The Mitsubishi Mirage GT isn’t for everybody, but it has a few winning aspects that buyers can easily appreciate.
What is it?
The Mirage is Mitsubishi’s entry in the car market’s most affordable segment. It’s not the cheapest – its $12,995 base price is $1,005 above that of the Nissan Versa’s – but the Mirage’s 39-mpg EPA combined rating is the highest of any non-hybrid.
The Mirage is tiny, too – its 149.4-inch length undercuts the Honda Fit’s by 10.6 inches.
Pricing and trims
Value is a key Mirage selling point, and the $12,995 Mirage ES has keyless entry and power windows/locks/mirrors.
Step up to the $14,795 Mirage SE, and much is added – a 6.5-inch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, push-button start, a rear camera, aluminum wheels, and more. You could stop there and have a very well-equipped car.
Continue on to the $16,495 Mirage GT, and you’ll find heated seats, bi-xenon HID headlights, Bluetooth with steering-wheel-mounted controls, and flashy 15-inch polished wheels. The ES and SE can be had with either a five-speed manual transmission or a $1,200 CVT automatic, but the GT is CVT-only.
Model year 2017 sees the addition of the Mirage G4 sedan, which adds $1,000 to the prices of the ES and SE hatchbacks. There’s no GT sedan, and sedan manual transmission availability stops at the ES trim level.
Safety is a particular area where buyers should scrutinize the Mirage: its IIHS crash tests show a clear Achilles’ heel, and there’s no availability of active safety features.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that the Mirage generally crashes well – but the Poor rating for the small overlap front test raises an eyebrow.
Little cars like the Mirage need to do the best they can against the IIHS’s flat barrier, as they will likely face a larger foe in an accident. It’s unfortunate the Mirage can’t preserve the survival space required for a higher small overlap crash rating.
The Mirage is not the only small car to come up short: its Poor rating is shared by the Hyundai Accent. One step above at Marginal were rated the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris. The Honda Fit scored an Acceptable, and the Chevrolet Sonic topped them all with an admirable Good rating.
Add in the omission of any active safety features to prevent crashes, and the Mirage ends up on the margins of how safe a new car should be.
Probably the best thing you can say about the Mirage’s three-cylinder mill is that it’s never out of earshot; it’s rougher and louder than any new car engine you can name. Climbing San Francisco’s hills was a foot-to-the-floor affair with the engine at full scream; passersby were at least as aware of the Mirage’s labors as the driver was.
Still, the Mirage’s high EPA mileage ratings are nearly matched in the real world, even when you’re mercilessly flogging the engine to keep things speedy. We drove a 2015 Mirage from SF to LA and back again, and although the throttle was typically planted to maintain the pace that I-5 demands, we didn’t see anything below 38 mpg.
The CVT has a predictably elastic response. Every Mirage tester has come to us with the CVT, but we’d be sure to try the manual if we were Mirage shopping.
The new Ds mode is most welcome, as it tightens up the initial throttle response and bumps up the revs for more robust acceleration – and more noise.
Ride and handling
The Mirage GT’s eye-catching alloy wheels would appear to indicate a sportier handling experience than the more mundane ES and SE – and after all, “GT” typically stands for “Grand Touring” – but all three Mirages ride on the same uncommonly soft underpinnings that give a smooth low-speed ride. The suspension’s suppleness is great for errand run, where bumps that are half the Mirage’s size are absorbed, and the body’s exaggerated lean gives the Mirage a puppy-like reactiveness to your inputs.
Adding speed makes the Mirage more unnerved, and its constant bobbing can be tiring on long trips. That stark difference in attitudes clearly points to the Mirage’s skill as a city car, as does the Mirage’s deliciously tight 30.8-foot turning circle. You can really whip the Mirage around, as long as it’s well within its limits.
The Mirage’s front seats are comfortably soft, and they have decent side support. The driver’s bottom cushion has a broad range of height adjustment, and the headrests rise high but stay far enough away from the back of your head to not feel invasive. Six-footers will find plenty of headroom and legroom.
The rear seats feel more confining. Door openings are narrow for a six-footer to pass through, and the seat is flat.
Rear legroom has a competitive 34-inch measurement – that’s better than the Ford Focus – but a six-footer will find their knees dug into the seatback when the front seat is set for their frame.
The Mirage’s 17.2-cubic-foot cargo space is more commodious than most mid-sized sedans, and the seat drops to expand that to just over 40 cubic feet. We’d take this versatility over the Mirage G4 sedan’s 12.3-cubic-foot trunk any day, although we’d appreciate if Mitsubishi could find the money for a second rope to raise the cargo cover when the hatch is opened. The cover hangs little droopy with just one.
The hatch door has a nice big handle, and the backup camera is mounted next to it on the door’s surface.
Infotainment and controls
The SE and GT have a 6.5-inch screen that incorporates Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Those are cutting-edge features, but the system has a last-generation feel, with a relatively dim screen and a touch surface that can require repeated pokes to get the job done.
Worse was the delay to reconnect your phone via Bluetooth when you’re in and out of the Mirage on errands. Ideally, an infotainment system will pick up where you left off – if for instance you were streaming Spotify on your iPhone, then the car would re-engage that stream when you restarted the ignition.
The tested Mirage GT, on the other hand, defaulted to commercial radio until the Bluetooth connection was established. If you normally keep your iPhone level low, then you’ll turn up sound system’s volume to draw out the Spotify stream – and it meant that the system would blare whatever radio station it was left on until you dug out your phone and restarted your stream.
Seems like a small annoyance, but after a few deafening restarts while running around town, I kept the system turned off.
For those who are looking for a sturdy hatchback that sips fuel and can haul plenty of cargo, any of the three Mirage hatchbacks would do. It just depends how much you want to spend.
Safety remains an issue, as the Mirage’s poor small-overlap performance raises an eyebrow. Pricing raises another, because as well-equipped as all the Mirages are, they still evince a homemade quality, if you look closely enough.
It’s cute that Mitsubishi saved a buck or two by excluding the underside of the hood from the car’s Infrared paint, but it looks unfinished.
And despite the shiny trim, it’s the relentlessly stiff black plastic that dominates the Mirage’s interior.
These details are less of an issue on the $12,995 Mirage ES, but the $17,330 sticker on our loaded Mirage GT tester placed it firmly in the mix with the base models of more well-rounded designs, like the Honda Fit.
Of course, the Fit doesn’t have the Mirage’s nippy low-speed demeanor, nor does it have the Mirage’s short length, tight turning circle and class-leading mileage. If you want these specific things, then the Mirage’s concessions in safety, quality and refinement might be worth it.
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage GT
Base price: $16,495
Price as tested, including $835 destination charge: $17,330
- Cushy around-town ride
- Commodious cargo capacity within a short overall length
- Tight turning circle
- Terrific gas mileage
- Very rough and noisy engine, tiring on trips
- No active safety, poor small-overlap crash test performance
- Cheap-looking assembly and finish