When cheap doesn’t equal cheerful.
Light and nimble city cars – what they lack in power they joyously make up for with quirky styling, low price tags, and interior accommodations.
Enter Mitsubishi. Previously, the smallest car in Mitsubishi’s lineup was the mid-size Lancer, but in 2014 they rolled out a small car priced around $13,000. On paper, the 2015 Mirage seemed like it could it be a decent city car. Then you take a look at it and the mirage vanishes (pun intended).
Without even giving away any stats about the Mirage, you look at it and straight away shake your head. A small car doesn’t have to have the sex appeal of a Ferrari but there has to be some effort in the design. The Mirage manages to combine “boring” and “ugly” into one little hatchback. While the front of the car looks like a bulldog, the rear seems to be squashed and rather featureless. It reminds me of car design from 15-20 years ago.
Thankfully the interior isn’t as out-of-date as the exterior. The ES model does have climate control, Bluetooth, USB, and many buttons on the steering wheel. However, the knobs and switches do feel cheap and plastic-y, like they belong in a $15,000 car. The radio works. It won’t blow you away but it works. The lack of a center armrest was annoying, but the Mirage had much worse offenses, one of which is how it drives.
Slow. The only word I can say about the Mirage is that it is slow. Fire up the little 1.2-liter inline-3 and you get a whopping 74 horsepower and a lot of noise. With the optional CVT, zero says hello to 60 mph in a leisurely 10.9 seconds. Since it takes so long to accelerate, you have to floor the throttle every time you accelerate because traffic overtakes you quickly. Ride quality is decent as are the front seats.
If there is one saving grace to the Mirage, it’s the fuel economy. Mitsubishi claims the Mirage can do 37-mpg city and 44-mpg highway. Can it? If you have a lot of patience you can probably get close. I probably didn’t get anywhere near those claims but a total lack of power doesn’t help. With that said, the Mirage does get better gas mileage than all of the competition.
The only two options the Mirage ES I drove did not have were the optional navigation system and rear view camera. With those, the car would come to around $17,000, but buying a Mirage at that price is ludicrous. Mitsubishi probably knows this which is why you can get a new Mirage for around $12,000-$14,000. Back at the dealership, the salesman told my friend and me that “there are no bad cars anymore”. I don’t think he’s actually driven a Mirage for more than a few feet.
Recommending that the Mirage is good because of its price is like recommending McDonalds’s Dollar Menu – sure, it’s cheap, but why would you want to?
There are much better small cars on the market. If you’re looking at a city car, we’d recommend taking a look at the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, or go second hand.
Anthony doesn’t always write in the third person, but when Anthony does, Anthony likes to make it quite obvious.
Follow Mr. Fongaro @thefongo on Twitter.