We spend a week in the subcompact from Mitsubishi that entry-level buyers should at least put on their list of vehicles to check out.
New Car warranty
Interior noise levels
There comes a time in life, usually post college, that a high percentage of graduates – unless they went to an Ivy League school – find themselves needing what we euphemistically call "basic transportation."
The obvious choices include paying cash for a beater, buying a decent used car or browsing the new car lots for a really cheap ride. While the first two choices are often more affordable, buying new comes with at least one benefit the other lack – a new car warranty.
For those who bother to look at a Mitsubishi (certainly not a given), that means a 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5 years and unlimited miles worth of roadside assistance.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT
Although the name has been around since 1978, the Mitsubishi Mirage, at least in its current form (technically it's the model's sixth generation), first reached our shores as a 2014 model. Until the 2017 model year, it was available as only a hatchback.
For the 2016 model year, the Mirage was given a mild update. Mitsubishi replaced the narrow upper slit on the front fascia with a true grill, hexagonal in shape and trimmed in chrome. The lower air intake was de-emphasized and it, too, has a bit of chrome trim that spans the width between the fog lamp enclosures.
The hood was re-shaped and the headlamp enclosures now house projector lamps. Little was changed along the sides, although Mitsu did eighty-six the fender reflectors in favor of a pair of faux chromed vents. Behind those projector headlights on the GT trim, by the way, are HID units that do a commendable job at night of illuminating the road ahead.
In back, the lower valance and LED taillamps were re-designed, while a backup camera seems to have randomly been placed on the hatch lid. All in all, the changes give the GT at least some semblance of sportiness.
Inside, there's new seat fabric and a new steering wheel. There's also something else that's new: what Mitsubishi calls an "illuminated semi high-contrast combination gauge cluster."
The seats are comfortable enough for an econobox and the trim, though consisting of a variety of hard plastics, isn't offensively cheap-looking.
The big news here, at least for entry-level tech-friendly buyers, is a new smartphone-linked display audio touchscreen head unit in SE and GT trims that includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's part of a standard 4 speaker, 140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system. There's no satellite radio option, but the Apple/Android feature should satisfy most, while a Rockford Fosgate system is a port installed option.
Connecting your phone to the system via USB, however, leans toward the do-it-yourself school of high tech as the port is located at the end of a cord that, when not in use, rests in the glove box. This means you either have to attach your sync cord inside the glove box or, for more freedom, pull the port cord out of the glove box and just let it hang wherever it happens to hang.
We should also note that a couple of other boxes look like they were added as an afterthought. The Bluetooth microphone, for instance, is a small box located just in front of the steering wheel on the steering column. There's also another random box located on the upper dash just above the glove box. However, we never bothered to check what that one was used for. It was just there.
The view from the driver's seat, provided you can see beyond the sea of crossovers, is surprisingly good. Credit the narrow A, B and C-pillars. There's also room in back for two adults, although leg room is a bit tight, as you might imagine.
Cargo volume is also decent for a vehicle this size. With the rear seats up, there's 17.2 cubic feet of cargo volume. Fold those seats flat and it expands to a very usable 47 cubic feet.
Standard equipment on all Mirage models, in addition to that previously mentioned, includes an upper rear spoiler, variable intermittent front and rear wipers, power windows, locks and mirrors, air conditioning, carpeted floor mats and a rear package shelf.
The SE trim adds fog lights, turn signals on the outside mirrors, 14-inch alloy wheels, the "semi high-contrast meter cluster," automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, the smartphone-linked audio system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls and a proximity key system with push-button start.
Stepping up to the GT will get you the HID headlights plus 15-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and additional gloss black interior trim pieces.
Under the hood
The only engine available is a 1.2-liter inline-3 that, thanks to a new lower-friction roller camshaft, now manages to pump out 78 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 74 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. It's mated to either a 5-speed manual transmission or a CVT automatic.
EPA estimates for a Mirage equipped with the manual are 33/41/36 city/highway/combined mpg, while with a CVT the estimates are 37/43/39 city/highway/combined. Our own observed fuel economy was 34.5 mpg in the city.
The little Mitsubishi also has a fairly comprehensive list of standard safety equipment that includes 7 airbags, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, stability control and traction control.
On the road
Considering its size and short (96.5 inches) wheelbase, the suspension does a decent job of soaking up most road imperfections and pointing it into a corner elicits only a little body lean. The brakes were also good and, although there wasn't much of an initial bite to the pads, they were easy to modulate. On the other hand, the steering felt numb with little feedback through the steering wheel. Topping things off, there were copious amounts of road, wind, road, tire and engine noise that enters the cabin.
In addition to the lack of insulation, putting your foot into it elicited a cacophony of coarse engine sounds mixed in with the ever-present groaning of the CVT. We realize this is just a point A to point B vehicle, but it was often difficult carrying on a conversation even in around town driving.
Then there's freeway driving. There is enough power under the hood to merge into traffic without a problem. Passing is also possible once you get up a head of steam (78 horsepower coupled to a CVT do not make for a hot hatch). But, as it tips the scales at just 2,075 pounds, the Mirage is affected by crosswinds and its narrow tires don't play very well with grooved pavement.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage prices
2017 Mirage prices, including an $835 destination charge, start at $13,830 for a manually-equipped ES and can top out at over $19,000 for a fully equipped and accessorized GT. Our Sapphire Blue GT tester had a base price of $16,495. This meant that, with the destination charge, its' as-tested price came to $17,330.
But as far as we're concerned, the price difference doesn't begin to justify choosing the GT over the base model. If you're looking for cheap, just go cheap. That's because an optioned GT is getting close to the price of a Mazda3 – and there is no comparison between the two.
The Bottom Line
The Nissan Versa and Chevrolet Spark are all better in various ways, although their warranties don't come close to the Mirage. Meanwhile, the Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent are better period, although all five are a few thousand more.
But if you're looking for a really cheap new car with a decent warranty, you should put the base Mitsubishi Mirage on your list of vehicles and take one for a test drive.