In the auto industry, more and more good things are coming in small packages. The newest addition comes from Mitsubishi with its all-new sub-compact, the 2014 Mirage.
I attended the launch last year in Canada but later was given the chance for an extended test over three months.
The little five-door hatchback offers seating for five plus the versatility of fold flat seats for added cargo room. The biggest selling point for this little cutie, however, is its fuel economy. It made the “Greenest Vehicles List” by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and achieved an amazing 74.1 miles per gallon (mpg) in a driver challenge held by Mitsubishi. The potential fuel savings in a non-hybrid vehicle carries great appeal.
The Automotive Science Group (ASG) named the Mirage the 2014 “Best All-Around Performance Award” winner—the organization’s highest award—along with the 2014 “Best Environmental Performance Award” in the mini-compact class for the 2014 model year. Most recently, the Mirage was also named “the most affordable vehicle shoppers can buy” by Cars.com.
The ASG’s analysis, “found the Mirage to hold the smallest environmental footprint, not only in its class, but also of any conventionally powered model year 2014 automobile available in the North American market.”
Powered by a three-cylinder 1.2-liter engine, the Mirage should earn an EPA estimated 37 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 44 mpg on the highway with the optional Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The Mirage ES that I drove came with the CVT and on a road trip to San Antonio, it reached an average 45.8 mpg. I beat that record later while driving around town when it reached 50.1 mpg.
The standard five-speed manual should earn an EPA estimated city/highway mpg of 34/42. A manual is always a plus with these leetle cars. The 1.2-liter produces a modest 74 horses with 72 lb.–ft. of torque and with the CVT, it’s loud and struggles sometimes to accelerate. I did appreciate the standard ECO light indicator that helps encourage fuel-efficient driving. My total accrued mileage came to 2839.3 and in that time I spent $183.85 on gasoline, or 53.49 gallons.
The test model did include the optional navigation system ($900) that comes with a back-up camera and a touch screen display. Even on a little car, extra visibility, especially parked between SUVs in a parking lot, comes in handy.
The navigation system does trump the mode button on the steering wheel so that it only turns the radio on and off and does not scroll through the radio preset groups, e.g. FM 1, FM 2, and AM, and it replaces the volume and tuning knobs with up and down toggles on the touch screen. This threw me for such a loop that I took it to the local dealership, Roger Beasely Mitsubishi, to make sure it wasn’t broken. Great service, by the way, from service department manager James Henson and mechanic Roy Medillon.
While the interior is rather plain, aside from the purple cloth seats, the touch screen for radio controls on the fully loaded version was refreshingly intuitive and simple to use. XM radio, however, was not included nor is it available and more than once, the navigation system took me on routes that I knew to be incorrect.
Other idiosyncrasies included a push start button located on the left side of the steering wheel, no vanity mirror on the front passenger side, and a light adjuster for the instrument cluster that was counter intuitive.
The Mirage is well equipped with safety features including traction control active stability control, airbags including knee protection, and keyless entry with panic alarm.
For a first-time car buyer, the Mirage has great appeal as an affordable, fuel-efficient compact with versatility. The rear seats folded easily and offered 47 cubic feet of cargo room. Without the seats deployed, there’s still 17.2 cubic feet of space to hold grocery bags.
Mitsubishi goes back to basics with the Mirage, and while it is a bit plain, the fuel savings, affordability, and nice list of standard and available features, were mighty impressive.
Pricing for the 2014 Mirage starts at $13,790 but the as-tested price Mirage ES, considered fully loaded, was $16,890.