Before I started working here at Car Autance, I was a serial test driver. I had my license for all of six weeks when I drove my first Mitsubishi – a used Lancer on a VW dealer’s lot. I’ve strolled into more than one Mitsubishi dealership to gander at what they’re trying to sell… I’m usually the only one there. No one wants Mitsubishis.
Like everyone else who’s into cars, I feel like I have no clue how Mitsubishi is still hanging on as a car company. Its current lineup is pretty much just a crop of heavy revisions on the same cars it was selling in 2004. The Outlander and Outlander Sport chassis is the same as when they were introduced in, like, 2007. The Eclipse Cross isn’t a particularly good-looking or compelling package. The Mirage is dated too, even moreso – it’s like the whole design was frozen in 1998 and Mitsubishi just popped it into the microwave for us.
I’ve seen that there’s a subset of people online who act as Mirage boosters “oh, it’s not that bad!” … “you guys are just being dramatic!”
Sure, if you want a car that goes from A to B and nothing else, a Mirage can technically accomplish that task. But no, the Mirage is not a good car at all. I’ve driven four for some reason, both in manual and automatic. And as much as I like to see an automaker offering something “new” with a sub-$15,000 list price, I have to admit that the much-maligned Mirage is not good to drive.
The engine is obviously slow – you can’t possibly expect much from 74 horsepower (or 78 horsepower, depending on the year). The handling is downright scary on fast turns. Soft suspension and skinny tires paired with steering that, for some reason, has a substantial on-center dead spot that doesn’t inspire confidence. The Mirage isn’t interesting to look at, either. I can’t call its design bad, but it just looks… old. The manual shifter is very clunky, to the point where it feels as if it’ll break if shifted too quickly. In short, it’s not a good car. It made the Toyota Yaris I daily drove at the time feel like a BMW 3-series.
For a long time, I didn’t understand why anyone would buy a Mirage, or cars like it. Clearly, it’s not very good to drive, or a nice place to be in. But while I was at the Mitsubishi dealer, I noticed something. On one particular venture to the Mitsubishi dealer, I stopped to look at an Eclipse Cross. As the salesman went on to find one for me to drive, I noticed a base-model Mirage G4 sedan in the showroom. The little blue sedan had a $9,995 sticker on it, along with a “10-year warranty” balloon attached to the mirror.
Right there in the showroom, the Mirage made sense. Sure, the Mirage is a dynamically poor, ugly car. But I asked myself, is it really that bad?
The Mirage is well-packaged – despite being a tiny car, the rear legroom and trunk space aren’t so bad. The skinny tires don’t do much for freeway road holding, but they also have the benefit of being dirt cheap to replace when they wear out or puncture. The car is very slow, but also has the best fuel economy of any vehicle that isn’t a hybrid. The warranty is attractive, 10 years and 100,000 miles for powertrain, but also a five year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty – unheard of by most other manufacturers, save for maybe Hyundai and Kia. Mitsubishi dealers are known for handing out easy credit, too.
In my head, I did the math. With a bit of money down, the payment plan on that Mirage sedan could be microscopic – less than some people’s phone bills. The car would only need routine maintenance, gas, and oil changes. Any big problems would likely be solved by the warranty if they ever occurred.
For someone on a budget, who doesn’t want the uncertainty that comes with a used car of similar cost, the Mirage makes sense. I just wish it was a better car to drive, because then I’d have more fun defending it. And I might even have one in my driveway.