by Roger Biermann
The Mitsubishi Mirage is a subcompact hatchback that's one of the cheapest new cars on sale today. All the models in the range use the same 1.2-liter inline three-cylinder engine which produces a measly 78 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque. Due to its frugal engine, the Mirage has impressive fuel economy, and for a car at this price, has some impressive technology features like a rearview camera and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are five model trims, starting with the ES at $13,795, increasing to $16,995 for the top of the line GT model, aiming the Mirage squarely at key rivals like the Chevrolet Spark, Honda Fit and the Ford Fiesta. In a world where crossovers are dominating the sales charts, is there room for a budget-conscious subcompact like the Mirage?
There are very few updates for 2019. Cruise control and driver seat height adjustment have been added to all models, and there are new LE and RF trims added to the range, the LE being a Limited Edition Package with 15-inch black alloy wheels, heated front seats, and red accents, while the RF trim is a Rockford Fosgate special edition with an improved sound system.
The Mirage has dated styling compared to others in its class with a basic design that does nothing to stand out. The ES and RF models come with boring 14-inch steel rims. The SE gets 14-inch black alloys, while the LE gets 15-inch alloys, as well as fog lights. The top end GT model gets 15-inch two-tone alloys and HID headlamps, compared to the halogen items standard on other trim lines. The LE, SE, and GT trim lines all receive model-specific exterior badging.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is a tiny car with a total length of 149.4 inches, riding on a 96.5-inch wheelbase. With a height of 59.4 inches and width of 65.6 inches, it sits at the smaller end of the subcompact hatch class, smaller than rivals like the Honda Fit. Ground clearance is 6.3 inches across the range. The manual ES has a curb weight of 2,018 lbs, while the CVT version is 2,073 lbs. Both the GT and the LE have a curb weight of 2,128 lbs and the SE is 2,095 lbs. All the models in the range share the same dimensions, making the Mirage smaller than the Ford Fiesta but larger than the Chevrolet Spark.
The Mirage comes in eight different color options, all of which are available at no extra cost and for all the models in the range. Apart from Pearl White, all the other colors are metallic, including Starlight Silver, Infrared, Mercury Grey, Sapphire Blue, Mystic Black, Sunrise Orange, and Wine Red. All the colors were carried over from the 2018 model, and the Mirage is one of the few models in the Mitsubishi range on which Pearl White is a no-cost paint option. Of the colors available, Sunrise Orange and Wine Red stand out the most because they aren’t commonly found on other cars.
All models in the Mirage range are front-wheel-drive and powered by a three-cylinder, 1.2-liter in-line engine. The ES is available with either a five-speed manual transmission or an optional CVT which costs $1,200 more. The RF, LE, SE, and GT all get the CVT transmission only. The engine produces a paltry 78 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque, which is the lowest for any new vehicle sold in the US. Unsurprisingly, 0-60 mph takes a woeful 12.7 seconds and top speed is estimated at 125 mph. Obviously, the Mirage isn’t meant for performance, but it offers the bare minimum with regards to performance which translates to a poor driving experience even when making short trips around town. Competitors in its class deliver far better performance, such as the Chevrolet Spark starting at 98 hp and Honda Fit at 130 horsepower, both of which are much quicker to the 60 mph mark and are more willing when performance is needed.
The Mitsubishi Mirage has a three-cylinder, 1.2-liter engine that develops 78 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque. The entry-level ES comes with a five-speed manual transmission with a CVT as a $1,200 option. LE models upwards come standard with a CVT transmission and all the vehicles across the range are front-wheel-drive.
With the dismal acceleration of 12.7 seconds to reach 60 mph, the Mirage takes forever to pick up speed and by the time it eventually gets to highway speeds, the engine is screaming in agony - it doesn’t enjoy being worked. It struggles on both city roads and on the freeway and is especially sluggish climbing even a minimal incline. Obviously, with such dismal power driving becomes a chore, let alone overtaking. The overworked engine feels rough and produces a loud drone as it toils at high speeds. The manual transmission on the ES lets the driver have some control over the Mirage’s performance to squeeze that little bit more power when needed, but it decreases the fuel economy and doesn’t really make the engine feel much livelier. The CVT is smoother but unsuccessfully does its best to get the Mirage up to speed. At least the CVT gives great fuel economy, but all told, neither transmission offering is great with a subpar engine.
Handling is another weak point of the Mitsubishi Mirage. The anemic engine makes the Mirage difficult to drive and takes the fun out of the whole experience. The steering isn’t very responsive and it takes effort to get it back onto center after turning. Mitsubishi claims to have added new shock absorbers and springs which have made the ride more bearable, although it can hardly be felt. Small and large bumps alike permeate the cabin, and the lack of insulation sees uneven surfaces shake the featherweight Mirage about substantially. There’s pronounced body roll through corners, and the lack of seating support contributes to a top-heavy driving sensation that does little to inspire confidence. More than that, mid-corner bumps unsettle the Mirage all too easily, and the skinny tires have very limited amounts of grip.
It’s a noisy affair as well, and as the Mirage accelerates, the noise in the cabin gets progressively louder to the point of irritation, with loads of wind and tire noise creeping in and a large amount of drone from the engine and transmission.
Plus points of the Mirage include having a tight turning circle of 30.2 feet, which makes it nimble in small areas. And of course, being a tiny car it can easily weave through traffic, provided that the traffic is moving slow and you’re preemptive enough on the accelerator.
The Mirage is as basic as a modern car can be and doesn’t pretend to do anything other than getting its occupants to their destination at the lowest cost possible. However, for a slight difference in price, there are cars out there that can deliver much more in terms of solid driving experience, such as the Kia Rio, Honda Fit or Ford Fiesta.
Fuel economy is one of the only areas where the Mitsubishi Mirage truly shines, primarily due to its tiny engine and lackluster performance. All the models in the range share the same engine, with the base model using a five-speed manual transmission and the others using a CVT transmission. The 9.2-gallon capacity gas tank is also shared across the range. The manual ES gets mileage estimates of 33/40/35 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. The CVT has an even better economy of 35/41/37 mpg. In mixed driving conditions, the manual has a range of 322 miles, while the CVT models have a range of 340 miles. When it comes to fuel economy, the Mirage shines compared to the competition such as the base model Honda Fit which gets 29/36/31 mpg and the Chevy Spark with 29/39/33 mpg.
The Mirage offers a close-quarters cabin with genuine space for only four people, in an environment that doesn’t feel particularly classy. At this price, it comes as no surprise that all the seats are fabric-covered and offer little support, which is fine for short trips but makes long journeys needlessly uncomfortable. The dash has a very dated look and is covered in cheap matt black plastic accented by brushed aluminum accents and gloss black trim around the infotainment unit and on the steering wheel. Although it doesn't feel solid, the dashboard still has clean lines and user-friendly controls, and due to its small size and slim pillars, it offers good visibility in all directions. Compared to rivals in its class, such as the Ford Fiesta and the Honda Fit, the interior feels old and tacky.
Technically the Mirage is five-seater, but realistically, two adults can fit in the rear seats and not all that comfortably either. All trims boast cloth-covered seats, with heated front seats available on the LE and GT trims. The driver’s seat is six-way manually adjustable and the front passenger seat four-way adjustable. With no center console, there’s ample space for two adults to sit comfortably, provided they don’t get irritated by the lack of armrests. The driver’s seat is positioned a bit high, and with just 39.1 inches of headroom taller drivers might be inconvenienced. The legroom of 34 inches in the rear is below the average for this class but still okay for an average-sized adult, but the headroom of 37.3 is tiny and uncomfortable for most people. Overall, the cloth seats don’t provide much comfort and support and could be a lot better.
Being a budget car, there aren’t many options for interior colors and trims, with only two choices available. The ES, SE, RF, and GT come with plain black fabric, while the LE comes with black fabric with red accent surfaces as part of its limited edition appeal. The dash is covered with the ubiquitous matte black plastic, with is accented with faux brushed aluminum trim around the vents and cheap shiny plastic around the steering and infotainment system. Obviously, the Mirage’s interior was designed to be as budget-friendly as possible, and while the controls are user-friendly and functional, they can’t hide the cheap feel of this car.
Subcompact hatches aren't renowned for their cargo space, and as long as they can transport the grocery shopping or odd piece of luggage, they have fulfilled their ambitions. The Mirage is no different and comes with a 17.2 cubic foot cargo area which is average in its class and more than rivals like the Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta. With the rear seats folded - they fold in a 60/40 split as standard - the storage space increases to 47 cu. ft., which should be enough for most day-to-day items and a week away for two people. The Honda Fit offers vastly more practicality, however, with maximum cargo volume much larger than the Mirage, and with greater versatility that the Mirage can’t match.
Interior storage space for small items is minimal, with only the glove box, storage tray and cupholders by the gearstick, as well as front door storage pockets. Rear passengers get no storage space at all for small stuff, which gives the impression the Mirage’s interior was seemingly put together as quickly as possible without much thought as to occupant needs.
For an entry-level vehicle, the Mirage has a few good features. A rearview camera is standard across the range, as are keyless entry, cruise control, and power windows. The steering wheel has controls for the audio and cruise control on all the models. The LE, SE and GT models also get voice controls on the steering, which allows the driver to make and receive calls using voice command. Heated front seats are only available as standard on the LE and GT editions. Automatic climate control and push-button start are also available, but only on the SE and GT trims. The SE and GT models also come with Mitsubishi’s FAST-key passive entry system with a push-button start which allows the driver to unlock and operate the car without having to use the key.
While much of the Mirage’s interior feels of poor quality and is highly dated, the infotainment systems are a genuine high-point, on par with those offered by more expensive rivals. The entry-level ES has a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, AM/FM radio, and a single USB port. The RF trim makes use of the same touchscreen but adds a six-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with two compact subwoofers and a 300-watt amplifier, which are installed in a discreet box in the trunk. All the other models in the range get a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple Carplay compatibility, paired with a standard four-speaker sound system, but the Rockford Fosgate upgrade is available as an optional extra. None of the models come with onboard navigation, but the smartphone integration mitigates this problem.
Mitsubishi is a class leader when it comes to warranties, and the Mirage is no exception. All trims come with a basic warranty at ten-years/60,000-miles, the powertrain warranty is ten-years/100,000-miles and the anti-corrosion warranty at seven-years/100,000-miles. Roadside Assist is also offered as standard on all the models in the range for five years. So far there have been no recalls for the 2019 Mitsubishi Mirage, although the 2018 model had one recall for airbags which might not activate in the event of an accident.
The Mirage’s safety is reasonable for its price, with an NHTSA overall rating of four stars out of five. In IIHS testing, the Mirage got the best possible rating of Good in most departments, with a score of moderate for the small front overlap on the driver’s side.
The Mitsubishi Mirage comes standard with ABS brakes, as well as active stability control and a rearview camera. The body is constructed with crumple zones, as well as side impact door beams to protect against collisions. A tire pressure monitor and active stability control are also standard across the range. All models come with five airbags including side curtain airbags, two advanced dual-stage front airbags, and a driver’s knee airbag. Unfortunately, the Mirage lacks crash avoidance features such as lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, or lane keeping assist which is found on the Honda Fit. Overall, the Mitsubishi Mirage has very basic safety features which are less than what its competitors are offering, catering to only the bare minimum federally mandated features.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is the most basic of new cars and is designed to fulfill the simple function of transporting its occupants from one point to the next at the lowest price possible. In some ways, such as fuel economy, it succeeds, but in many other aspects, it fails to impress. To balance the obvious deficiencies, Mitsubishi has added a decent infotainment system and the option of a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system in the hope of attracting customers who aren’t concerned about drive or comfort. But these high points do little to detract from the poor ride, horrible steering, lackluster engine and transmission, and the cheap, nasty interior and poorly supportive seats.
The best aspects of the Mirage are its great fuel economy, low price, and Mitsubishi’s long warranty. While these might be appealing, they aren’t enough to offset all the downsides that this car has. In an era where occupant safety is becoming an expectation rather than a luxury, the lack of assistance and safety features is nigh on unforgivable.
In a relatively small vehicle segment, almost any of the subcompact rivals in its class offer a better driving experience, better safety ratings, more comfortable passenger accommodation, better features, and better build quality. It’s hard to recommend the Mirage when rivals include the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, and Kia Rio 5.
The Mirage is truly a budget car with a starting MSRP price of just $13,795 for the entry-level ES. Above the ES, the RF is priced at $15,490, while the LE carries a base MSRP of $15,845. Higher up in the range, the SE is priced at $16,495, while the top of the range GT carries a price of $16,995 before options. Prices are exclusive of tax, registration, licensing, dealer incentives, and a $995 destination charge applicable on all models.
The Mitsubishi Mirage range comprises five trims: ES, RF, LE, SE, and GT. All the trims are front-wheel driven and use the same 1.2-liter inline three-cylinder engine. The ES comes with either a five-speed manual transmission or CVT, while the rest of the range can only be had with a CVT.
The base model is the ES. It comes with 14-inch steel wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, rearview camera, Bluetooth, keyless entry, power windows, air conditioning, and cruise control.
Next in line is the special edition RF, which has all of the same features as the ES, but adds a Rockford Fosgate audio package with a 300-watt amplifier and subwoofers. It also has a Rockford Fosgate Limited Edition badge.
Higher up in the range is the LE, which has the same features as the ES but replaces the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MP3 functionality, but no HD radio. It also has 15-inch alloy wheels, red interior accents, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, as well as heated front seats.
The SE carries the same features as the ES but adds keyless entry with push-button start, 14-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, and automatic climate control.
The top of the range GT model also has all the features of the ES, but adds 15-inch two-tone alloy wheels, HID headlamps, heated front seats, and a GT badge.
|ES||1.2-liter Inline-3 Gas||5-Speed Manual, TBC||Front Wheel Drive||$13,494||$13,795|
|RF||1.2-liter Inline-3 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$15,142||$15,490|
|LE||1.2-liter Inline-3 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$15,500||$15,845|
|SE||1.2-liter Inline-3 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$16,136||$16,495|
|GT||1.2-liter Inline-3 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$16,625||$16,995|
In the way of additional extras, options are limited with only a handful of packages to change the interior and exterior aesthetics. The Exterior Package at $655 adds what Mitsubishi describes as ‘garnish’ to the LED daytime running lights, rear bumper and tailgate, while the Rockford Fosgate Premium Audio package equips a six-speaker sound system with two subwoofers at a price of $595.
Front and rear park assist sensors are available at $480, or rear park assist sensors only at $395.
In addition to the above packages, there’s also the option of buying individual accessories such as front and rear mudguards at $49 and $59 respectively, as well as the Roof Rack Kit at $308. Wheel locks cost $55, while remote engine start costs $666.
Considering that all the Mirage models use the same engine, there’s no performance difference and preference is based on value for money and convenience features. The pick of the bunch is the limited edition LE. It has all the features of the base model, as well as a few features of the highest GT model, such as 15-inch alloy wheels and heated seating. The LE is the first car in the lineup to have a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment unit with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and the option to add a Rockford Fosgate premium audio system. The sporty feel of the LE is completed by an exclusive red interior trim, as well as a leather-covered steering and shift knob. Sitting dead center in the price range also makes it the best in the balance between features and value for money. The models below it don’t have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while the SE model above it only has 14-inch rims and lacks heated seating. The top end GT model doesn’t add enough features to justify the extra $1,000 in price.
The Ford Fiesta is one of the most popular subcompacts in the segment. The latest version continues the tradition by offering a combination of practicality, sporty features, and high levels of technology. Standard Fiestas are powered by a 120-hp 1.6-liter engine available with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic, performing vastly better than the Mirage as a result, but at the compromise of reduced gas mileage. It also offers a more composed suspension setup, direct steering, and better sound insulation. The only area where the Fiesta lags behind the Mirage is having slightly less rear space and cargo space, but the interior feels of a far higher quality. Apart from the small difference in space fuel economy, the Ford Fiesta is better than the Mirage in every department.
The Honda Fit is considered the leader in its class because of its great all-around abilities. The Honda Fit is powered by either a 128-hp or 130-hp 1.5-liter engine with either a six-speed manual or CVT transmission. Depending on the model, the Honda Fit has many more safety features than the Mirage with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and more as optional features. The Honda boasts the greatest passenger and cargo volume in this class and has a more premium feeling interior compared to the Mirage. The Mirage beats the Honda with regards to fuel economy as well as starting at almost $3,000 cheaper, but the extra money spent on the Fit is still worth it considering it’s a much better car in nearly all aspects.