.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage comes in just two trim levels, the base DE and the better-equipped ES. Each is available with either the five-speed manual gearbox or the continuously variable transmission.
Starting at $12,995 (plus a $795 delivery fee, mandatory on all models), the Mirage DE comes standard with automatic climate control; power windows, locks, and mirrors; variable intermittent wipers; and a 60/40 split folding rear seat back. The standard audio system has AM, FM, and a CD player, plus an audio input jack, a USB port, and a 12-Volt power outlet. The steel wheels are fitted with plastic wheel covers.
Moving up to the Mirage ES adds $1,200 to the price. For that, you get alloy wheels, cruise control, a pushbutton start, height-adjustable driver’s seat, fog lamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, audio controls on the steering wheel, Bluetooth pairing for smartphones, and a handful of silver and chrome trim accents.
The ES can be equipped with a $900 navigation package that also includes a backup camera and iPod playback capability. The 7-inch touchscreen is integrated into the center of the dash, but Mitsubishi admits that it expects only 5 percent of Mirage buyers will opt for it. The Chevrolet Spark system, which has a similarly sized touchscreen that uses a $50 smartphone app called Bringgo for navigation, seems like a much more sensible way to provide navigation on a car at this price level.
Other trim and customization options for the 2014 Mirage include a $695 appearance package that adds lower body skirts for the front, sides, and rear of the car, a $450 parking assist option with front and rear sensors, and LED interior lighting for $185. All told, Mitsubishi says it will be very hard to spend more than $16,000 (plus delivery) on even the most lavishly-optioned Mirage.
Like the Chevy Spark against which it competes most directly, the Mirage is offered in both standard colors—white, silver, grey, and black—but also a rainbow of brighter and more startling shades. Names for these colors, including Infrared, Plasma Purple, Kiwi Green, and Sapphire Blue, were suggested by Mitsubishi fans on social media, who then voted on the best names for each of four colors.
Mitsubishi covers the Mirage for 5 years or 60,000 miles under warranty, and provides 5 years of roadside assistance. The powertrain, however, is covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage has the highest non-hybid gas mileage--40 mpg combined--and can do even better in real-world use.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage has the highest fuel-efficiency rating for any car that’s neither a hybrid nor a plug-in. The version fitted with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is rated at 40 mpg combined (37 mpg city, 44 mpg highway). Opting for the five-speed manual, which is $1,000 cheaper, knocks that down to 37 mpg combined (34 mpg city, 42 mpg highway).
Those are remarkable numbers. They’re higher than the two-seat Smart ForTwo, and the lower of the two combined numbers equals the previous highest-rated gasoline car, the “3+1-seat” Scion iQ that’s only marginally longer than a Smart. Yet the Mirage offers four entry doors, seats for at least four, and all the cargo flexibility of a small five-door hatchback.
To do better on gas mileage in a car this size requires stepping up to either the Toyota Prius C (at 50 mpg combined) or the Honda Insight (at 42 mpg combined). Those cars too are five-door hatchbacks, both slightly larger than the Mirage—but their base prices are $6,000 to $7,000 higher. If you’re looking for very high gas mileage in a car with four usable seats, the 2014 Mirage is the cost-effective champ.