The verdict: The Mirage GT has some surprising features for its price, but once you’re driving, you won’t forget what’s missing.
Versus the competition: Other cars in this class are quieter and offer more power and features, but the Mirage is more fun to drive and a bit quirkier, which some will like.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is not the lowest-priced new car you can buy in 2018. That title — and accompanying ignominy or praise (I’m not sure which one yet) — goes to the 2018 Nissan Versa, which starts at $12,995. That undercuts the Mirage’s starting price of $14,290 by more than $1,000 (all prices include destination charges). But that’s not to suggest the Mirage feels like anything more than a minimalist car.
In the price range inhabited by cars like the Mirage, Versa, Chevrolet Spark and Kia Rio (compare those here), what you don’t get is just as important as what you do. My week with the 2018 Mirage produced some surprising positives to go along with a few nagging negatives.
The 2018 Mirage is sold as a hatchback or sedan, called the Mirage G4 (which we cover as a separate model on this site). I tested a Mirage GT, the top hatchback trim level (above ES and SE trims), that cost $17,585 as equipped.
For the new model year, the Mitsubishi Mirage adds some new technology and convenience into the mix. It starts with a new 7-inch touchscreen display that’s standard on the ES trim level. SE and GT trims get a smaller screen (6.5 inches), but it comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, so I’d say the smaller screen is worth it. A backup camera is now standard, as are Bluetooth connectivity and steering-wheel controls for audio and phone. Those piloting SE and GT models can now enjoy a driver’s seat armrest — if you’re in the ES, I guess you don’t deserve one.
Note that the Mirage G4 gets the same updates, as well as an added center pass-through for the trunk. Compare the 2018 Mirage with last year’s model here.
What You Get
The Mirage GT comes with a few surprising features for its price. As mentioned, the multimedia system includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity standard on the SE and GT, which gives you navigation on the touchscreen if you have a compatible smartphone. There’s also standard Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel controls, automatic single-zone climate control and keyless access via small buttons on the door handles that lock and unlock the car.
The Mirage can also be kind of fun to drive. Mitsubishi doesn’t provide a zero-to-60-mph time for the Mirage — possibly because those are usually listed in seconds, not minutes — but it’s not the acceleration that makes the car occasionally enjoyable, it’s the lack of weight. The Mirage GT weighs 2,128 pounds; for some perspective, that’s 200 pounds lighter than a Mazda Miata. So even though there isn’t much grip and steering feel is average, it feels pretty agile in curves. It’s not a bad little momentum driver; it might take a little while to build up some speed, but once you have it, finding a way to keep it is smile-inducing. Plus, with a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine sending only 78 horsepower to the front wheels, you can spend a lot of time with the pedal buried firmly in the carpet without grossly exceeding posted speed limits.
Another bonus is fuel economy. The Mitsubishi Mirage’s 37/43/39 mpg city/highway/combined EPA-estimated ratings make it the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid or electric vehicle in America for 2018. That’s quite a claim to fame for the budget-conscious shopper.
The Mirage’s shape also gives you pretty good headroom front and rear, plus decent cargo room, with 17.2 cubic feet behind the backseat (more than a 2018 Honda Fit hatchback), which expands to 47.0 cubic feet with the seats folded.
What You Don’t Get
You don’t get much sound-deadening material. The doors have a hollow ring when you close them, and there doesn’t seem to be much insulation between the engine compartment and cabin. The Mitsubishi Mirage was the loudest car I’ve tested that has doors and a fixed roof; at highway speeds, conversations between even front occupants are strained thanks to all the noise (engine, tire and wind) there is to compete with. I’ve driven other affordable cars in this class, and though they aren’t library-quiet inside, they do a better job of keeping the outside environment where it belongs — outside.
Those looking for the latest safety features will be left wanting, as well. There are airbags and a backup camera, but that’s about it.
The Mitsubishi Mirage also doesn’t offer much comfort for rear passengers. There are no visible air vents or charging ports, and though there’s space for your head, there isn’t much legroom to speak of. If you’re more than 6 feet tall, good luck back there unless you’re behind a short driver.
One other thing to watch out for in the Mirage is that the steering wheel only tilts, it doesn’t telescope. That, along with limited adjustment range for the driver’s seat, made it impossible for me to find a seating position I liked. I consistently adjusted something (the seat, the wheel, myself) each time I drove the Mirage, which grew tiresome.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is unfiltered, unashamed low-price transportation, and there’s a place for that in the market. The floor for quality in cars has gone up over the past few years; I recall Bluetooth and a touchscreen being found only on higher trim levels not long ago, and now those things are standard on one of the cheapest cars around.
Mitsubishi will also throw you pretty robust warranty coverage: five years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, and 10 years/100,000 miles for the powertrain. That matches what you’ll get from Hyundai and Kia.
Would I go for a GT if I were buying a Mirage? Probably not. I’d jump down to the SE to save $500 given the GT’s exterior additions (two-tone wheels and bi-xenon HID headlamps) aren’t necessities, and I’d still get the better multimedia system and a driver’s armrest (crucial for me).
Is the Mitsubishi Mirage good in the grand scheme of things? Not really — but it’s not meant to be. It’s no-frills, highly affordable transportation with a screaming cabin that won’t let you forget about it.
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