- Five-door practicality
- Good low-speed response
- High fuel efficiency, low price
- Real-world mileage may be higher
- Mush handling
- Marginal acceleration
- Cutesy color choices
- Dead spot in steering
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage smaller than a subcompact and larger than a minicar, but offers five-door hatchback versatility on the cheap–and the best fuel economy you'll find in a non-hybrid car. That comes at a price in performance, though.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage isn't all that rewarding to drive, and Mitsubishi's budget entry got one particularly bad score on a recent IIHS safety test. For budget-conscious buyers, then, the brightly colored Mirage minicar is the perfect case of getting what you pay for. Add $3,000 or more and can you have a considerably better small car, but with slightly lower gas mileage.
But the Mirage does have a couple of things going for it. It's the most fuel-efficient car sold this year that isn't a hybrid or plug-in electric vehicle, and it's low-priced, starting at just $13,000 plus delivery for the base DE model, which includes automatic climate control and a few other features as standard. Most Mirage buyers will likely step up to the ES for an additional $1,200. That's still reasonable against its competitors, which range from two-seat minicars to subcompact hatchbacks.
Oh, and that single Nissan Versa model that's so stripped down that it carries a cheaper base price? It's what's known in the trade as a "unicorn" for its rarity — its sole purpose is to get you in the door so the dealer can sell you a nicer model.
The Mirage is not only one of the two smallest five-door hatchbacks sold in the U.S. It's smaller than a subcompact–but it actually straddles categories: Its size puts it between minicars and subcompacts. It’s certainly larger than the Smart ForTwo, Scion iQ, Fiat 500, and even a bit bigger than the five-door Chevrolet Spark. But it’s dwarfed by every other subcompact hatchbacks: the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio5, Mazda 2, Toyota Yaris, and the biggest boy in the class, the Nissan Versa.
The Mirage name was last seen in North America as a new car way back in 2002. The 2015 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.).
The 2015 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.
The high 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 the 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 very little 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 children.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is offered in just two trim levels: the base DE and the better equipped ES. Mitsubishi says it's targeting first-time buyers and those on very limited budgets.
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 2015. The Mirage will likely do somewhat better in Canada, where small and inexpensive cars take a larger share of the market.
2015 Mitsubishi Mirage
You won't notice the anonymous 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage on the road; it's a generic small car with an undistinguished interior.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage uses anonymity as its styling theme; the bland front end and generic body curves combine to make it all but invisible on the road. Many of its design cues have been drawn from Mitsubishi's other vehicles, with swept-back headlamps and a slit-like grille, but it's lacking in personality.
But what Mitsubishi’s stylists have sacrificed in distinctive looks has gone to the service of low wind resistance, minimizing the energy required to move the small and low-powered car against aerodynamic drag. The company says the 2015 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. If there's any spice in the shape, it's in details like the small canards at the bottom edges of on the front apron. Race day, anyone?
Mitsubishi says the Mirage is shaped like a teardrop, with the five-door hatchback's roof and upper body narrowing slightly toward the rear. We saw a hint of the last-generation Nissan Versa hatchback in the tailgate shape and rear lights. Like most very small cars, the Mirage is tall for its length, and the tiny 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.
Inside, the Mirage is straightforward if plain. Interior surfaces are all hard plastic, and it's even lacking soft touch materials where elbows land on the door arm-rests. The textures are good, though, so the interior feels suited to the $13,000 price. The black cloth seat upholstery is shot through with purple threads to form a tight check pattern, which comes off far better than it may sound.
A simple gauge cluster—the dominant elements are a small tachometer, a large speedometer, and a gas gauge—and the car offers large, fairly intuitive knobs and switches for the audio system and automatic climate control. A small console includes two cupholders and a small tray for oddments.
2015 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage lacks power at speed, must be driven hard around town to keep up, and has inferior steering and suspension.
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.
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 2015 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 2015 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.
2015 Mitsubishi Mirage
Comfort & Quality
The comfort, materials, and noise level of the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage all reflect its essential role: it's cheap, basic transport.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage is small, inexpensive, and simple, but it offers a decent ride on good road surfaces and is fairly quiet. That's only under optimal circumstances, though: Press the little Mirage harder, and a loud howl of engine noise arises from under the hood and remains until you let up on the accelerator. Broken roads bring out the worst in the Mirage, as its small 14-inch wheels crash over ruts and expansion joints.
Most drivers—taller adults especially—will find the lower cushions of the front seats somewhat short, though the seats are otherwise comfortable and have good seat-back bolstering. We found the front seats remained comfortable during several hours of driving. Drivers may also find it hard to adjust the steering wheel exactly to their liking; it tilts, but does not telescope, an increasingly rare omission these days.
In the rear, however, the upholstery is thin and legroom can only be achieved through negotiations with the passengers up front. It's at least possible to fit four adults into a 2015 Mirage, unlike the Fiat 500 or MINI Cooper, with their three doors and nominal rear seats more suited for backpacks than humans. Mitsubishi calls it a five-seat car, but fitting three in the rear would require all of them to be children or skinny teenagers.
The Mirage also offers good cargo space for its segment. With the rear seat up, it provides 17.2 cubic feet of cargo volume; fold the rear seat forward, and that rises to a substantial 47.0 cubic feet. The load floor isn't flat, though, and the Mirage offers nothing like the flexibility of the Magic Seat in the all-new 2015 Honda Fit, though that subcompact is admittedly larger and several thousand dollars more expensive. Mirage buyers can add a package that bundles a cargo tray and a net to hold irregular objects for $95.
2015 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage gets one Poor rating from the IIHS despite its relatively new design and seven airbags.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Mirage a rating of four stars overall, with a five-star rating for side impacts.
While 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, the results are dire on its new and tougher small-overlap front impact test. On that tougher crash, the IIHS rates the Mirage as Poor—the lowest of its four ratings, and very 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.
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.
The 2015 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.
2015 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage has automatic climate control as standard, but it's as far from luxurious as you can get.
New for 2015, the Mirage now includes a small piece of chrome trim around the HVAC system, as well as a shortened radio antenna on the car's exterior.
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.
The 2015 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.
The Mirage ES costs $1,200 more than the base car. 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.
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.
Other trim and customization options for the 2015 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.
2015 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage delivers the highest gas mileage--40 mpg combined--of any non-hybid this year, and may exceed that in use.
Short of hybrids and plug-ins, the Mitsubishi Mirage is currently the most fuel-efficient gasoline car on the market. To do better on gas mileage in a car this size requires stepping up to the Toyota Prius C hybrid (at 50 mpg combined) or the Honda Insight at 42 mpg combined. (While Honda discontinued the Insight for 2015, there are remaining stocks of 2014 models still at dealers.)
Both of those cars are five-door hatchbacks as well, and both are 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 2015 Mirage is the cost-effective champ.
The 2015 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.