New Car/Review

1997 MITSUBISHI MIRAGE SEDAN LS

by Tom Hagin

Mitsubishi

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 13,690
Price As Tested                                    $ 16,777
Engine Type                            1.8 Liter I4 w/MPFI*
Engine Size                                 111 cid/1834 cc
Horsepower                                   113 @ 5500 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               116 @ 4500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   98.4"/66.5"/173.6"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     2415 Pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      185/65R14
Brakes (F/R)                                     Disc /drum
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                  5 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.30

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            27/33/31
0-60 MPH                                        9.9 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.7 seconds @ 81.5 mph
Top speed                                               N/A
     * Multi-point fuel injection

For the past few years, the Mitsubishi Mirage has only been available to retail buyers as a coupe, while its four-door sedan stablemate was relegated to vast, but necessary, rental fleets.

But Mitsubishi has re-introduced the Mirage sedan to retail buyers, and has revamped this entry-level car with some real-world improvements.

OUTSIDE - This newest Mirage is a bit wider than before (four-tenths of an inch), but its track remains the same. It's also longer by over two inches, and taller by an inch. The wheelbase has been stretched by two inches too, and while these numbers don't amount to much numerically, they add up to a better driving experience. Mitsubishi has done a good job of changing the shape enough to be noticeable, yet hasn't strayed too far from the profile of the previous car. Aerodynamic drag is a low .030, which is unusual for a compact car. Both Mirage sedan models (DE and LS) have a body-color grille and bumpers, and twin outside mirrors. Standard exterior equipment exclusive to the LS version includes color-matched door handles and a chrome exhaust tip. The car sits atop smallish 13-inch radial tires with full wheel covers, but 14-inch, slightly wider rubber is optionally available, as are alloy wheels. Both were on our test vehicle.

INSIDE - Mirage's dashboard layout is sensible, with controls and switches all within easy reach of the driver. The cloth upholstery seems durable, and its front bucket seats are comfortable enough for most people. The extra wheelbase really shows inside, where there is a generous amount of legroom in the back seat, while headroom and shoulder room is adequate as well. Standard Mirage LS niceties include a height-adjustable steering column and driver's seat, cloth door panel inserts and a padded center armrest. Our test vehicle came equipped with a special package, which added a power glass sunroof, air conditioning, AM/FM cassette stereo, cruise control, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks, cruise control, a split folding rear seat and variable speed intermittent wipers.

ON THE ROAD - The two versions of the Mirage siblings are different mainly because of their engines. The DE coupes and sedans uses a 1.5 liter overhead cam four cylinder engine, which gives 92 horsepower and 93 lb-ft of torque. Its power does the job of moving the car well enough, but the uplevel LS models, and their 1.8 liter version of the same engine, carry surprising pep under their hoods. The larger engine uses a single overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder, but puts out another 21 horsepower. Buyers in California will have to settle for 111 horses in the LS, due to emissions regulations. The standard gearbox is a five-speed manual, with what is obviously an overdrive fifth gear, which really makes itself know at fill-up time. An optional electronically-controlled four-speed automatic features "adaptive" technology to "learn" a driver's style and adjusts its shifting points.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Mirage uses four-wheel independent suspension with front MacPherson struts, and a rear multi-link design. Coil springs support both front and rear, while an anti-roll bar is available only up front. It would be difficult to achieve a luxury car ride from an economy car, but Mirage's ride is competent, and most bumps are handled with ease. Its body structure has been stiffened, and the resulting rigidity works well to keep the car firmly planted on the road. Also, our test car's larger tires did a commendable job at limiting tire scrub and understeer. The rack-and-pinion steering system uses power assist, and comes standard on Mirage LS but is optional on DE models. Having power steering on such a light car is mostly beneficial only during slow-speed maneuvers such as parking. Stopping duties are addressed via front disc and rear drum brakes, with a four-wheel anti-lock braking system available as an option.

SAFETY - All Mirage models come standard with dual front airbags, side impact protection, and three-point seat belts at all outboard positions. ABS is optional.

OPTIONS - The Premium Package is $1,190, Value Package is $2,446.

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