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2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


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DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

        • SEE ALSO: Mitsubishi Research and Buyers Guide


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The average transaction price of a new car is over $30,000 today, and there are plenty of vehicles that go for far more than that. Ever wonder what’s at the other end of the price spectrum? And if it’s any good? After all, in the sub-$20,000 range there are plenty of used cars available, competing with the generally small, plain new offerings.

With base prices ranging from $12,995 for a five-speed manual ES through $16,495 for the top-of-the-line GT with CVT automatic, the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage five-door hatchback is most definitely inexpensive. It’s small, although roomier inside than might be expected from its modest exterior dimensions. Even the ES is comprehensively equipped, with air conditioning and a good heater, electric power steering, power door locks and windows with remote keyless entry, a 140-watt audio system, and multi-information display among its standard features. Its 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine only puts out 78 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque, but that’s only moving about 2100 pounds. Performance won't be compared to the late Lancer Evo, but EPA fuel economy ratings of 33 mpg city, 41 highway, 36 combined for the stick and 37/43/39 for the CVT will keep a budget-minded driver happy. I managed 38. Sure, a used hybrid could do better — but make sure its hybrid battery doesn’t need expensive replacement. And with any used car, there are always questions as to why the previous owner parted with it…

The Mirage comes with something likely lacking with any used car — warranties. To the tune of five years or 60,000 miles basic, 10 years / 100,000 miles powertrain, and 7 years / 100k miles anticorrosion.

I’ve just finished a week with a Mirage GT. I suspect the SE is the volume seller in the Mirage lineup, adding as it does to the ES’s basics display audio with smartphone link capable of Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ plus Bluetooth, upgraded gauges and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, “Fast Key” pushbutton un/lock and start/stop, and more. The GT adds 15-inch alloy wheels, up from 14, HID headlights, and heated front seats.

There have been small, inexpensive cars in the past with as much in the way of comfort and convenience features. Some of those were not particularly good cars at heart, bringing to mind the old phrase “lipstick on a pig”. That’s not at all applicable here — the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage may be small and plain, but it’s a real car, and a surprisingly good one. Seat comfort was a pleasant plus. Power was adequate, sometimes with advance planning necessary for passing as there isn’t much reserve at highway speeds. If it wasn’t the quietest car inside, no surprise given the price point and I’ve been in worse. Mitsubishi has done some work on the suspension, and ride comfort and stability in wind were good, especially considering its slab-sided looks and light weight. Fitting five people inside could be a bit cozy, but I suspect the major clientele for a car like this will more often have one or two. A status symbol it is not, but anyone in need of honest, inexpensive transportation should take a look at the Mitsubishi Mirage.

APPEARANCE: Space efficiency, size small. The Mirage is a classic example of a transverse front-engined, front-wheel drive hatchback, with a short hood, relatively large passenger cabin — with four doors for best passenger or cargo access — and small wheels pushed to the corners. It is wider than high, 65.6 inches to 59.4, and at under 150 inches / 12.5 feet long is easily parked. Its 2017 facelift has added a stylish chrome-trimmed grille above the front bumper and an angular bulge to the hood. Bright chrome trim below the front bumper adds further interest, and the GT gets HID headlights and LED running lights. The sides are slightly sculpted, as much for rigidity as style. A visor-type spoiler is found at the roof’s trailing edge, and large LED taillights are found in all examples.

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COMFORT: No pretense, just simple, functional forms inside. Materials are all synthetic, with textured hard plastic for the instrument panel and door tops. Gloss-black trim pieces and silvery plastic bezels around the vents, instruments, steering wheel controls, and shift lever add an upscale look. Front seats are surprisingly good, for my body at least, with an upright seating position and good visibility. Two-level cushion heat is a plus for winter days, and the small cabin heats quickly. This is no bare-bones bottom-feeder. Interior storage is front door pockets with drink bottle holders, a moderately-sized glovebox, and open tray at the front of the console. Instruments are brightly-lit and easily visible, and there is a useful trip computer. The driver’s window is one-touch up and down; the others require constant finger use. The steering wheel adjusts for tilt but not reach; the driver’s seat cushion is height-adjustable. The backup camera image shows on the center stack display audio screen. Audio choices include AM and FM radio, a CD player, and USB/iPod connection in the glove box, plus streaming, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto with capable phones. Three adults in the rear seat would be cozy, but two are no problem. Headroom is very good, leg and hip space are tighter but better than expected given the Mirage’s small exterior foot print. The rear seat folds 60/40, there is a built-in cargo shade, and a space-saver spare under the cargo area floor.

SAFETY: Since it meets or exceeds all current safety standards, the Mirage handily beats a 10- or 20-year old used car in the safety department. RISE unibody construction channels crash energy away from passengers, who are further protected by a full complement of airbags including driver’s knee. Antilock brakes have electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA), and Active Stability Control (ASC) and traction control aid during slippery conditions or emergency maneuvers. Hill Start Assist helps on hills, and a tire pressure monitoring system warns of low pressure. An engine immobilizer security alarm is standard.

RIDE AND HANDLING: There were complaints about the 2015 Mirage’s road manners, and Mitsubishi listened. And fixed. Revised spring and damper rates for the MacPherson strut / torsion beam axle suspension, and a stiffer front end mean good ride comfort and control. Yes, it’s soft, with plenty of body roll in enthusiastic maneuvering, but it’s well-controlled. Built for comfort, not for speed, as the saying goes. Larger front brake discs are another improvement, and the antilock front disc, rear drum system works well. As in other small, inexpensive cars interior soundproofing was not in the budget but the Mirage is acceptable there, and no worse than some larger and more expensive sedans and hatches. Relax, enjoy the fuel economy, and no complaints.

PERFORMANCE: “Performance” in this context is more about gas mileage than acceleration and top speed. The Mirage’s 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine makes 78 horsepower (at 6000 rpm), with torque peaking at 74 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. The only transmission choice in the GT is the CVT, and it’s matched well to the engine. Acceleration, with 27 pounds of Mirage for each horsepower, is leisurely but better than expected. Figure 10 to 11 seconds 0-60, pedal mashed to the floor, on a par with small crossovers. This is a Mitsubishi, not Dassault, Mirage… Reserve power at highway speeds is minimal, but steep grades were no problem. The Mirage can cruise happily at 70 mph, it just takes a little time to get there. Fuel economy is done the old-fashioned way, by light weight and a 0.55 overdrive ratio with the CVT. The CVT’s lowest gearing, at 4.007:1 also helps acceleration around town and up to 45 or 50 mph. I saw mid-30s on short to medium trips around town and on local highways, and 39 on a 100-mile highway trip — over mountains, with minimal level ground, and at realistic highway speeds.

CONCLUSIONS: The humble Mitsubishi Mirage is a worthy small car.




SPECIFICATIONS

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT

Base Price $ 16,495 Price As Tested $ 17,330 Engine Type DOHC 12-valve aluminum alloy inline three-cylinder Engine Size 1.2 liters / 73 cu. in. Horsepower 78 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 74 @ 4000 rpm Transmission CVT Wheelbase / Length 96.5 in. / 149.4 in. Curb Weight 2117 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 27.1 Fuel Capacity 9.2 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline Tires P175/55R15 77V Yokohama Avid S34 Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, ABS, EBD, BA, ASC standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / torsion beam axle Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 37 / 43 / 38 0 to 60 mph est 10.5 sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Destination Charge $ 835