Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Little Mitsubishi Mirage Continues to Sell Big

2019 Mitsubishi Mirage - Subcompact Culture

The Mitsubishi Mirage has been called a lot of foul things by many automotive journalists and, frankly, the general populous. It's one of the lowest horsepower cars on the North American market. It's got three cylinders. It's very small and fairly raucous. It's not fast. Yet consumers keep buying them and sales continue to increase. What's up with its success?

It's quite an anomaly, actually. It's almost universally panned by critics, but but sales continue to increase month over month, year over year. In fact, Mitsubishi recently released its September 2019 sales report, and the Mirage is up 28.4% vs. September of 2018 selling 2,196 units. Year-to-date units are at 21,177—9.6% above 2018. This is at at time when crossovers are seemingly taking over the automotive landscape, and A-segment cars are are becoming harder to find than a 10mm socket.

"No question that Mirage continues to do well in the market," says Jeremy Barnes, Senior Director, Communications and Events for Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. "It proves that there's still a place in the industry for a quality car at a great price."

Barnes also points out the fact that the car has a 10 year powertrain warranty and that it has the best fuel economy for any non-hybrid car in the U.S. Add to this the fact the car starts at an MSRP of $13,795 (although it seems they're often available for far, far less), and you have a compelling vehicle for some buyers, especially those who value a warranty. FYI, the Mirage (and all Mitsubishis) have a bumper-to-bumper warranty of five years/60,000 miles.

A Smart, Simple Commuter

As a commuter, city car, or simply frugal transportation, the Mirage is actually extremely smart and simple. There are some cost-cutting things that allow this car to be both inexpensive and frugal. Take, for example, the interior. It only has a vanity mirror on one side. Minor thing to me. The rear package tray utilizes just one cord to hang it off the lift back. Why use two if one will work? Mitsubishi keeps the engine bay a dull finish. Why paint it if you're only going to see it when you change the oil? It's little things like this that don't have an effect on most drivers, yet gives the company the ability to cost-down the car.

The Mirage's engine bay is simple. It's also does not have a high-gloss finish, but who cares?
Sure, more power would be great, but the car easily cruisers at 70+ mph and keeps up with traffic just fine. Sure, it's on the slow spectrum, but it does fine. Just skip the Indy 500 time trials. Yes, I'd like the factory stereo to be a bit louder, but that's easily fixable via an aftermarket sound system. And yes, some parts, such as those visors, feel thin. Honestly, none of that bothers me. It only adds to the car's frugal quirky character. Overall, it's got everything I need and want from a commuter: Bluetooth, power windows/locks, A/C, lots of airbags, ABS, and a USB port and aux jack. Amazingly, our '17 doesn't have a single rattle or buzz, either. I've driven cars four times this price with more buzzes.

The Competition

Despite the thinning of the subcompact car market in the U.S. recently, the Mirage still has some scrappy A-segment competition from the Chevrolet Spark. However, it's outselling the Spark by a small margin (21,177 units vs. 20,265). Both Mirage and Spark are crushing the Mexican-made, Italian-bred Fiat 500 in sales, however. The tiny Mexican-Italian has sold just 2,568 units all year, and will be disappearing from the lineup in 2020. This will leave only the Mirage and Spark as sole A-segment offerings here.

The Future

New Nissan Micra I spotted in Iceland in July, 2019. Could this be the shape of the Mirage to come?
For 2020, the Mirage carries over with only a few minor changes, such as automatic climate control as standard equipment. There have been all sorts of rumbling as to what will happen for the Mirage in 2021, however. As Mitsubishi is now part of the Nissan - Renault alliance, there's been much talk about how the next-generation Mirage may ride on the same platform as the new Micra/Versa. Time will tell, but for now, the Mirage is currently an A-segment success story. Fun fact: The Mirage is actually manufactured in Thailand—the only car on the U.S. market made there.

Our Mirage (aka The Rage)

As the owner of a 2017 Mirage ES hatchback, I can tell you this: the car isn't for everyone. It's got lots of quirks. The three-cylinder 1.2-liter engine has a unique sound, not unlike that of a mail delivery truck. However, it delivers exceptional fuel economy. I'm fairly certain I've never gotten less than 40 mpg on my 30 mile commute, but have gotten as high as 52 mpg.

It isn't fast. With just 78 hp (and 74 in pre-2017 models), the car isn't exactly lightning fast. Actually, it isn't even sort of quick in a straight line. However, with the addition of a rear sway bar, Eibach Pro Kit springs (which were brought in from Europe), lightweight 5Zigen wheels from Japan, and grippier Nankang AS-I 175/55/15 tires, the car is surprisingly fun to drive in the corners. In fact, I've never been in a car that benefited from better tires and a rear sway bar in my life. (Keep in mind, this featherweight weighs in at a tick over 2,000 lbs. with the manual transmission.) There's an entertaining two-lane cloverleaf on-ramp on my commute and you barely have to slow down around it, but with the modifications, it holds on tight. Pro Tip: The factory 165/65/14 Dunlop Enesave tires are terrible for everything but fuel economy, but if that's your main concern stick with them. Otherwise, step up to a 15" wheel and the 175s. FYI, I also added the factory fog lights and side sill extensions as extras.

We just crossed 13,000 trouble-free miles with our '17, and I'd buy one again in a heartbeat.


Wil B. said...

I own a 2018 Mirage with the CVT with 42k miles on it. This is my second Mirage having unfortunately totalled the a 2015 model with 30k miles. I have never owned an automatic, but after 40 years of driving, the CVT does me just fine. With the CVT the Mirage cruises comfortably up to 80mph! Anything over 80, the front end gets a little light, but I shouldn't be going over 80 anyway!

Anyway, I just returned from a 2,000 mile trip and was cruising at 70-80mph most of the time. Even at these high speeds the Mirage returned 44-49mpg on a tank-by-tank basis. A fun little gas saver for sure!

Ken said...

My wife and I each drive a mirage. I have a G4 sedan , she has a hatchback. They are both 2017 models. We love these cars , and wouldn't think twice about buying another. They are quite comfortable , even on a long trip. The fuel economy is unbelievable. On a long trip we get 52 - 54 mpg.Both have the CVT transmission.

Mike Tayse said...

I drive a 2015 Mirage. It's been completely problem free, affordable, and gets great mpg. It's been a great car. A bit noisy, I think the next time I buy one I will pay for some after market rustproofing. I owned a Chevy Spark for about one year before this and the dealer could never get the a/c and the heat working correctly, so I traded in quicker than I would have liked, took a financial hit on the Spark and bought the Mirage. I'm glad I did.

Just ran into the subcompact blog website, looks great, I look forward to reading it.

krashpass said...

My 2014 cvt is at 140,000, still all original except tires, plugs, and front brakes :)
And yes, factory tires are crap !