The new Mitsubishi Mirage subcompact is a true rarity in this automotive age of excess: a back-to-basics, no-nonsense ride intended primarily as sensible transportation. Flashy and powerful it isn't, but the diminutive, affordable hatchback does offer a surprising amount of passenger space, excellent maneuverability and combined fuel economy of 40 mpg - that's tops among non-hybrid cars in the United States.
Make no mistake - at 148.8 inches long, 59.1 high and 65.6 wide, the Mirage is tiny. In comparison, the Honda Fit stretches more than a foot longer, while the Civic is nearly three-and-a-half feet lengthier.
Given its Lilliputian dimensions, the Mirage's passenger compartment is larger than one would expect, with space that's adequate for four adults. The cargo area measures a miniscule eight cubic inches, however. There's precious little flair in terms of the interior styling, but the materials are sturdy and the controls logically placed and easy to use.
Despite its entry-level positioning, the Mirage isn't bare-bones when it comes to content: power windows and locks, automatic climate control and a stereo with iPod/USB connectivity are fitted as standard. Options include a navigation system with a rearview camera, parking sensors and interior LED lighting.
Like the even-smaller smart fortwo, the Mirage features a three-cylinder motor that prioritizes efficiency ahead of power. It produces just 74 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque, but when paired with an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) it returns truly impressive fuel economy: 37 mpg in the city, 44 mpg on the highway and 40 mpg combined.
The standard gearbox is a five-speed manual transmission; it facilities quicker acceleration but lowers efficiency to 34 mpg in the city, 42 mpg on the highway and 37 mpg combined.
With an tight turning circle of 30.2 feet, nimble responses enabled by a curb weight of less than 2,000 pounds, and dimensions that lend themselves to easy parking, the Mirage is in its element in city environments. Slow acceleration means the hatchback is less at home merging onto busy highways, however.
Standard and Optional Features
The Mirage is offered in DE and ES trim levels.
The DE comes standard with automatic climate control, full power accessories, a four-speaker, 140-watt AM/FM/CD stereo system with iPod/USB connectivity, keyless entry and 14-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.
The ES adds Bluetooth connectivity, a proximity key with push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, fog lights, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and 14-inch alloy wheels.
Seven extra-cost options packages are available. The Navigation Package brings a nav system and a rearview camera; the Exterior Package garnishes the fog light surrounds, lower grille, and hatch with chrome; the Exterior Package adds a body kit; the Parking Assist package includes front and rear proximity sensors, the Protection Package adds mud flaps and other protective body gear; the Cargo Group includes a tray and net in the trunk; and, finally, the LED package brings LED interior lighting.
All Mirage models come standard with dual front, front-side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and Brake Assist.
Size-wise, the Mirage's closest rival is the Chevrolet Spark, which offers more cargo space but is much less fuel efficient that the Mitsu. Those willing to step up to slightly larger, more expensive rides can also consider the roomy Honda Fit, the stylish Kia Rio and the fine-handling Mazda Mazda2.