New Car/Review

1998 MITSUBISHI MIRAGE LS COUPE

by Tom Hagin

mitsubishi

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 14,330
Price As Tested                                    $ 17,291
Engine Type                SOHC 4-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 112 cid/1834 cc
Horsepower                   (111-hp in Ca,) 113 @ 5500 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               116 @ 4500 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   95.1"/66.5"/168.1"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     2283 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  13.2 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      185/65R14
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Five-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                               Five-percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.30

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            28/37/31
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.5 seconds @ 80.5 mph
Top speed                                           117 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

The Mitsubishi Mirage was redesigned last year with major refinements that bring it in line with the best compact cars on the market. And with the redesign came a trim look of sportiness and lots of personality. As an added bonus, there's less noise, vibration and harshness, and improved ride and handling characteristics.

Mirage is available as a four-door sedan or as a coupe, in either baseic DE or uplevel LS trim. This week we test an LS coupe.

OUTSIDE - The coupe and sedan share the same platform, but distinctive styling sets them apart - only the deck lid and tail lamps are shared between the two. The new look on the coupe includes a pointed nose and squared-off tail, and a front air dam opening flanked by a set of optional fog lights. Its new, stiffer body structure reduced outside noise that might filter into the cabin at speed, and whereas pre-1997 Mirage models sounded rather fragile when the doors were closed, those on the new model close with a reassuring "thunk." New for 1998 are three new colors: Cambridge Red Pearl, New Zealand Green Pearl and Munich Silver Metallic. Coupe models wear 14-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler. And as part of its Appearance Package, our car came with an optional side air dam under the doors, and the fog lights.

INSIDE - The interior is tasteful and looks more upscale than what is expected from a compact. We found the controls to fall logically into place, with an almost intuitive feel to them. The front seats were firm yet comfortable, and highly adjustable. Only extra-tall drivers were wishing for more headroom up front. In back, there's room enough for two medium-sized adults riding on short hops, but climbing in back is aided by a passenger-side front seat that automatically slides forward on its track when the seatback is released. As an uplevel LS model, our test car had lots of upscale standard features. These included an AM/FM/ CD player, air conditioning, intermittent wipers, rear defroster, split folding rear seat and a tilt/adjust steering column. An optional Convenience Package added power windows, door locks and outside mirrors, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control and a vanity mirror.

ON THE ROAD - While there's a less-powerful 1.5 liter (92 horsepower) engine in Mirage DE models, our LS test car came with a 1.8 liter version. This four cylinder powerplant produces 111 horsepower and 116 lb-ft of torque. It's willing to run with the best of them, but the revs must be kept high for maximum fun. Power down low is acceptable for off-line performance and freeway on-ramp merging, but once it starts to wind up, its a surprising vehicle. We managed a couple of below-nine- second 0-to-60 mph sprints, but the average was more in the mid-nine- second territory. Fuel milage is excellent, however, as we averaged over 30 mpg in combined city/highway driving. New this year are hydraulic valve lash adjusters on the 1.8 liter engine which will reduce service costs. The five-speed manual transmission with smooth and effortless shifting is standard and a "smart" four-speed automatic is optional. This auto-box "learns" the driving habits of its driver and adjusts shift points accordingly. This type of technology is usually reserved for much more expensive cars.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Mirage features independent suspension with struts up front and a sophisticated multi-link rear setup. Coil springs support both ends while only the front features an anti-roll bar. The car has a light, sporty ride that soaks up bumps quite well. The only drawback (a thorn in the side of many compact cars) is its understeer. In heavy corners, the tires protest loudly and plow forward. This could be due to the smallish standard rubber, so a set of high-performance aftermarket tires would help. Power rack-and-pinion steering is standard on both models, and it feels just about right for a small car. Power front disc/rear drum brakes are also standard, with a four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) offered optionally.

SAFETY - Standard airbags and side-impact beams; ABS is optional.

OPTIONS - ABS: $732; Appearance Package: $207; Convenience Package: $744; power glass sunroof: $793; floor mats: $65; destination: $420.

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