ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I think I'm one of maybe three auto writers who do not despise this car. Part of it is that, in the back of my mind, I'm hoping that the Mirage meets sales objectives so I can buy a Lancer Evolution some day soon. (Yes, I'm fully aware that the Lancer Evolution may be a lost cause.) The rest of it probably has as much to do with the marketing campaign around the Mirage, or the lack of it, as it does with the car itself.
The Mirage doesn't promise to be a popularity-enhancing lifestyle centerpiece. It's not imbued with the spirit of Mitsubishi's great rally machines. It's not a jaw-dropping work of automotive art. Its objectives were to offer more features and higher fuel economy than its competitors at an affordable price point. It is supposed to be a car that debt-laden millennials and old people who just don't give a crap will be able to tolerate. It meets its objectives.
I've driven both manual and CVT-equipped versions of this car, and I prefer the manual -- the gearbox is nowhere near as engaging as that of, say, the Mazda 2, but you don't feel like you're flogging the car as hard when you opt for it over the CVT.
Still, with the CVT, the car is quick enough in stop-and go traffic; there's no torque steer because there's no torque. On the highway, you'll notice its miniscule 74 hp output, but you'll also be able to whip the car up to, and beyond, legal cruising speeds somehow.
The most uninspiring part of this car is probably its suspension. It feels old, as in used and broken-in. Though acceptable when it comes to swallowing up brutal road imperfections, the suspension lets the car roll and sway through turns and sudden course changes (like swerving around a pothole). Improving part of the car would go a long way toward improving the entire package.
Inside, the Mirage has the same hard plastic and budget cloth seats as its entry-level peers, but it does have more features -- like automatic climate control and power windows (!). The cargo space is sufficient for a decent Costco run without the rear seats folded down. If you didn't have rear passengers, you could probably fit some of those titanic pallets of toilet paper in the back with no problem.
This one definitely feels pricey at nearly $17,000, though that's about as much as one could ever spend on a Mirage. With a base price comfortably under $14,000, less any applicable rebates, the model is almost cheap enough to purchase ironically. I'd recommend it to someone who needs a cheap new car over a comparably priced Toyota Yaris, but I much prefer the Mazda 2when it comes to bare-bones flingable five-doors. If you want features, though, go nuts with a Mirage.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: The Mitsubishi Mirage probably isn't near the top of anyone's “Desirable Cars” list. It's small, cheap, smells funny, and ours had a CVT -- and if you want the navigation system you've got to spec the bad transmission. That said, it can be had with a manual, it's fuel-efficient, it offers a good deal of practically and it's pretty damned cheap.
With the CVT, you get plenty of that “tiny engine thrashing while car struggles to get up to speed” thing. You also get a bouncy, comfort-tuned suspension, which on a car this small and slow can actually be fun. There's a surprising amount of room inside, and everything is more or less where it ought to be. From the outside, the car looks pretty much like a generic, inexpensive car and that theme pretty much carries over into the interior. It's not bad, but there's nothing that really stands out as being especially smart, pretty or interesting.
Our tester was more or less maxed out as far as options go, which drove the price up to around $17,000 where there are far better options available. A $17,000 Mirage doesn't make sense, but a stripper can hypothetically be had for $12,995 or $13,790 total MSRP. That buys you basic transportation and a 10-year, 100,000-mile “limited powertrain warranty.” When it is viewed as a competitor to the Nissan Versa, a case can be made for the Mitsubishi.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: I'm trying to look at the Mirage through an objective lens, but the car doesn't make it easy. What Mitsubishi has done, particularly with our ES model, is take quite possibly the most basic car available in America and tack on -- literally in the case of the rearview camera -- features that make it seem more palatable. This thing's got navigation, redundant steering wheel controls, power windows (but not mirrors), automatic climate control (that, at best, gives you a vague approximation of the desired temperature) and a stout warranty. There's also a surprisingly smooth, quiet highway ride thanks to the softly sprung chassis. The rest, though, is abysmal. Three cylinders and a CVT is just a bad idea, made worse by the fact the Mirage feels like it's about to stall every time you roll up to a stoplight. Thin doors, a blow-molded black-plastic interior and horrible powertrain harshness make for a truly unpleasant driving experience. Ten years ago the same could be said of just about any cheap, small car, but times have changed dramatically -- everyone from Chevy to Toyota offers a competitive, comfortable B-segment car right now; Mitsubishi does not.
Finally, the argument that the Mirage is cheap transportation for city dwellers falls flat because…it's not that cheap. By the time you get out of a dealership with tax, tag, title and license plate insurance, this Mirage would be tickling $19,000, a ridiculous sum of money for a car of this caliber. A lightly used Ford Fiesta or Honda Fit makes infinitely more fiscal sense, not only from a comfort perspective but also considering that the Ford and Honda will likely be worth more in the end, even when purchased used.
No doubt there are some folks who are willing to pay a premium just to have a “new” car. That's the only possible reason I can fathom to choose such a punishing economy car from an obscure automaker.
As long as there's a used Fiesta for sale somewhere in America, the Mirage should remain a buyer's second choice.
EDITORIAL INTERN BRAD WILEY: Like Graham, I would be considered one of those three automotive writers who truly appreciates the Mitsubishi Mirage for what it is. The Mirage can be thought of under the same viewpoint to that of purchasing a garden tractor. So long as it cuts the grass and can do a decent job, I wouldn't crucify it for cupholder placement. After all, the car is by no means a luxury vehicle. Now that's not to say that the power options aren't fantastic additions to the utilitarian go-kart. The Mirage does what it needs to do in providing transportation at a relatively decent price. And the pricing is somewhat arguable.
As for the powertrain, the three-pot provides just a tad more horsepower than your average garden tractor. I'm only joking, but the 74 hp is heavily exploited in the 2,051-pound car. Getting up to highway speeds in the Mirage is a treat, the CVT winds up like a friction motor, and the 14-inch tires dig in for an exhilarating ride. Luckily the 1.2-liter is able to reach higher revs, otherwise passing would be at the mercy of the wind.
Driving the Mirage around town is entertaining, but not as enjoyable as, say, a Ford Fiesta SE. Like the editors above, the suspension is stripped down to the basics. For a B-segment car, the torsion beam rear suspension could use some work. Over even the slightest bumps, the clunking from the rear sounds like blown shock mount or a missing spring isolator. Keep in mind that our tester has had the privilege of enduring the infamous pothole riddled streets of the Metro Detroit area, but it shouldn't sound like that for having fewer than 3,000 miles on the clock.
Driving on the highway at the legal limit, the Mirage was batted around by the turbulence created by passing vehicles as small as a Honda Accord. And let's just say that passing a tractor trailer was a white-knuckle maneuver.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: A cynic (a real mean cynic) would say this is about what you'd expect if you went into your backyard and built your own car from whatever galvanized steel you could find there. The Mitsubishi Mirage is the definition of the minimalist, nay, existentialist automobile. It is loud, it is tinny, it is a rattly claptrap pile of Japanese scrap metal stapled and scotch-taped together and painted in outrageous hues that serve no purpose other than to detract from its abject awfulness. It is the worst car sold in America. The cynic would say.
But that's only if you look at it cynically.
If you look at it as an automotive adventure, as a return to the early '70s, as a vehicle that involves the driver in every shift of its five-speed manual transmission (which is the gearbox our test car in Los Angeles had) so that you can stay ahead of the semis and behind the stopped traffic in front of you, if you enjoy feeling, seeing and hearing every pang-pang-pa-doink of the loud and mighty three-cylinder's valiant struggle to convert internal combustion to forward momentum, if finding the gears in the five-speed box has been too easy in other cars and you want to be more involved in the process of that and of driving in general, then this car is the greatest thing on the market ever. The optimist would say.
I had to actually pop the hood and look underneath it to verify that a company is really making a three-cylinder engine. Yes, Ford is doing it, too, and others will follow as carmakers strive to meet increasingly optimistic federal standards for fuel efficiency. Indeed, this car and its drivetrain may represent (part of) the future of powertrains in this increasingly fuel-starved world. So I looked and there they were: three big black plastic intake pipes going into the transverse-mounted block and helping make the car's 74 hp a reality. Seventy-four horsepower? I think I could make 74 hp if I worked out a little. But how much horsepower do you really need if all you have to pull around is 1,973 pounds of Mirage with the manual transmission? Name another new car currently sold in America that weighs less than a ton? A Caterham? Sure, you give up sound insulation to get that. Open the doors and you feel an entire hollow door in your hand. I was driving under an overpass that was dripping rain and I could hear each drop strike the hollow roof and echo throughout the inside like submarine sonar pings. I haven't had the feeling that I could pull a car apart with my bare hands and maybe one can opener since I drove a Geo Metro convertible 25 years ago.
And yet this car has met all applicable FMVSS standards. It has crush zones determined by computer modeling and verified by crash tests. It has three-point belts and air bags. It has safety glass. It is in those respects a safe and modern car. Yet if feels so terribly tinny. Can I get over that? I am only judging this by the standards of every other car sold in America, especially by those in this subcompact class. Maybe the Daewoo-made Chevrolet Spark comes closest in tinny-ness and pang. It also reminds me of my own personal Mitsubishi, the similarly minimalist i-MiEV electric car, itself based on a Japanese Kei-class car that is usually powered by a 660-cc three.
And yet, despite or because of the Mirage's ting-tang-bonk feel, I had a smile on my grinning grille the whole time I drove it. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Most cars nowadays try and remove you from the experience of driving. This one drags you in and demands that you participate. I liked that.
Would I buy one? If I was in the market for something like this I would get it over the Nissan Versa, Chevy Spark or Fiat Fiat 500 (e and Abarth models excluded). But you could go up a couple grand and get something more fun like a Ford Fiesta/Mazda 2, Chevy Sonic or Hyundai Accent. But not everybody has that much money. For them there is this new car, with a 10-year powertrain warranty standing between them and the used-car market.
ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: Americans hate small cars. The Mirage's vapid, glassy-eyed stare isn't doing any favors to escape clown-car status. People stared at me as I drove. I couldn't tell if they felt pity for me or not. And it's easy to make fun of a car like this, especially if it rolls into a parking lot in one of the wild and loud available colors like kiwi green or plasma purple.
After a week, I didn't think I'd like this thing so much! “It's pretty great,” I told everybody who caught me driving it in public.
“No, really,” I added.
Clever details abound. Here's a fun one, on the exterior: on the passenger door there is a keyhole, big and chrome and sticking out like a pimple. On the driver's side, for the keyless entry, the keyhole is a black button. It's for the keyless entry, standard on our ES trim. The Mirage's doors slam with a solidity more reserved for a 10-year old Mercedes: loud and powerful, like the proverbial bank vault. The dash bulges out in a display of piano black trim, which makes it resemble an Aiwa boom box from 1996. But it doesn't inhale fingerprints, doesn't feel loose, and does wonders in breaking up the pebbled monotony of the rest of the dark interior. Vents are cute squircles, ringed by a dash of silver paint, and they show forethought in design that seems mind blowing when you consider how economical it's supposed to be. You mean somebody bothered double-checking this thing? Astounding!
The seats are flat and upright, upholstered with grippy cloth. This car would be great for delivering pizzas. I should know. I spent an entire semester in college delivering pizzas to Delta Chi drunks in a 2005 Honda Civic coupe and the snug little bolsters in it always let a pizza slide at an angle. You sit bolt upright in the Mirage, on grippy seats covered in the sort of purple-stitched mesh-like cloth straight from the 1990s, and that will definitely wear nicely until the next decade or two. Put the fan on high and wash away the smell of cardboard and solidifying mozzarella. It'll work.
Driving the Mirage is equal parts competency and hilarity. There's so much body roll. Turn it in and it feels like a canoe about to tip. The tires are 165-width donuts, as narrow as the Michelin Man's Frisbee. Steering is accurate in the sense that you move your fingers and the car tips like a beach ball, indicating that your forward direction has changed. Light and nimble, it's not bad -- really. The light clutch works for city motoring and engages easily, with as much feel as a sympathetic therapist. Put the car in any gear and the shifter feels like you're going to snap it in half.
The three-cylinder, 74-hp Little Engine That Could is best described as “gutsy,” reluctant to rev at anywhere below 4,000 rpm, yet coming into its own above 5. It sounds like a truck. Engaging gear from a standstill sends it into a noisy, stuttering frenzy. Rev matching for smoother shifts are a chore. Going up a canyon road, if you're into that sort of thing, is particularly invigorating because when you're going uphill and sawing madly at 30 mph, you don't have to take your foot off the cigarette packet-sized accelerator at all.
These days, we're fooled into a sense of security with small cars that feel solid. Oh no, the Mirage will impart none of that. Road bumps feel choppy and lane changes feel like the Mirage is going to be swept up by a gust of wind. Seeing as there's already a lot of wind noise when adhering to gravity, which would be an even noisier experience.
The most astounding thing about the Mirage is that it weighs 1,973 pounds (with the manual transmission). That's right -- it's less than a ton! If you've ever wanted the world's cheapest Lotus Elise, here's your ride. In 1973 you could get a car in lime green, and it would drive like this, too (as Mark says).
There's a point to all this, Mitsubishi says. The Mirage is rated at 37/44 mpg city and highway, and the best part is: no matter how fast or relentlessly you drive it, it will always return somewhere near this astounding target. I saw 28 mpg up the aforementioned canyon road -- and after being stuck on Olympic Boulevard and then tearing across the 101 Freeway at night, I returned a figure of 38 mpg. This wasn't uncommon.
Small-car fast has never paid off so fully. A Mazda 2 has a better shifter, for starters, and is more fun to drive -- but not by much. The Mirage is two grand cheaper than the Mazda 2. Think of all the Maruchan Creamy Chicken Ramen eight-packs you could buy!
Bringing up ramen might sound snarky, but it and the Mirage belong perfectly with a college-bound demographic. Because it's time to meet your new first car, America. $12,995 will get you a car that has four wheels and a place to put scattered IKEA trinkets. It meets all the modern safety standards as deemed socially responsible by the NHTSA. It has a warranty, eliminating the threat of shade-tree mechanics; and being built for the Third World, it must live up to a certain standard of simple toughness. Its interior can be cleaned easily if it's used to transport alpacas or burlap rice sacks. It has horsepower. It gets gas mileage. It has as many convenience features as a 1973 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. Its power is relaxed to the point that cops will offer surprise and bemusement instead of speeding tickets. For the frugal-minded, foregoing the optional $1,000 CVT might lead to self-imposed automotive discipline. And for the trendsetters of the world, you can get it in kiwi green or plasma purple.
Yeah, who's laughing now?
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES
Base Price: $15,990
As-Tested Price: $16,890
Drivetrain: 1.2-liter I3; FWD, continuously variable transmission
Output: 74 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 74 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Curb Weight: 2,051 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 37/44/40 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 35.7 mpg
Options: Navigation package including navigation system, rearview camera system ($900)
Article SOURCE: this factual content has not been modified from the source. This content is syndicated news that can be used for your research, and we hope that it can help your productivity. This content is strictly for educational purposes and is not made for any kind of commercial purposes of this blog.