2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Test
The Fun is a Mirage, But the Value Isn't
In the new-car market, a cheap set of wheels is hard to find these days. Mitsubishi has taken notice and is looking to exploit the void with the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage. The Mirage starts at $13,790 including destination, a price that might be attractive to buyers who previously thought their budgets dictated used cars. It's a strategy that's worked well for the Nissan Versa sedan, which still claims the title for lowest-priced base car in America, and is continually at the top of sales results for the class. Can Mitsubishi, whose future in the U.S. is still uncertain, find similar success scraping the bottom of the barrel?
Our tester was an ES model equipped with a CVT. Our car came with the same 1.2-liter inline-three-cylinder engine producing 74 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque found in all Mirage hatchbacks, and rang up at $15,990. That as-tested price may have you thinking, "Why not just get a Honda Fit, Mazda2, or Ford Fiesta instead?," which start around that price point, are larger, and have more power. But with those vehicles at this price you'd miss out on hands-free keyless entry and push-button start, automatic climate control, and an EPA-estimated 37 mpg in the city. You would, however, get a fair bit of fun that you won't find in the Mirage.
Given its barely 2000-pound curb weight, you'd think the Mirage would handle well enough. But with skinny, low-rolling-resistance 165/65R14-size tires, the hatchback doesn't count turns among its friends. One thing all staffers agreed on is the Mirage's lack of anything resembling steering feel. It's especially difficult to tell when the wheel is on center, as there's so much slop in the steering -- a fact that doesn't help it in the twisties. Taking a curvy on-ramp with as much speed as I could muster from the Mirage's three-cylinder, I was met with ample body roll and tire squeal, along with the distinct feeling that what I was doing wasn't safe. Granted, Mitsubishi doesn't expect most owners will drive the Mirage in that manner, but it's still our job to see how well the car does at its limits.
On the skidpad, the Mirage held 0.71 g lateral acceleration, which isn't far off of the 0.75 g recorded by the Chevrolet Spark and Nissan Versa Sedan, but off the mark of the sportier Mazda2 (0.82 g). The Mirage completed our figure-eight test in 30 seconds flat at 0.53 g average, which is only half a second slower than the time recorded by the Versa and Spark. From behind the wheel, testing director Kim Reynolds described the experience of figure-eighting the Mirage as "miserable," and noted that he could brake remarkably late before going into a corner. That's less a testament to the car's braking ability and more about to its inability to get up to speed.
As long as you don't mind waiting a little longer, the Mirage will get up to freeway speeds eventually. The Mirage's 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission pushed it to 60 mph from a standstill in 12 seconds flat. The quarter-mile comes not long after at 18.8 seconds and 73.6 mph. Needless to say, that's pretty slow. But after a few moments of huffing and puffing from the I-3 and whining and droning from the CVT, you're traveling with the flow of traffic. The ride is more than a bit bumpy, and you hear anything and everything going on outside the cabin. At least the 140-watt CD/MP3 audio system can be cranked up enough to drown out much of the road noise. Once you get up to highway speed, you'll need to give yourself plenty of room and plan your passes more carefully than you're probably used to. That is, unless you're coming from driving a 10-year-old subcompact, in which case it shouldn't be much different.
The engine note is buzzy when attempting to pass on the highway, but even when stopped you're constantly aware that the three-cylinder is working. At idle, vibration transmitted to the cabin is significant -- so significant that senior production director Zach Gale said, "Mitsubishi could almost advertise this car as having a low-intensity massaging seat setting." Inside the Mirage, the interior is about what you'd expect for the money. Hard plastics are abundant, and the controls and instruments are minimalistic. Passenger space is limited, but not that bad considering the hatchback's size. Cargo volume with the 60/40 split folding rear seats in place was adequate for a week's worth of groceries for two.
If fuel economy is your chief concern, then the Mirage won't disappoint. During my week-long stint of mixed highway and city driving in the Mirage, I averaged 38.4 mpg on one tank. That number is close to the CVT's 37/40/42 mpg city/average/highway rating, and was achieved despite my mashing the throttle at almost every light. Is that fuel economy, plus the Mirage's slight pricing advantage, enough to justify the car over its better-driving competition? Not for me, but I can see how some cash-strapped car shoppers without any enthusiast leanings might see otherwise. Whether it beats rolling in an older, used vehicle is debatable, but the 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty makes it an attractive used car alternative.
|2014 Mitsubishi Mirage|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$15,990|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, 2WD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||1.2L/74-hp/74-lb-ft DOHC 12-valve I-3|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2069 lb (69/31)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||148.8 x 65.6 x 59.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||12.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||18.8 sec @ 73.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||127 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.71 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||30.0 sec @ 0.53 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||37/44|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||91/77 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.49 lb/mile|