The 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage – right car, wrong year. That about sums up the rebirth of Mitsubishi’s subcompact hatchback as a minicar.
The Mirage’s premise is not styling, performance or comfort. It’s a no-nonsense little car that gets fairly high marks for versatility, warranty, fuel economy and price. A year ago, when gasoline prices were spiking and the U.S. economy was locked firmly in the doldrums, the Mirage had some serious appeal. But today, gasoline prices are in decline and the economy seems to be heating up. Most people who can afford a new car will envision something a little softer or spicier than the Mirage, a car that fairly shouts frugality despite the rousing assortment of body colors that are offered.
The Mirage is one of the least expensive new cars in the U.S. market, starting at just $12,995. Its fuel economy is tops among non-hybrid, gasoline-powered vehicles at 37 mpg city, 44 highway. Its power-train warranty is 10 years or 100,000 miles. The Mirage will go 400 miles on a tank of gasoline and cost about $22 for a refill, at today’s prices.
Those might have been great assets when gasoline was so expensive, even Mirage owners had to leave at least $40 at the gasoline station. Today, car buyers want something more. That’s why automakers like Hyundai load up their models, even the cheapest ones, with standard features, and do what they can to give their cars a premium feel.
The Mirage comes in two trim levels, the base DE and the more upscale ES. Our test car was an ES with no options; it had a sticker price of $16,205. Priced $3,000-plus higher than the base model, it had a standard-features list that included the continuously variable automatic transmission, split-folding rear seat, automatic climate control, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, steering-wheel-mounted cruise-control buttons, push-button start, and power windows and locks. Some of these features, including climate control, power windows and locks, and remote keyless entry, are standard on the DE as well.
Horsepower and torque are on the low side, but the car weighs barely a ton, so the engine is strong enough to motivate the Mirage smartly under a light load. Add two or three passengers and the power dearth becomes noticeable.
Handling is uninspiring; road feel, murky. The volume of engine, wind and road noise is high. But our test car’s ride, while by no means luxurious, was fairly comfortable. We took a few hour-and-a-half highway drives and did not feel worn out by the Mirage’s deficiencies at the end.
Whatever those deficiencies may be, the Mirage is one of the stars of the Mitsubishi lineup this year, trailing only the Outlander Sport in sales so far this year with 15,573.
The Mirage fared poorly in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small-overlap test but received the top rating of “Good” in the IIHS’ other tests.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 1.2-liter inline Three, 74 horsepower, 74 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Weight: 2,051 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion-beam rear
Wheels: 14-in. alloy
Tires: P165/65R14 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 17.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 9.2 gallons
Fuel economy: 37 mpg city, 44 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline