There hasn't been much happening at Mitsubishi of late. The Japanese automaker has had mild success with the Outlander Sport because of the low price, but the rest of the lineup is nothing to crow about.
Today, the company intends to change that with an all-new subcompact, the 2014 Mirage. The five-seat hatchback will be rated 37/44 mpg city/highway and 40 mpg combined, thanks to a tiny three-cylinder engine and a very tiny size.
That will make it the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid car on sale in the U.S.
Despite Mitsubishi saying the car will have "eager" acceleration around town, we expect the 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine to be on par with other low-powered vehicles like Smart's ForTwo. The Mirage will have just 74 horses on tap; that's 10 hp less than Chevy's Spark, which our editors did find surprisingly gutsy. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a continuously variable automatic transmission is optional. And it is the CVT that generates the impressive mileage numbers.
At 148.8 inches long, the Mirage is 4.1 inches longer than the Spark as well but far short of Ford's Fiesta.
Mitsubishi also promises the Mirage will be extremely affordable but did not release pricing. The Spark starts at $12,995, including destination, and we'd expect the Mirage to be priced similarly.
Base Mirage models, called DE, have a decent list of standard features including a four-speaker stereo with USB input, power windows, body-colored power side mirrors, automatic headlights and hill start assist on CVT models.
But make no mistake, it's still missing some features that today's shoppers consider common. The higher ES trim has some of those like Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, 14-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps and front seat height adjustment. It also is equipped with keyless ignition and entry, a rarity in this class.
The Mirage is a car Mitsubishi needs desperately to succeed. It fills a hole in its lineup and offers a microcar option that its Japanese rivals haven't brought to the U.S.