The Extra Mile: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
Entry Price: $12,995
Price as tested: $16,890
This week, we're back in the sub-compact category driving the all-new 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES, featuring 44-mpg highway EPA numbers, very affordable price and all the safety features that years ago would have cost thousands more.
Notable is Mirage ES's long list of standard features, including a CVT automatic transmission that assists in delivering outstanding fuel mileage numbers. Only two models are available, namely intro DE and upper classman ES, both delivering surprising value and just the right amount of comfort features.
Joining Mirage at dealer stores are Lancer, Evo, Outlander and a new electric IMEV, resulting in a more impressive lineup for the heretofore "not much to sell" Mitsubishi dealers.
Specifically, Mitsubishi once enjoyed great success with its lineup, especially the sporty models like Eclipse and 3000 GT. These vehicles roamed the streets in great numbers, and the company's cooperative with Chrysler also added to the equation. The Chrysler co-op found Mitsubishi enjoying Chrysler showroom traffic as Eclipse became an Eagle Talon, Plymouth Laser or Stratus R/T while the 3000 GT came badged as a Dodge Stealth, sans minor fascia differences.
When the merger ended and Eclipse and 3000 GT were discontinued, Mitsubishi moved forward with development of SUV/Crossovers and new cars, but took more time than expected. Thankfully, the current Mitsubishi lineup is improving and the dealers are taking some deep breaths of relief. Granted, Mitsubishi still needs more vehicles as its quality of build is unquestioned.
The all-new Mirage, meanwhile, fits into the "green" sub-compact class where Mini Coopers, Fiat 500s, Nissan Versas, Chevy Sparks and Kia Rios roam (naming just a few). Although sub-compacts come in all price ranges, the most popular continue to be lower price offerings that allow city dwellers ease of movement and commuters some of the best EPA fuel mileage out there. Further, with current oil prices rising again due to Mideast turmoil, these little cars may become industry best-sellers as the year progresses.
Mirage is a Thailand-built four-door hatchback that starts at just $12,995 for the DE with a five-speed manual. A back-up camera is extra on the DE and comes as part of our ES tester's $900 navigation and rear camera pack. Our tester's final tally came in at a retail of $16,980 with $795 included for delivery. Check with your dealer for current incentives.
Mirage offers five-passenger seating although four passengers will fit comfortably. All gauges are well done, and the ES standard fare list includes air, fog lamps, 60/40 seats, 140-watt stereo CD, USB, Bluetooth, leather wrapped steering wheel, push button start, all the powers and more.
Under the hood, instead of a four-cylinder that powers most sub-compacts, sits Mitsubishi's 1.2-liter, 74-horsepower/74-torque three-cylinder engine, the nucleus for the great 37 city and 44 highway EPA numbers. When I first started the engine, I thought it had some type of high performance exhaust system although I quickly realized the bristly sound was just that of the three-cylinder design. Once we got moving forward, the CVT automatic quickly moved our Mirage tester into a higher gear, reducing any type of aggressive move forward. However, the driver can control the CVT for better acceleration and, considering its three-cylinder nucleus; Test Drive bestows acceptable "move forward" grades to Mirage.
However, Mirage economy comes at a price as a lack of peppy performance is part of the equation. Still, for a "3-banger" engine, it runs pretty good and will get you going in most all driving situations.
On the safety side, advanced air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control are all standard on every Mirage. A structural "rise-body" design adds to the safety package, but everyone must remember that sub-compacts, regardless of make, usually weigh 1,900 to 2,200 lbs. wet, meaning if you have an impact with a mid or full-size vehicle, the result may not be pretty.
Thus, for those considering sub-compacts, always remember the "impact reality," especially if you do more highway driving than low speed crowded city jaunts. Also, take everything into consideration which car might be best for your soon-to-be college student, as the Mitsubishi Lancer, which starts at $17,195 and weighs 2,900 lbs. may be a better choice.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 96.5 inches, 2,051-lb. curb weight, 17.2 to 47.1 cu. ft. of cargo space and 9.2 gallon fuel tank.
If you're running in town to the store, Mitsubishi's new Mirage may be a best buyâ¦especially if oil goes to $150 a barrel.
Likes: Fuel mileage, interior leg and headroom, cargo space, looks.
Dislikes: Turtle like acceleration, engine noisy.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist).