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2014 Mitsubishi Mirage Review By Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

The new Mitsubishi Mirage may be the smallest and lowest priced car I’ve reviewed in some time but it has surprising content for a car so cheap, and amazing fuel mileage considering it has no hybridization or gimmickry. In bringing out the new Mirage, Mitsubishi made the claim it would be the highest mileage, non-hybrid car in the market. It may be close, but some diesels may challenge that claim.

Two trim levels comprise the entire line of Mirage – DE and ES. The DE starts at just under $13,000 and includes 5-speed manual transmission behind a 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder engine, power windows, locks and mirrors, keyless entry, rear spoiler, split folding rear seatback, electric power steering, tilt steering wheel, 14-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, halogen headlights, thermostatic temperature control, 140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with 4 speakers, USB port, 7 air bags, ABS/ASC/TC, and lots of other stuff we take for granted in most cars but don’t necessarily expect in a minimalist car.

The ES model – our test car – adds alloy wheels, six-way adjustable drivers seat and 4-way for the passenger, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, silver dash trim, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise control, and push button start. All this extra stuff costs about $1,200. So the base price on our ES is $14,195 and we have to add $1,000 for the CVT over the 5-speed manual. On our test car we also have the $900 navigation with rear-view camera option. Our sticker shows $16,800 including the $795 destination charge.

Mirage, built in Thailand, is a sub-compact, 5-door hatchback with decent room inside and a utilitarian personality. With the manual transmission you might find a bit of fun in your drive but not so with the CVT. The styling and design are all new and rather plain with a typical stance and profile for the class – that is, wheels splayed out and a humpy, bug-like shape. A pursed-lip grill with small lower air dam and large headlight bezels blend smoothly rearward into a double-character line side view. The rear looks stumpy with a small hatch. We are little used to seeing any car with 14-inch wheels so they look a bit puny on first blush.

Watch the 2014 Mirage promo video

The interior is simple and undistinguished but pleasant and functional. Our small navigation and audio screen high on the center of the dash rocks from vertical to horizontal to reveal the USB and CD and auxiliary ports hidden behind, much like systems in much more expensive cars. Materials look and feel better than expected and quality of fit and finish are quite good. Interior volume is nearly the same as other subcompacts like Mazda2 and Fit, with decent room up front and a rear seat that is good for most passengers without long legs. I’d not want to be one of three abreast back there. In order to fold the rear seatbacks we have to remove the headrests since they bump the front seatbacks. They are easy to remove. Cargo area with rear seatbacks up is a good 17.2 cubic feet and with the seatbacks folded we can stow 47 cubic feet of stuff. The seatbacks do not fold entirely flat but almost. We stuffed it nearly full with Christmas stuff for our three little grandsons in Chicago.

The tiny 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder, 74-hp engine sounds remarkably like a farm tractor at idle and we could best measure acceleration in furlongs-per-fortnight rather than 0-to-60 time. But, that kind of performance is not what this car is about. Rather, it is about performing efficiently - getting us from place to place economically – and it does that quite well. The 9.2-gallon tank, though, requires frequent fuel stops, but its feels like filling the lawn tractor when you’re only putting in six or seven gallons at a time.

A conventional suspension design (struts in front and torsion beams in rear) make for an adequate ride and road feel, though you’ll not mistake it for anything with sporty or luxury aspirations. On the highway to Chicago at the speed limit plus enough to keep up with traffic it takes a bit of extra attention to keep it on the straight and narrow but the ride is comfortable enough. A bit of wind noise and an odd whistle intrude on an otherwise fairly quiet cabin. Our mileage is not what I expected as we only achieved 33.5 on the westward leg.

I spent a good deal of the drive being frustrated by the most dismal of navigation system maps I’ve ever encountered. It refuses to allow a 2D, north-at-the-top, mode, which is my preference. We can get a 2D mode but can’t put north at the top, and in that mode the clock goes away and the little arrow that indicates our position on the map moves off the screen without the map advancing. Deep within the controls I thought I’d found my preference but it was surrounded by superfluous icons and would not work when the car was moving. I’ll not pass judgment on the rest of the navigation system since I don’t often use it. But I like having a map – if it works for me.

On the return trip, on a nice day with just a hint of tail wind and keeping speed at or just under 70-mph we averaged 44.5 mpg and at one point hit 47. The Mirage weighs just under 2,000 pounds but the coefficient of drag must be well into the .30s.

Mitsubishi’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

With just .04 percent of the US car market we wonder is they will continue to be competitive. They will soon have a redesigned Outlander crossover, but the rest of the Mitsu fleet is rather dated.

Mirage is in the increasingly competitive subcompact segment of the market with Fiat 500, Chevy Spark and Ford Fiesta. Price and surprising content appears to be its advantage currently and that may be enough to challenge the bigger players.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved