2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

January 18, 2014

Something interesting is happening in the Canadian marketplace. Even though we have high fuel prices, the trend is away from small fuel-efficient cars to larger vehicles. Subcompact and even compact sales are down and sales of small SUVs, even mid-sized vehicle is up. There are a couple of things at play here. The first is the stronger (not so much in the last two months) Canadian dollar over the last several years has allowed carmakers to jam more content into their cars and often the retail price has dropped too. The second is that vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient, so buying a slightly bigger car isn't much of a hardship. With this as a backdrop, it is interesting to see that Mitsubishi has introduced a three-cylinder fuel saving car at the smallest end of the market, when the trend is to bigger vehicles. There is a market for ultra fuel sipping cars but hybrids and diesel vehicles seem to be filling that void for many.


The Mirage is sold in two trim levels; the base starts at $12,498 and comes pretty sparsely equipped. It's a small car with a little price tag. The thing is that the much bigger Nissan Versa is cheaper at $11,898 and has buckets more power-- more on that later. The car that most people will choose is the Mirage SE with many more goodies but the price jumps dramatically to $15,398 and with the automatic transmission it lands at $16,598. At this price, there are plenty of options in the subcompact class. Styling is not what I would car eye-catching. In fact, I think this little car is a throw back, retro design from the 1990s and not in a good way. Cars like the Ford Fiesta or the Kia Rio have much more appeal and features for similar money to this SE Mirage.


On the plus side, the Mirage SE does come nicely equipped. The front driver's seat has adjustment and both front seats have very good seat heaters that bring your backside up to the appropriate temperature in short order. The centre cluster is nicely finished and it features Bluetooth with streaming audio. There is an auxiliary jack but no USB jack to charge your phone. The back seat is small and the rear cargo area is what one might expect from a little car. But this vehicle does not live in a vacuum. The Kia Rio, with more features, like satellite radio, is only a $1000 more and is way up on space and horsepower. The Nissan Versa Note, is massive in comparison, and for $1700 more has push button start and even a backup camera. So yes, the Mirage is nicely equipped and has a good price but there are other options out there that are as good if not better.


What this little car was designed to do is deliver impressive fuel economy. This is achieved by placing a 3-cylinder engine under the hood and matching it to either a 5-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With just 74hp, this car is way down on power compared to the rest of the subcompact set, even the Fiat 500 has 101hp and the Nissan Versa has 109hp. This combination of small packaging and small engine deliver a rating of 5.3L/100km in the city and 4.4L on the highway. In my mostly city driving I was achieving 7L/100km. The problem with such a small engine is that t often needs to be pushed hard to accelerate and pass other traffic. The engine and CVT are loud, especially when the car is cold. The steering is very light for easy maneuverability but at higher speeds it feels too vague. This car is happy cruising because the engine settles down to a lower RPM and the noise level drops, but ask this car to perform is an experience filled with noise, vibration and maybe a little bit of dread.


With a very low starting price and potentially good fuel economy the basic Mirage has a place for a buyer who wants a basic runabout that sips gas. I believe that most buyers want more in a commuter car; a bit more in the way of room, more power and all for only slightly more money. The Kia Rio equipped with an automatic transmission and similar features to this SE mirage is $17,795 but ($1295 more than Mirage SE) but has a whopping 138hp from a direct injection engine and a wonderful interior filed with more features. I'm sure there will be buyers interested in a 74hp 3-cylinder engine at this price but if the trend away from small cars is any indication, that will be a small number.

The Lowdown

Power: 1.2L 3-cylinder with 74hp

Fill-up: 5.3L/4.4L/100km (city/highway)

Sticker price: $12,498-$15,398

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