Holy crap this thing is pink.
Those were my first words when I saw the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage. I don’t subscribe to the “chick car” thing, but do I really have to drive a pink car for a week? It’s likely that Mitsubishi purposely put this color Mirage into the media vehicle fleet, though. The car’s bland 1990s-era styling isn’t going to attract much attention on its own, but throw a screaming magenta finish on it, and now people will take notice. I’m guessing most people who saw it were actually wondering who the heck would buy such an obnoxiously colored vehicle? I really wanted to be able to lean out the window and say, “No, I didn’t select this color.”
This ultra-bright Mirage is the newest car from Mitsubishi. It’s small, rather bland looking, has only 74 horsepower, but it’s rated at 44 highway mpg. In many ways, the Mirage reminds me of a modern-day Geo Metro or an early Kia Rio. Both cars were small, frugal, Spartan, no-frills vehicles that were also available in some gaudy colors. The Mirage hearkens back to a time when economy cars were blatantly economy cars. They didn’t have seat heaters, they had narrow tires, and they weren’t the most refined. Unlike these cars of yesteryear, however, our Mirage came fully loaded with equipment such as cruise control, Bluetooth, power windows and locks, push-button start, air conditioning, fog lamps, and all of the latest modern safety tech. But at its core, it’s still a fairly simple car that’s a bit rough around the edges, but promises very good fuel economy.
Let’s start with size: The Mirage is 148.8” long—9.2” longer than a Fiat 500 and 4” longer than the Chevrolet Spark. And speaking of the Spark, I’d say it’s the biggest competitor for Mitsubishi’s smallest vehicle, although it’s more refined and stylish.
|Our tester was not equipped with the touch-screen infotainment, but otherwise is identical to this.|
Climate control through polarized sunglasses make it nearly
impossible to see the climate control display.
Despite all of the bells and whistles that have been added to the Mirage to make it appear modern, fresh, and new, the car feels dated. While other manufacturers are attempting to bring their most basic cars up another level, the Mirage really does feel like a car from the late 1990s in many respects. Certain things are just plain tinny, though. For example, the sun visors. Well actually, not the visors themselves, which are indeed flimsy, but the sound they make when they smack against the headliner when you put them back up. When they slap the roof, it makes a sound like someone just smacked the top of an empty paint can. Another area where cost cutting is apparent is in the engine bay, where there is no paint. While it is coated in primer, it isn’t coated in color, unless you count the over spray that came in during the painting process. But guess what? I don’t care if the engine bay is painted or not. But it does send and overall message that this is a budget vehicle.
Some writers have complained about the car’s slow performance. And, admittedly, it’s rather pokey in terms of modern cars. But let’s keep things in perspective. Have you ever owned a 1979 Honda Civic 1200 with an automatic transmission? Now that’s slow. The Mirage is perfectly adequate for what it is, especially in the city. Even accelerating onto the highway is acceptable, albeit very loud. It’s certainly not dangerous, so just keep in mind this isn’t a Lancer EVO or even a regular Lancer. By the way, this car only weighs 1,996 lbs., which does help it get away with so little horsepower.
On the highway, the ride is surprisingly decent and that CVT works hard to keep things as fuel-efficient as possible. In fact, at 60 MPH, the engine is only spinning at 2,000 RPM. That’s pretty astounding for a 74 hp car. There’s noticeable wind noise and abundant road noise, but again, this isn’t a Rolls Royce. Heck, it isn’t even a Honda Fit. Again, think: modern Geo Metro. The car will easily keep up with traffic and if you can set the cruise control and go, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding fuel economy. I was easily able to get in the mid 40 MPG range on the highway. And even back in town, I was able to get above the 37 MPG city rating. In fact, I’ve read some accounts of Mirage owners easily beating both EPA estimages. Maybe the Mirage is a fuel economy ringer?
There are times when you feel as if the Thai-built Mirage was intended for developing markets, or places that still offer truly stripped-down cars. While cost cutting can help to keep the overall price down, our Mirage ES stickered at $15,995. That’s slightly less expensive than a similarly equipped Chevrolet Spark 2LT. Keep in mind the Spark also has heated seats, a roof rack, much more progressive styling, and a touchscreen infotainment system. A base model Mirage starts at $12,995, which seems more reasonable. But again, the Spark comes in cheaper at $12,170. The Spark doesn’t quite get the mileage the Mirage is estimated at, so perhaps that will sway buyers into Mitsubishi dealers.
Despite its Spartan feel and not so noteworthy driving dynamics, there is an honest, simple quality to the Mirage. It’s kind of like finding a pair of inexpensive jeans that fit well. They’re basic, they’re blue, they fit, and they’ll probably last a while, too. And you know, you can always dye them hot pink to make them more noticeable, sort of like Mitsubishi did with our test vehicle.
The Mirage’s secret weapon, and possible key to sales success, will likely be its fuel economy numbers, which best all other gas-powered cars sold in the U.S. Pair this with its low price and available features, and for many people, the Mirage might be more attractive than other subcompacts. But those who value driving dynamics and modern looks will go elsewhere.
Chevrolet’s Spark was an unexpected hit, and it’ll be interesting to see if Mitsubishi will take some of the fire out of the Spark’s sales, or if it’s destined to be a slow seller. One thing is for sure—you’ll get great fuel economy, and you’ll burn your retinas out if you stare at this Plasma Purple hue too long.