2018 Mitsubishi Mirage Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
December 29, 2017

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage is the most minimal four-seat car you can buy; with small cars lagging in sales, you can do better for little more money.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage remains what it’s been since its launch five years ago: a minicar used as family transportation in many less-affluent markets that’s been adapted to entry-level U.S. commuter-car duty. It is offered in three trim levels: the base ES, the mid-range SE, and the high-end GT.

Overall, we give the Mirage lineup 4.0 points out of a possible 10, one of our lowest ratings for any model. That rating would be even lower if it weren’t for the car’s fuel economy, the highest you can get without moving up to a hybrid-electric vehicle. The Mirage is below average in styling, performance, comfort, safety, and features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With the continued exodus of buyers from passenger cars into crossover utilities of all sizes, manufacturer incentives now make it possible to get a larger, more comfortable, and better-performing compact sedan for little more money than a Mirage.

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While we admire minimalism, the Mirage simply isn’t a very good car in comparison to many other vehicles that are slightly larger and much better-equipped. Most buyers will find they can do better.

3

2018 Mitsubishi Mirage

Styling

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage looks like what it is: a small car on small wheels stretched around space for four people.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage is a tall box on small wheels that proves to have more space inside than you might expect. Its sheet metal is wrapped around seats for four (the nominal capacity of five won’t work for North American-sized people) with a few flourishes added to what’s otherwise an anodyne shape. We rate it at 3 points out of a possible 10 for design and styling, subtracting one point for the awkward lines of the sedan’s tail and trunk and another for its tippy visual appearance of small wheels deep inside large openings. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Mirage got a new front end with an actual grille last year, which helped it look less like a child’s toy, but it’s still remarkably generic and almost invisible on the road. From the rear, the hatchback has some old Nissan Versa lines in the tailgate and lights. The sedan shares the awkward high trunk and heavy rear end of the Ford Fiesta sedan, similarly adapted from a car originally designed and mostly sold only as a hatchback.

Both body styles have small wheels--14-inch on the base ES model, 15-inch alloys otherwise--that sit deep inside large openings, giving it a top-heavy and somewhat tippy look. Overall, this is a car that’s dwarfed by a full-size pickup truck but makes little effort to appear solid or substantial.

Inside, hard plastics abound and the entire design of the cabin is a mix of extremely simple and straightforward—which is good—and economy-car minimal, which isn’t. The instrument cluster has two gauges, the radio and ventilation knobs are large and straightforward, and a floor console offers what little storage exists. The seat fabrics, plastic textures, and general appearance can only be described as basic. Even the driver’s elbows rest on hard-plastic door armrests. That pretty much says it all.

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2018 Mitsubishi Mirage

Performance

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage is barely passable around town, and actively unpleasant to drive and ride in at highway speeds.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage is not a pleasant car to drive if you find yourself having to travel on high-speed highways as well as in city and suburban traffic. We give the Mirage 0 out of 10 possible points for performance, the lowest rating we’ve given any car. It loses points for very slow acceleration, lack of reserve power for emergency situations, and its uncontrolled behavior at highway speeds. Any other car is better. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 3-cylinder 1.2-liter engine in the Mirage produces just 78 horsepower and 74 pound-feet of torque. That’s less than any other vehicle sold in the U.S. that uses its engine to move the car. Even the slow Toyota Prius C hybrid comes in at 99 hp.

A 5-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as a $1,200 option. The CVT gets better fuel economy, however. Either way, the Mirage makes a suitable urban warrior, especially with a tight 30.2-foot turning circle that allows U-turns into parking spaces across the street. The CVT accelerates from stops smartly, but the first gear in the manual transmission is so high that it takes practice to move away without stalling. But its fifth gear isn’t that high, so speeds of 75 mph have the little engine screaming at more than 3,500 rpm even at 70 mph.

Higher speeds are the car’s Achilles’ heel, with the only recourse in some emergencies being to slam on the brakes rather than try to accelerate around them. Passing even on the level demands a long open road, lots of advance planning, and a tolerance for agonized engine noises that produce only small gains in momentum.

The Mirage is one of the lightest cars on the market, at roughly 2,000 pounds for a base ES model, but even so, the little engine struggles on hills and in passing any other vehicle. Worse yet, the suspension just isn’t up to the task of keeping the car stable and the ride consistent above 50 mph. At speed, it’s actively unpleasant, yawing and wallowing and wobbling like no other vehicle we’ve tested.

Sudden changes in direction produce lurches to add to the mix, and even in a straight line the Mirage wanders off center. It may not be actively unsafe, but it sure is unpleasant. While Mitsubishi claims it upgraded the suspension last year, the company needs to do a lot more work to make the Mirage even minimally acceptable for North American driving conditions.

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2018 Mitsubishi Mirage

Comfort & Quality

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage can be quiet and smooth under optimal circumstances, but its interior screams “Cheap!”

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage lineup remains among the smallest, plainest, and simplest vehicles you can buy new. It’s got surprising interior volume, more than you’d expect, and on decent road surfaces it’s sufficiently quiet and the ride is decent. An entry-level Mirage range is a very basic economy car, but the higher trim levels are missing features and include strange adaptations that don’t justify their prices.

This year, we rate the Mirage lineup at 3 points out of a possible 10 for quality and comfort. We dock points for its skimpy, uncomfortable rear seat and generally cheap materials. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The front seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, though many drivers will find their front cushions too short. The steering wheel doesn’t telescope, only tilts—a rare omission for 2018—so some drivers may not be able to adjust it to their liking.

Four adults will fit in a Mirage, with the sedan a bit roomier than the hatchback, though negotiations among front and rear riders for legroom will be required. The rear-seat upholstery is thin, though we expect most Mirages will have only a driver much of the time. Three in the back is likely a bridge too far unless they’re very skinny, flexible, and uncomplaining.

All versions have hard plastics throughout the interiors; it looks decent but telegraphs “low price” and “econobox” where extra graining wouldn’t have cost any more. All models lack an armrest for the driver, and while the floor console offers a pair of cupholders, there’s no bin between the seats. Cargo volume in the hatchback is 17.2 cubic feet, rising to a substantial 47.0 cubic feet with the rear seat back folded, though the resulting load floor isn't flat. The G4 sedan’s trunk offers less storage, at 12.3 cubic feet.

In the best circumstances, the Mirage is smooth and quiet. But acceleration produces a loud howling from the little engine that stays at full blast until the driver gives in and lets up on the accelerator. The car’s small 14- or 15-inch wheels thump and crash over joints, ruts, and potholes, and badly broken roads highlight the car’s minimal suspension.

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2018 Mitsubishi Mirage

Safety

The safety ratings of the 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage are some of the lowest among cars sold in the U.S., and no active-safety features are available.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage doesn’t get particularly good safety ratings from either the NHTSA or IIHS. Both models are consistently below the top-ranked small cars, and that hasn’t changed over the car’s model life. This year, we rate the Mirage at 4 points out of 10 for safety, one point higher than last year due to a rearview camera now being standard equipment on all versions of the car, not just higher trim levels. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The NHTSA gives the Mirage hatchback four stars out of five overall, and it also gets four stars in three safety tests: frontal crash, side crash, and rollover. The Mirage G4 sedan, however, hasn’t been rated by the federal agency.

The IIHS rates each body style separately; their ratings are largely similar, though the newer G4 sedan fares slightly worse on one test. Both versions receive the institute’s top rating of Good on moderate-overlap front crash, roof strength, and head restraints and seats. The hatchback also gets a Good score on side impact safety, but the sedan is rated only Acceptable, one level below. As for the tougher small-overlap front crash test, both Mirage versions are rated at Marginal, only one step above the lowest rating of Poor.

Neither vehicle offers any modern active-safety features, including blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, or automatic emergency braking. All Mirages are fitted with seven airbags.

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2018 Mitsubishi Mirage

Features

A handful of upgrades this year still leave the 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage lacking features in higher trim levels.

The purest 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage is the entry-level ES model with a manual transmission. It’s slow, unpleasant at speed, and resolutely basic, but it’s not trying to be something it’s not. The higher trim levels of the Mirage aspire to compete with larger cars that trounce it on features that matter to consumers. Despite a handful of upgrades this year, we rate the 2018 Mirage at 4 out of 10 points for features, docking it a point for some missing items in those pricier trims. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All but the GT come standard with the 5-speed manual gearbox, with the continuously variable transmission adding a steep $1,200 to the price. Every Mirage includes keyless entry, full power accessories, air conditioning, variable-speed intermittent windshield wipers, and a 60/40 split folding seat back. This year, even the entry Mirage ES has a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth pairing. It sticks with steel wheels with plastic wheel covers and a 4-speaker audio system.

The mid-level Mirage SE is upgraded with alloy wheels, cruise control, audio controls in the steering wheel, automatic climate control, and a push-button start. This year, it also adds a driver’s seat armrest and a USB port relocated to the center console from last year’s cable inside the glove box.

Move up to the theoretically sportier GT and you get 15-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, heated front seats, and a variety of upgraded trim pieces inside and out.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay remain an extra-cost option, however, as part of a Smartphone Package even on the SE and GT trim levels. Other options include a 300-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, and front and rear parking sensors. Navigation is not offered, however, with smartphone integration the only way for a driver to feed streaming directions into the car’s audio display. A fully loaded Mirage can now approach a sticker price of $18,000, putting it up against larger, more comfortable, and better equipped small cars that offer at least some of the active-safety features conspicuously unavailable on the Mirage.

The Mirage warranty is for 5 years or 60,000 miles, or 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain. Mitsubishi provides 5 years of roadside assistance. 

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2018 Mitsubishi Mirage

Fuel Economy

The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage gets higher fuel-economy rankings than any car sold in the U.S. that isn’t a hybrid or plug-in hybrid.

The minimalist 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage has one maximal qualification to distinguish it: No other conventional gasoline-powered vehicle sold in the U.S. gets higher fuel-economy ratings from the EPA. We give the little Mirage 9 out of 10 possible points on our green scale; the only way it could score higher is if it had a plug. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The most thrifty Mirage is the hatchback version fitted with the continuously variable transmission, or CVT, at 37 mpg city, 43 highway, and 39 combined. The CVT-equipped Mirage G4 sedan is next-best, at 35/41/37 mpg. Opting for the less expensive 5-speed manual gearbox lowers mileage ratings, though again the hatchback is slightly better, at 33/41/36 mpg, versus the G4 sedan at 33/40/35 mpg.

The Mirage is certainly less expensive than the Toyota Prius C, rated this year at 46 mpg combined, which starts around $20,000, or almost 50 percent more than the cheapest Mirage. Most compact sedans and hatchbacks will return at least 30 mpg in real-world use. In this era of low gasoline prices, we would question whether the sacrifices involved in owning and driving a Mirage are worth the small savings in fuel cost.

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$13,395
MSRP based on ES Manual
 
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4.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 3
Performance 1
Comfort & Quality 3
Safety 4
Features 4
Fuel Economy 9
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2018 Mitsubishi Mirage Pricing Insights

  • 2018 Mirage selection improving; 2017s still available
  • $750 factory rebate on 2017s; $500 on 2018s
  • Lease a 2018 from $189 for 36 months
  • Get 0% APR for 48 months on either model year
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