- Room for four adults
- Maneuverability, easy parking
- Great gas mileage
- Poor handling at speed
- Sluggish acceleration
- Very little extra power
- Noise and vibration
- Low safety ratings
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.
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage remains one of the lowest-priced new cars on the U.S. market. One version of the Mirage hatchback is the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid gasoline-powered vehicle available in America. But the low price and small, anemic engine exact significant penalties in other areas, meaning that the Mirage comes up short against competitors that are only slightly pricier.
We give the Mirage an overall rating of 4.2 out of 10, one of the lower-ranked cars we've reviewed this year. It would be lower still if it didn't earn 9 out of 10 points for its exceptionally high fuel-economy ratings. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.) The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is offered in ES, SE, and GT trims.
Made in Thailand, the Mirage hatchback was initially expected to be a low-volume price leader for Mitsubishi when it launched as a 2014 model. But the struggling Japanese importer sold three times as many Mirages as expected in its first full year on the market. After skipping the 2016 model year, the Mirage is back with buffed-up styling, some new and updated features, and a second body style, a four-door sedan with a trunk known as the Mirage G4.
The little car's success is somewhat surprising, since the Mirage isn't that rewarding to drive, it's slow and noisy with a very uncontrolled ride at higher speeds, and its safety scores aren't very impressive. We'd deem it a classic case of getting what you pay for. The Mirage is a throwback to economy cars of the sort that hasn't been popular in the U.S. for several decades.
Add $2,000 or more and you can get a considerably better small hatchback, whether it's the much more refined Chevrolet Spark, the larger Kia Rio, or even the new Smart Fortwo if you don't need a back seat. Given the new Mirage G4 sedan, if you open up the competition to sedans as well, the Nissan Sentra comes into play as a strong value as well.
Inoffensive lines, inadequate power
The general look of the Mirage is inoffensive, though not particularly charming. Styling changes for 2017 include new front and rear bumpers and lower-body treatments, a new grille, different headlights and foglights, new 14- and 15-inch alloy wheels, and a new rear spoiler (bringing the coefficient of drag down to 0.27). The proportions of the high-tailed sedan are awkward, and the hatchback is a more cohesive shape, if far from striking.
The 2017 Mirage is powered by a 78-horsepower 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine. Along with very light weight, it's one of the keys to the car's exceptionally high fuel efficiency—but it also brings very modest performance. Acceleration is perky enough under 40 mph—fine if you work it hard—but highway merging is especially sluggish, with the delay exaggerated by the continuously variable transmission (CVT), The standard 5-speed manual gearbox costs less but actually has lower fuel-economy ratings—and its oddly spaced ratios mean it isn't any more fun.
Mitsubishi claims that it's made significant improvements to the handling for 2017, with better spring rates and optimized damping—stiffening the suspension in front especially—while upgrading the brake system with bigger front discs and rear drums. In short, it needs to do a lot more work to make the Mirage acceptable at highway speeds.
The Mirage remains very softly sprung, with poor body control and a dead spot at the center with the electric power steering. The small 14- or 15-inch wheels and tires may be at least partially to blame, but the Mirage requires constant driver attention at speed and even then it wanders, wobbles, wallows, and floats. It's acceptable around town, but it's the least pleasant car we've driven at highway speeds this year. From the cabin, engine noise under acceleration is more present than in many other inexpensive small cars during acceleration and at higher speeds, and broken pavement and surfaces incite a mix of jarring and pitching motions.
Better materials, subpar safety
Mitsubishi has upgraded seat materials for 2017 as well, and swapped in a new steering wheel and some upgraded trims and switchgear. The dash is straightforward and makes do with hard-plastic surfaces, while the bezels have received a fresh look and top SE and GT models now get higher-contrast combination meters. The new details definitely make the Mirage less chintzy, but it's still reminiscent of 1990s economy-car fundamentals.
The Mirage is one of the smallest five-door hatchbacks sold in the U.S.; it straddles minicar and subcompact classifications, by American standards. It has significantly more interior room than you'd expect, and it's larger inside than the Smart Fortwo or Fiat 500—enough to create back-seat space that will actually work for two adults if they bargain with front-seat passengers for leg room. Mitsubishi calls this a five-passenger car, yet the rear seat will only fit three if they're exceptionally skinny teens or children. Cargo space is good for its size in the hatchback, but the sedan's trunk is only average.
Safety has been a bit of a shortcoming of the Mirage, with its rating in the IIHS small-overlap frontal test particularly worrisome. It's risen one notch from "Poor" to "Marginal," but that's still toward the bottom of the scale. The Mirage gets four stars overall from the NHTSA. It comes 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. No electronic active-safety systems are offered, and a rearview camera is only standard on the two higher trims, not the base ES model.
Base Mirage ES models include air conditioning, keyless entry, full power accessories, steel wheels, and a 4-speaker, 140-watt sound system. Bluetooth compatibility is optional on the base model, though. Mid-level SE models add a new infotainment display that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, plus alloy wheels, automatic climate control, a rearview camera system, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, and keyless ignition. And at the top of the lineup, GT models add heated front seats, 15-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon HID headlights, and various sportier trim upgrades. Noteworthy options on the 2017 Mirage will include front and rear park assist, 300-watt Rockford Fosgate audio, and LED running lamps.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage now has a conventional front end, but its sedan model has odd lines and its interior is econocar-basic.
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage has received a new front end this year, which improves its appearance from the bland, generic, anonymous front end it previously featured. It's still all but invisible on the road, using a blend of design cues from other Mitsubishi vehicles. The Mirage G4 sedan version, new this year, has some awkward lines in its rear quarters, which is typical of sedans adapted from very small and stubby hatchbacks—the Ford Fiesta sedan suffers from the same problem.
We rate the 2017 Mirage at 3 out of 10 points for its design and styling. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The Mirage hatchback is shaped like a teardrop, its maker says, with the five-door'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 its wheels look much too small for the car, whether they're the 15-inch alloys used on higher trim levels or the tiny 165/65 tires on 14-inch wheels on the base ES version. Its front wheels are also set deep into the wheelwells, which only exacerbates the visual appearance of small size.
Inside, the Mirage is econocar-plain although commendably straightforward. Its interior surfaces are almost universally hard plastic, even lacking soft touch materials where elbows land on the door arm-rests. The textures are passable for the base model's $13,000 price, but for top-of-the-range versions approaching $18,000, they're a letdown. The black cloth seat upholstery is shot through with purple threads to form a tight check pattern, which comes off better than it may sound.
The gauge cluster is simple, with small tachometer, a large speedometer, and a gas gauge as the main features. The knobs for the audio system and the automatic climate control are large and intuitive, to its credit. This is one place where simplicity wins out over, for example, the Honda Civic's touchscreen slider for volume control. A small console includes two cupholders and a tiny tray for oddments, but there's no place for a smartphone except in one of the cupholders. Unaccountably, even on the top models, there's nothing at all to support the driver's right elbow, where virtually every other vehicle has a bin with a padded lid.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
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.
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is one of the least pleasant cars to drive that we've experienced in years. While Mitsubishi says its suspension has been upgraded from the previous version, the on-road behavior of the Mirage is far below what we consider the minimum these days. And that's before you get to the slow acceleration and lack of reserve power for emergencies. We rate the Mirage at 2 out of 10 points for performance, docking it for all those factors. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The Mirage comes with just one engine, a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder that puts out 78 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. That makes it the least powerful cars sold in the U.S.,with the Smart ForTwo now at 89 hp and the base Fiat 500 offering 101 hp. If you move up the price scale to hybrids, the Toyota Prius C powertrain is rated at 99 hp.
The Mirage offers two transmissions: a 5-speed manual gearbox or, for $1,000 more, a compact continuously variable transmission (CVT) that delivers the highest gas-mileage ratings. The CVT has a wider range (7.3:1) 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 best use of a Mirage is for city and suburban trips. It's a nimble urban warrior with a turning circle of just 30.2 feet, so it can make U-turns into parking spaces across the street with ease. The Mirage is also a remarkably light car. The five-door hatchback, with seats for four adults, has a curb weight of roughly 2,000 pounds in its most minimal form, the same as a two-seat Smart ForTwo.
In town, the CVT version (which is likely to be the majority of Mirages sold) accelerates away from stops smartly. It also has hill-start assist. But the ratios in the manual gearbox start with a first gear so high that just moving away without stalling takes some practice. Its fifth gear isn’t particularly high, though, so the little engine is screaming at more than 3,500 rpm at only 70 mph.
OK in city, unpleasant on highways
The Mirage is far more comfortable running around town than on long road trips—especially if those journeys happen to involve any hills, sudden changes in direction, or the need to pass any other vehicles. We wouldn't say it's actively unsafe, but it’s astoundingly slow to accelerate above 40 mph and the handling is unpleasant.
Really, higher speeds are the Achilles' heel of the little Mirage. It simply doesn't have the power in reserve to let a driver do anything in emergencies except slam on the brakes. Even on a level road, to pass a car ahead requires a long and clearly visible stretch of road and considerable advance planning. During the long process of gaining momentum, there's a lot of engine noise for very slow gains in forward progress.
The handling and roadholding are fine around town, with a comfortable and well-damped ride on smooth pavement. But at speed—and virtually every car in the U.S. has to spend at least some time on highways—the Mirage turns actively unpleasant to drive. The suspension simply isn't up to the combination of a tall car and the variety of U.S. road surfaces above, say, 50 mph.
At speed, the Mirage floats, wobbles, wallows, and yaws. The electric power steering has a large numb area in the center—larger than almost any other car we’ve driven lately—that means it wanders if the driver doesn’t pay close attention. Sudden maneuvers like lane changes produce a lot of body roll and a wobbly and uncertain feeling until the car evens out again. While Mitsubishi says it retuned the suspension for 2017, we'd suggest it needs to go back and spend more money on shocks, anti-roll bars, and beefier components to make the Mirage acceptable for North American driving conditions.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
Comfort & Quality
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage has a comfortable ride and surprising room inside, but its materials are basic.
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is small, cheap, and simple, but it offers considerably more room inside than you'd expect and the ride is decent on good road surfaces at lower speeds, and is fairly quiet. The materials are basic, with hard plastics dominating, and while lower-level models are basic economy cars, the higher-level trims have odd omissions and adaptations that don't mesh well with their higher prices.
We rate the Mirage at 4 out of 10 for comfort, giving it an extra point for interior volume but docking it for cheap materials and missing features in higher trims. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Most drivers—especially taller adults—will find the lower cushions of the front seats a bit short, though the seats are comfortable and we judged their seat-back bolstering to be better than many competitors. The front seats remained comfortable after several hours of driving. The steering wheel tilts, but doesn't telescope, meaning some drivers may also find it hard to adjust the steering position to their liking. That's a rare omission these days.
It's possible to fit four adults into the rear of a 2017 Mirage, and the four-door sedan felt slightly roomier than the hatchback. Both cars still require negotiation for legroom among front and rear passengers. 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 rear-seat upholstery is also thin, though we suspect most Mirages will be occupied only by a single driver in the U.S. (They're considered family cars in much of Asia.)
The interior materials look decent, if simple, at 10 paces, but they turn out to be uniformly hard plastics. That's not surprising for a car in this segment, and they're not the worst we've seen, but every piece of interior furnishing telegraphs "low price" and "basic transport," even where a bit of extra graining likely wouldn't have cost any more. There's a floor-mounted console with two cupholders, but no bin between the seats or even a driver's center armrest.
The Mirage hatchback has 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 (larger and pricier) Honda Fit. Mirage buyers can add a package that bundles a cargo tray and a net to hold irregular objects for $95. The new Mirage G4 sedan has less cargo volume, providing only 12.3 cubic feet in its trunk.
On the road, the Mirage is quiet and ride smoothly under optimal circumstances. Press the little car harder, however, and a loud howl of engine noise arises from under the hood and remains at full blast until you let up on the accelerator. Broken roads and highways bring out the worst in the Mirage, as its small 14- or 15-inch wheels crash over ruts and expansion joints.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is among the lower-rated vehicles in the U.S. for safety.
The safety ratings of the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage put it among the lower-rated vehicles, and we give it a 3 out of 10 for Safety. It loses points for not earning an overall five-star rating from the NHTSA and the lack of a standard rearview camera on its base Mirage ES version. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has given the 2017 Mirage hatchback a rating of four stars overall, with four stars across the board for frontal crash, side crash, and rollover safety. Oddly, that's a reduction from the five-star rating for side impacts the 2015 model earned—a trend in the wrong direction. The NHTSA hasn't rated the new 2017 Mirage G4 sedan at all, however.
While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2017 hatchback its top rating of "Good" for moderate-overlap front impact, side impact, roof strength, and seat/head restraint safety, the results are not good on its new and tougher small-overlap front impact test. On that test, the IIHS rates the Mirage as "Marginal"—the second-lowest of its four ratings, although one notch above the lowest "Poor" rating that the previous model year received.
The IIHS rates the new Mirage G4 sedan even lower, with "Good" ratings for moderate-overlap front impact, roof strength, and seat/head restraint safety, but a lower "Acceptable" rating for side impact, and the same "Marginal" for the small-overlap front crash test. For either model, those ratings are likely 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 standard on the two higher-level trims, the SE at GT, but not on the base ES model. Otherwise, the 2017 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.
No advanced electronic active-safety systems—blind-spot monitors, forward-collision warnings, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, or adaptive cruise control—are offered on the Mirage.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage shows its very basic roots in a limited array of features and a few surprising omissions.
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage comes in three trim levels: base ES, mid-level SE, and high-end GT. The ES replaces the previous DE version at the bottom of the range. The bottom two come standard with a 5-speed manual gearbox, with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) as a $1,200 option. The GT only comes with the CVT.
We give the Mirage a 4 out of 10 for features, docking it a point for odd omissions at higher trim levels. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
Every Mirage includes air conditioning, keyless entry, full power accessories, steel wheels with plastic wheel covers, variable intermittent wipers, a 60/40 split folding rear seat back, and a 4-speaker, 140-watt sound system.
Mid-level Mirage SE models add a new infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, plus alloy wheels, automatic climate control, a rearview camera system, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, and push-button start. The Mirage GT models at the top of the lineup add heated front seats, 15-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon HID headlights, and various sportier trim upgrades.
Noteworthy options on the 2017 Mirage include front and rear park assist, 300-watt Rockford Fosgate audio, and LED interior lighting. Bluetooth compatibility is optional on the base SE model, standard on all others. It's worth noting that a navigation package is no longer offered. Instead, drivers can use various smartphone apps (including Google Maps) and the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatibility features.
Neither are any advanced electronic active-safety systems—blind-spot alert, automatic crash braking, lane-departure warning, or adaptive cruise control—offered on the Mirage.
While Mitsubishi said at the 2015 launch that it would be hard to spend more than $16,000 on a Mirage, that number has risen with the car's sales success. And that puts the Mirage into competition with more lavishly outfitted cars, bringing some odd omissions into focus. The single USB connector, for example, is a plug at the end of a wire inside the glove box. It works fine if you have a long enough USB cord to connect your phone or music player, but it feels like an afterthought. There's also no center armrest for the driver, even in models with list prices approaching $18,000.
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.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage has some of the highest fuel-economy ratings of any non-hybrid car sold in the U.S.
One of the selling points of the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is its remarkably high EPA fuel-economy ratings. With combined gas mileage of 35 to 39 mpg, depending on the model, it has the highest ratings of any vehicle sold in the U.S. this year that isn't a hybrid. For that, we give it 9 out of 10 points on our Green scale. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.)
The two most efficient Mirage models both come with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). They are the hatchback at 37 mpg city, 43 highway, 39 combined, and the new Mirage G4 sedan at 35 city, 42 highway, 37 combined. The 5-speed manual gearbox, the standard transmission on both models, cuts the ratings to 33/41/36 mpg for the hatchback and 33/40/35 mpg for the sedan.
Competitors with similar or better gas mileage all tend to cost at least a few thousand dollars more than the Mirage. The Honda Fit hatchback is a better-performing vehicle with a more flexible interior, but it starts at around $3,500 more than the Mirage—at a combined rating of 35 mpg for its CVT version—while the 50-mpg Toyota Prius C carries a base price around $20,000, notably higher than the Mirage.
The gas mileage of the Mirage is remarkable. Most versions carry higher ratings than the two-seat Smart ForTwo, for instance. Yet the Mirage offers four entry doors, seats for at least four, and all the cargo flexibility of a small five-door hatchback or four-door sedan. But they come at the price of slow acceleration, very little power in reserve, and a cheap, tinny vehicle.