If you ever wanted to get a group of automotive writers angry and upset with you, just say or write the following words: I like the Mitsubishi Mirage. When I posted a picture of the vehicle and said those very words in a Facebook post, many automotive writers thought I had lost my mind. But I really did like it and began to wonder if I really had lost it or if everyone else missed the point of the Mirage. That’s what I decided to find out.
Let's get something out of the way, the Mirage really doesn’t have any style. The best way I found to describe it is to imagine a kid making a car out of a tub of Play-Doh. What he or she will end up creating is something akin to the Mirage. That’s not to say Mitsubishi hasn’t tried its best to spruce up the Mirage’s looks. There is range of colors from bright green to purple to make the vehicle stand out, while the top of range ES model gets 14-inch alloy wheels. But you can only do so much to make a somewhat bland vehicle stand out.
Inside, the Mirage is a mixed bag of what you expect in a cheap car and some surprises. The dashboard looks and feels decent with solid hard plastic and glossy black trim on the surround for the stereo and climate-control system. The door panels are another story as there isn’t very much padding for you to rest your arm and the plastic appears to be scratched by breathing on it.
Seats are wrapped in a red-and-gray cloth that helps give the interior a bit of character. But the seats themselves do need some work. The front seats don’t have enough padding or support, which means don’t even try to attempt a long trip in this. The back seat has the same problems with support as the front, but head and legroom are decent.
The big surprise with the Mirage’s interior is how much equipment you get. All models come with air conditioning, automatic climate control, power windows, and locks. This particular ES tester came fully stocked with keyless entry, push-button start, navigation, and backup camera. Keep in mind that this vehicle carries an as-tested price of $16,990. Impressive to say in the least.
All Mirages come equipped with a 1.2L three-cylinder engine with 74 horsepower and 74 pound-feet torque. This can be paired up to either a five-speed manual or a CVT. While the power numbers seem minuscule, the Mirage doesn’t really need all of that power as it tips the scales at 2,051 pounds for my ES CVT tester. Around town, the Mirage does fine with leaving stop lights and keeping up with traffic. The freeway is another story as the little three-cylinder has to work its heart out to get you up to speed. Not helping matters is the engine noise as you're accelerating. I liken the noise to a lawnmower when you first start it up. On the plus side of the Mirage’s powertrain is the fuel economy. The EPA rates the Mirage equipped with the CVT at 37 City/44 Highway/40 Combined. In my week of driving in the Mirage, I got an average of 42 MPG.
The Mirage is really mixed when it comes to driving. The suspension does a decent job of minimizing bumps and road imperfections. But out on curves, the Mirage feels like its going to tip. I kept thinking back to a line from an old television show where they were testing a 1971 Mercury Marquis and said this about the handling: “Through the pylon course, we asked ourselves questions like is it possible for a modern-day automobile to lean over far enough to fall off its springs? What would happen if it did?” The reason for this is the suspension is tuned for third-world countries. Mitsubishi decided to not to do any changes for US-Spec Mirage, a big mistake I feel. Steering has the feel of a stretching rubber band.
As my week came to a close, I began to realize that I hadn’t lost my mind for liking the Mirage. Despite all of the problems and complaints I had about this car, I came away impressed. What Mitsubishi has done is built car that was built with the mindset of dirt-cheap driving. In this regard, Mitsubishi has succeeded. It might not be the best to drive, to look at, or to sit in for awhile. But if you want a vehicle with a low price tag and impressive fuel economy, then Mitsubishi has a vehicle for you.
Disclaimer: Mitsubishi Provided the Mirage ES, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Engine: 1.2L MIVEC 12-valve DOHC three-cylinder
Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM: 74 @ 6000
Torque @ RPM: 74 @ 4000
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 37/44/40
Curb Weight: 2,051 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Chonburi, Thailand
Base Price: $15,195
As Tested Price: $16,990 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge)
Navigation Package - $900.00