Heres a pleasant surprise the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage is significantly improved over the first version. Although far from the best subcompact on the market, it is now worth seriously considering if youre in the market for a small car and cost is your number one consideration. Not only is it the least expensive new car sold in the country, it routinely gets over 40 miles per gallon and comes with a 10 year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty.
I never thought I would say that after testing the original 2015 Mirage. Only available as a hatchback with a three-cylinder engine, it was homely, noisy, poorly equipped and unnerving to drive at freeway speeds. To make matters worse, my test model was bright purple that screamed Girl Car.
Mitsubishi skipped the 2016 model year, spent some time and effort redesigning the Mirage, and is now offering not one but two versions of it a much better looking hatchback and a new sedan, which I drove for a week. The differences between the original and revised versions are remarkable. Although still relatively unrefined, it is now a car you can live with. A new front end greatly improves the otherwise generic exterior styling, the ride is almost supple over broken pavement, and freeway driving is no longer a life-threatening experience.
Much of the new Mirage is still the same but improved. The tiny 1.2 liter engine has a few more horsepower (up to 78 now) and the optional Continuously Variable Transmission no longer howls. It is also available with more options.
Some of the original drawbacks remain, however. The interior is mostly hard plastic, road noise is very noticeable, and the engine vibrates noticeably at stops. But the 2017 Mirage is still the least expensive new car on the market, with the hatchback starting at under $13,000 and the sedan starting at under $14,000.
My test sedan came with about $4,000 worth of options that probably help explain my more positive attitude, including the much improved CVT instead of the standard five-speed manual transmission, 15-inch instead of 14-inch wheels, fog lights, color-keyed folding sideview mirrors with turn signals, heated front seats with more adjustments, a 6.5-inch display screen with Apple CarPlay, Android Audio, Bluetooth, push button start, a rearview camera, and a CD player for the dinosaurs among us.
It was also a more mature Sapphire Blue, which didnt influence my opinion (much). But the basic car was still the same as the entry-level version. A bigger engine and a sport tuned suspension are not available at any price.
On the road, my test Mirage felt light and nimble, although the steering was less than precise. As expected, acceleration in the Eco mode was very slow, given the lack of power from the tiny engine. But it had a Sport mode that made the little car feel almost peppy, although fuel economy suffered. Amazingly, the back seat had enough legroom for two adults or three children. The trunk also had a decent amount of space, too.
Weve actually seen this kind of vehicle before, although younger buyers might not know it. In the 1980s, many manufacturers offered what could only be considered disposable economy cars inexpensive small cars whose primary purpose was getting you from point A to point B, with all other considerations taking a back seat, including interior room, comfort, performance, handling, and styling. Models including the early Chevy Cavalier, Dodge Neon, Toyota Tercel, and the Metro sold by both Chevy and Geo. Oh yeah, and also an early of the Mitsubishi Mirage. With proper maintenance, they all ran a long time and didnt cost much in the end. But they were hard to fall in love with, too.
In truth, the 2017 Mirage is better than most of those cars, if only because it has more standard safety equipment. But its also more environmentally sensitive, getting much better mileage than its predecessors, and even more than some hybrids. So if money is your number one concern, by all means check it out.
And heres something else I thought I would never say about the Mirage Im looking forward to testing the hatchback version again.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE
Base price: $13,995
Price as tested: $17,830
Type: Subcompact sedan (and hatchback)
Engine: 1.2-liter 3 (164 hp, 151 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: 5-speed manual; Continuously Variable Transmission (as tested)
EPA estimated mileage: 35/42 - as tested
Overall length: 149.4 inches
Curb weight: 2,018 to 2,117 pounds
Final assembly: Chonburi, Thailand