Many shoppers are looking for a car that’s inexpensive to buy and to operate. They aren’t worried about impressing the neighbors, but don’t want an ugly appliance either. The new 2014 Mirage re-enters the marketplace now to give these folks another option.
My tester arrived in a bright shade called Plasma Purple. There are eight colors offered, including the normal gray, silver, black and white. The intense other hues apparently were selected in a fan vote through the Mitsubishi Mirage Color Code Program.
Mitsubishi’s current styling direction has moved away from giant grilles and edges to a softer, smoother, more subtle approach, and this car has that. The rounded nose and corners help contribute to a low co-efficiency of drag (cd) of just .28.
How well the car passes through the air, light weight (just under a ton), and a small, efficient three-cylinder 1.2-liter engine all contribute to an EPA combined average of 40 miles per gallon. That’s hybrid territory, minus the cost or complexity of a Prius or its fellows. The little engine is not a smooth feeling or sounding as an inline four-cylinder, and its 74 horsepower and 74 lb.-ft. of torque were challenged on hills, but overall, it was easy and pleasant to drive.
You can choose a manual five-speed or a continuously-variable automatic transmission; my tester had the automatic. These CVTs are quite efficient, because they offer infinite ratios, but they tend to groan and sound odd at times, especially when starting out. A manual might make the car a little sprightlier, but 37 City, 44 Highway is still rather remarkable. The car’s information panel told me my fuel economy for each trip, rather than overall, but I consistently got numbers between 37 and 42 mpg on my daily commutes.
The Mirage comes in two levels, both five-door hatchbacks, the DE and ES. My ES tester, for an extra $1,200, included 14-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, keyless entry, pushbutton start, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted controls, and Bluetooth. I had trouble connecting to the Bluetooth, but I did appreciate the USB port in the glovebox for my iPod, which I listened to a lot, because this tester didn’t include satellite radio. The sound was OK for a car at the bottom of the market, with four speakers and 140 watts of power.
The interior is, typical for a car in this price range, all hard plastic (even the door armrests), but it is uniformly smooth and pleasant to look at. At dash center, the designers spent a little to provide a pretty piano black surface for the control panel, which along with the leather touch points, kept the experience from feeling down-market. The seats are surprisingly comfortable in their nubby cloth, and have mechanical adjustments, including height.
Every Mirage comes equipped with today’s standards, which were luxury items years ago, such as power windows, locks and mirrors; full climate control; variable intermittent wipers; as well as the sound system. You don’t feel deprived.
This is a small car, but it has Mitsubishi’s RISE system (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution), which features an impact-absorbing front end and use of high-tensile steel. There are seven airbags spread around the car, and what are becoming the standards of electronic accident prevention: Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist. And, to keep you safely on the road, you get stability and traction control, too. Although the Mirage is little, it’s every bit as road savvy as any midsize sedan or SUV.
There were a few nits to pick, as you might expect. The gas tank holds only 9.2 gallons, as I discovered at a 6.5-gallon fill-up (I did smile, though). At 40 mpg, that’s not really a hardship, however. There’s a visor mirror only on the driver’s side - are the planners assuming mostly female drivers? The rear hatch cover is suspended on only one side, which seems like a cost-cutting move. I could never get my phone connected, as it gave me some mysterious voice commands that didn’t work. The automatic climate control was inconsistent during a late fall cold spell.
Price is a big point with this new Mirage. You can pick up a DE with no extras for $13,790, including shipping. My ES, with automatic, came to $15,990. You can add a few packages to push it higher, but why bother? My car had no navigation system, and I missed my SiriusXM radio, but it was really a fine week overall.
The compact car segment is hot now, and there is plenty of competition for this little Thailand-built entry. But the new Mirage offers what buyers are seeking, and could bring more prospects into Mitsubishi dealerships in 2014