What if you were shopping for an inexpensive, spacious small runabout for under $16,000?
Your choices are quite limited these days. It used to be that you went for a subcompact – and that was it. These days, the average subcompact is priced much higher than before, leaving two options behind: Buying a used car or bargain hard for a deal.
The good news is that there are now some small, spacious, and inexpensive cars to be had for the price. One of them just happens to be the very cheerful Mitsubishi Mirage – the latest entrant in the small car market.
The Mirage’s arrival represents something quite significant for our market. It is the first car built in Thailand to be sold in North America. It is also part of a product rejuvenation for Mitsubishi, as it represents a return to its roots by providing a small car with high content and value. But, is the Mirage a good fit for our market?
For starters, the Mirage is small and cute. If you wish to measure cuteness, look at its competition. They are either bloated up in size or gotten serious in its appearance. The Mirage brings us back to when these cars were indeed cute – the Geo/Chevrolet Metro comes to mind. You may be put off by its small fourteen-inch wheels and cheeky colors, but understand there is a market for the Mirage – a growing one, at that.
Where the Mirage will surprise you is where you need a small car to be. The front doors open big and wide, while the rear ones open perfectly for passengers. The hatch opens wide, revealing a decent, secure and expandable cargo hold for groceries or a weekend away.
The Mirage is quite roomy inside. Adults would find space inside the cabin and you could throw your shopping bounty behind the rear seat nicely. Equipment levels are very good for each model, including a host of safety features you would not expect in this size of a car. You may even like some the touch points and the overall feel inside.
Seating tended to be on the flat side. Front seat occupants have a bit of bolstering on the cushions, but just a hint on the seatbacks. The rear seat is completely devoid of any bolstering. The black cloth upholstery felt a bit grippy and lively with some magenta accents, along with some satin silver and piano black trim in key areas in the cabin.
On this ES tester, it came with a radio/CD player that emitted sound through four speakers. It could also playback your MP3 player through either an auxiliary jack or a USB connection in the glove box. The audio system also offers Bluetooth connectivity for your phone and music files with voice prompts – both controlled from the steering wheel.
Driving the Mirage will require a few rethinks. Under the hood is a 1.2liter three-cylinder engine with only 74 horsepower. That may seem pretty weak until you realize it only weighs 2,051 pounds. Can you say “power-to-weight ratio”? Power is transmitted to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission.
Yet, this thing is also noisy. If you appreciate engine noise and that it has a pulse to going along with its cuteness, space and power-to-weight ratio, the Mirage may have charmed you. The ride is compliant, though it does handle and corner softly. Expect plenty of lean and roll when cornering.
Steering is very sharp and makes u-turns a breeze combined with a 148.8-inch length and 96.5-inch wheelbase. On-center feel is quite good, but could lose some stability at very high speeds. Otherwise, steering response is quick and direct. Braking is very good in both regular and panic stops. Anti-lock brakes are standard with discs up front and drums in the back. The Mirage also comes with Active Stability Control, Hill Start Assist and tire pressure monitoring – all features that add value to this small runabout.
In terms of fuel economy, the Mirage promises a combined fuel economy figure of 40MPG. Our testing produced an average of 42.4MPG. One thing to consider is the small fuel tank – only 9.2 gallons available to fill up with regular unleaded.
The starting price for the basic Mirage DE is $13,790 with a manual transmission. This ES model with the CVT came to $15,990. The only option available is a navigation package that includes a rear view camera – available for an extra $900.
When we examined the Mirage, one car came up in every point made – the Chevrolet Spark. In the same price range, both cars are seen as rivals for the same consumer. Maybe it is because of the engine size and horsepower they both have. To consider the Mirage for a larger subcompact with more than a 100 horsepower is a bit of a stretch.
When equaled with the Korea-built Spark, the Thai-built Mirage came out as the livelier than the two. It appears that Mitsubishi has built the city car with the most fun – that includes the Scion iQ and the smart forTwo.
Price is one thing, but value trumps all. The Mirage offers quite a value for the money. If you simply need transportation and want all the safety equipment and luxuries found on higher priced cars – the Mirage sounds like a good value proposition.