2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Drive: Introduction
Mitsubishi might know something the rest of us don’t. With the Dow Jones Industrial Average generally climbing, the unemployment rate generally falling, and the U.S. generally recovering from a massive recession, it would seem a poor time to introduce an inexpensive mini-car like the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage. But here’s the thing. More families are making less money than ever before, so while key economic factors look promising, the reality is that people remain under-worked and under-paid. In that context, a car wearing a base price tag of $13,790* and including a generous warranty might be a brilliant move.
To learn more about the 2014 Mirage and to see if it can compete head-to-head with other affordable models like the Chevy Spark ($12,995), the Ford Fiesta ($14,795), the Kia Rio ($14,400), and the Nissan Versa ($12,800), let alone slightly more expensive small cars like the FIAT 500 ($16,900), the Honda Fit ($16,215), the Hyundai Accent ($15,340), the Mazda 2 ($15,515), the Scion xD ($16,500), the Toyota Yaris ($15,240), I spent some time driving Mitsubishi’s latest model on the high-desert roads north of Los Angeles.
* All prices include the destination charge
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Drive: Lineup and Pricing
Mitsubishi offers the new 2014 Mirage only as a 5-door hatchback in DE or ES trim levels. The base Mirage DE costs $13,790, while the Mirage ES is priced at $14,990. Each is equipped with a standard manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional for $1,000.
All Mirages come with standard automatic climate control, power windows with automatic up/down operation for the driver’s window, power door locks with remote keyless entry and a panic alarm, power side mirrors, and a 4-speaker stereo with a USB port. Mitsubishi includes variable intermittent wipers and a rear wiper/washer system for the base Mirage DE, along with auto-off headlights, a tilt steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, a cargo area cover, and a multi-information display with a trip computer.
By upgrading to the Mirage ES, buyers benefit from 14-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, silver interior accent trim, nicer seat fabric, and carpeted floor mats. The ES model also comes with Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, audio controls on the steering wheel, a height adjustable driver’s seat, a cargo light, and more.
In addition to the CVT, either Mirage can be upgraded with options that cost extra money that might be better spent getting a larger and more powerful vehicle. The Mirage DE is offered with the same aluminum wheels that are standard for the Mirage ES, and for a limited time they’re a free upgrade. A cargo mat and cargo net run $95, and those might come in handy, but the remaining options are mainly cosmetic in nature. And you don’t need the rear parking assist sensors in a car this big, do you?
A Navigation Package is optional for the Mirage ES. At $900, it strikes as a value, especially given that it includes a reversing camera and a touchscreen infotainment system. Still, with that cash you could buy one of the latest smartphones and a really cool navigation app, and that way you wouldn’t need to put up with the wonky ergonomics and screen glare that are included with the in-dash screen.
My test car was the Mirage ES with the CVT and the Navigation Package, painted Starlight Silver. The grand total came to $16,890.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Drive: Design
Jaunty in appearance, especially if you choose one of the more vibrant paint colors, the Mitsubishi Mirage is nevertheless bland and generic in terms of exterior design, recalling a number of small, inoffensively styled Asian cars instead of the new Outlander or the existing Lancer and Outlander Sport. If you want to blend into a crowd, drive a Mirage in white, silver, gray, or black.
The interior has more personality, with sport fabric seats, piano black trim, silver accents, and hard plastic panels that display consistent texture and tone. Additionally, many of the Mirage’s bits and pieces come from the corporate Mitsubishi parts bin, which means they were designed and engineered for more expensive vehicles. Moreover, the controls are easy to understand and operate, and the cabin is cohesive in appearance, which helps to make the car look and feel more expensive than it is.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Drive: Comfort and Cargo
Unlike in days past, comfort and compact car are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. In the Mirage, the front seats offer a decent amount of it, and the driver’s chair is equipped with a manual seat height adjuster to help get properly situated behind the tilt steering wheel. Note, though, that the door panel armrest and the upper door panel trim are rendered in hard plastic, and that the Mirage is not offered with a center armrest.
The Mirage’s rear seat cushion sits high off the floor of the car, and there’s enough room for feet under the front chairs, but legroom is really tight. With the driver’s seat properly adjusted for my 6-foot frame, I needed to splay my legs around the softly padded front seatbacks to squeeze into the back seat.
Behind the rear seats there is a deep cargo area that drops several inches below the sill. Mitsubishi says a Mirage will carry 17.2 cu.-ft. of cargo, but does not specify whether that’s with the rear seat raised or folded down.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Drive: Safety and Technology
Mitsubishi says the new Mirage, which weighs 2,029 pounds in base trim, is constructed using the automaker’s Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) body architecture. Additionally, the car is equipped with a standard driver’s knee airbag, in addition to federally mandated safety equipment. Rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are available as options.
Another option, offered only for the ES model, is a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation. The system takes some acclimation, and it’s easy to forget how to get to certain screens or make certain functions work. The screen also projects lots of glare on a sunny day. The navigation map, however, shows regional topography when zoomed out to a certain point, displayed in shaded relief. This is a surprisingly sophisticated feature on such a small, inexpensive vehicle.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Drive: Engines and Transmissions
Mitsubishi sells the 2014 Mirage with a single engine choice, and that’s a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine generating 74 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 74 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, with a CVT optional.
Even in a car weighing barely more than 2,000 pounds, these are not strong figures. Mitsubishi is chasing impressive fuel economy numbers, and with the standard manual gearbox the car is rated to get 37 mpg in combined driving while the CVT is expected to return 40 mpg.
I drove the Mirage 30 miles on desert highways at an elevation of about 2,500 feet, and while a stiff wind blew from the southwest for half of those miles, it was also at my back for the other half. I extracted 35.7 mpg out of this car, and it’s not like I was doing zero-to-60 acceleration runs or sitting in traffic. As has become increasingly common, it would appear that the EPA fuel economy rating for this car and the reality of what people will get in the real world are only distantly related to one another.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Drive: Driving Impressions
Keeping in mind that I drove the Mirage at an elevation nearly half a mile above sea level, and that I weigh about 12% of the entire car’s base curb weight, maybe it’s not a surprise that the little 3-cylinder engine labored under acceleration. Given what I experienced, I sure wouldn’t want to need to get onto a freeway in a Mirage, especially if the on-ramp was a short one, or going uphill.
The CVT doesn’t draw undue attention to itself, and it’s easy to tell that it is trying desperately to maximize what little power is available at any given time. The gated shift pattern is a nice detail, and there’s an engine-braking mode that helps to limit vehicle speed on descents.
Overall, the Mirage’s powertrain would be fine for lower-speed city driving. While maneuvering the car in a parking lot, it felt agreeably nimble and responsive. But out on the open road, the driver needs to be aggressive with the accelerator. And patient.
Electric steering is standard, and in my short driving experience, it is also vague, requiring regular monitoring and maintenance. Certainly the wind caused some of the disconnected feel on center, but not all of it. And if you happen to be getting blasted by crosswinds, the Mirage has a hard time maintaining a straight trajectory.
By all indications, the Mirage’s suspension tuning aims to deliver a compliant ride on lousy pavement while traveling at low speeds. Mitsubishi said this car is built in Thailand, and is designed for service in multiple global markets, not all of which have decent roads. Suspension tuning is the same for every Mirage everywhere.
As a result of this approach, I found the Mirage to be woozy over dips, and it didn’t take much to use up all of the suspension travel. Take a corner with anything resembling speed, and the body lists to one side or the other. Over one section of washboard road texture in the blacktop, the Mirage juddered as the car attempted to dogleg a little bit.
My favorite part about driving the Mirage is the front disc/rear drum brakes. In a car this light, this old-school approach works well, and the brake pedal feels good underfoot.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage First Drive: Final Thoughts
The new 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is basic transportation, at best. Because it includes lots of equipment at a low base price, a Mirage makes sense if you’re living in a city or a suburb at low elevation and without hills. Just try to avoid the freeway with this thing.
That said, I would also closely compare the Mirage with equivalently equipped Chevy Sparks and Nissan Versas before deciding on the Mitsubishi, because aside from a strong value equation, one the Chevy and Nissan can generally match, the Mirage is an unremarkable entrant in the burgeoning subcompact car class. Alternatively, consider scraping a few extra bucks together every month to swing the payment on something that costs a little bit more in terms of price but delivers a whole lot more in terms of driving dynamics and sophistication.
The author drove the 2014 Mirage at an event held by the Motor Press Guild. The Mirage test vehicle is a pre-production prototype with tinted front and rear windows.
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage photos by Christian Wardlaw