published Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Test Drive: Mirage diversifies Mitsubishi offerings

The five-passenger Mitsubishi Mirage is an option for budget buyers who prefer new cars over used ones.
The five-passenger Mitsubishi Mirage is an option for budget buyers who prefer new cars over used ones.
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

* Model: 2014 Mirage ES

* Exterior color: Mystic Black

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder

* Horsepower: 74

* Transmission: Continuously variable

* Fuel economy: 44 mpg highway, 37 mpg city

* Dealer: Kelly Mitsubishi

* Price (as tested): $16,110

The new, subcompact Mitsubishi Mirage gives the scrappy Japanese brand a city car with near-hybrid fuel economy.

Copies, assembled in Thailand, have started arriving at Kelly Mitsubishi, 900 Riverfront Parkway, according to salesman Chris Dover.

A base Mirage with manual transmission is one of the most economical new cars on the market, listing for about $12,900, Dover said.

We drove the top-trim ES version, which has such uncharacteristic-to-the-class features as push-button start, power windows and a fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission.

STYLING AND FEATURES

The Mirage is a five-passenger hatchback new for the 2014 model year. It provides basic transportation with features often found on more expensive cars.

If performance is your bag, the Mirage probably isn’t for you. But if you want that new-car smell at a used car price, it could be right at home in your driveway. And don’t forget its 44 mpg highway fuel economy, not bad for a car without a battery pack.

The hatch layout provides ample seating room for most adults. For example, Dover said he recently sold a mirage to a customer who is 6-feet, 5-inches tall. Behind the back seat is a cargo compartment, which can be enlarged by folding down the rear bench, which splits 60-40.

The sheet metal is molded to maximize interior space and has a tall stance for a sub-compact car. This enhances visibility as both the windshield and side windows are surprisingly large.

As you would expect in a car in this class, materials are modest and the cabin layout is simple and functional. I had no trouble dialing in enough heat on a cold day, and the four-speaker, 140-watt stereo sounded pretty good when “Brick House” popped up on the radio.

Mitsubishi has clearly done its market research and added some low-cost upgrades to the ES trim, such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a piano-black finish on the sound- and climate-control console, fog lights, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise-control functions and a smart-key entry system with panic alarm.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The Mirage is powered by a little 1.2-liter, three-cylinder engine that makes 74 horsepower. It won’t win any drag races, but it will get you around the city while barely sipping gas.

On our test drive to the top of Signal Mountain and back, the Mirage exhibited a soft, compliant ride. Our test Mirage rides on 14-inch alloys. The suspension is a MacPherson strut set-up in the front and a torsion beam assembly in the rear.

Because of the small engine, the Mirage even gets 37 mpg in city driving. It also has a couple of important safety features — stability control and traction control — that were only found on luxury cars a decade ago.

BOTTOM LINE

For drivers on a budget, the Mirage is a reasonable alternative to used car and carries Mitsubishi’s superior 10-year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty.

Not only that, but fill ups should be few and far between. For the adventurous, popular colors include Infrared, Kiwi Green, Sapphire Blue and Plasma Purple.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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