The 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage subcompact hatchback is one of the least expensive new cars. While common sense might come down on the side of considering a bigger and better-equipped pre-owned vehicle, some buyers feel that the new-car warranties and financial incentives weigh the argument in favor of the latest model year. And that’s a valid approach too.
The Mirage manages to save money not just by being relatively affordable in the first place, but also by achieving up to 43 miles per gallon on the highway. Most alternatives, however, have more to offer. For example, just about every rival has better acceleration, along with more refined ride and handling qualities. Those seeking a bigger back seat may also find that elsewhere. And don’t expect classy cabin materials.
If budget and fuel economy are the main deciding factors, though, then take a Mirage for a test drive. It provides inexpensive personal transportation with minimal fuss.
What’s New for 2018?
The entry level trim, ES, receives an upgraded infotainment system that includes Bluetooth audio, phone streaming and a new 7-inch touchscreen. A rearview camera becomes standard throughout the range. The SE and GT trims now have armrests for the driver’s seat.
What We Like
Great fuel economy; generous features; easy to park; useful cargo capacity
What We Don’t
Still slow and noisy; ride and handling still below average
The Mirage has a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine rated at 78 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque that drives the front wheels. The standard transmission is a 5-speed manual; a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the automatic option (standard in the SE and GT trims).
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the manual version returns 33 miles per gallon city, 41 mpg highway and 36 mpg combined. With the CVT, those numbers rise to 37 mpg city/43 mpg hwy/39 mpg combined, which is about as good as it gets for anything that isn’t a hybrid.
Standard Features & Options
The 5-seater 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback comes in ES, SE and GT trim levels.
ES ($14,260) starts with 14-in steel wheels, LED taillights, rear spoiler, power windows/locks/mirrors, 60/40-split folding rear seats, a steering wheel that adjusts only for tilt, manual 4-way adjustable driver’s seat, air conditioning, rearview camera, Bluetooth, 7-in touchscreen plus a 4-speaker audio system with an auxiliary audio input and a USB port.
SE ($16,960) adds 14-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/ignition, fog lamps, manual 6-way adjustable driver’s seat with armrest, manual 4-way adjustable front passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, automatic climate control and cruise control. The infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration and a 6.5-in touchscreen.
GT ($17,460) brings 15-in alloy wheels, heated front seats and bi-xenon HID headlights.
Options include blue LED interior lighting, Park Assist package (front and rear parking sensors), cargo mat, cargo net and a 300-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system.
Cargo space is a Mirage specialty, measuring 17.2 cu ft. behind the rear seats and a generous 47 cu ft. when those seats are folded down.
The Mirage comes standard with 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (discs up front; drums at the rear), stability control, hill-start assist and seven airbags (front, front side, driver knee and full-length side curtain).
In government crash tests, the Mirage earned four out of five stars overall, with five stars for side impact protection and four stars for rollover safety. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2018 Mirage its highest rating of Good in four out of five main categories, but the (tricky) small-overlap frontal impact test resulted in the second-lowest rating of Marginal on the driver’s side. It hasn’t been subjected to that same test on the passenger side.
Behind the Wheel
The Mirage offers an impressive amount of standard features for the price. Some competitors only provide crank windows and manual locks, but the Mirage has powered versions, along with a rearview camera, plus Bluetooth and USB connectivity. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that things are still pretty basic, even for this budget-conscious class. The steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, as taller drivers will quickly discover. Rear passenger space is adequate by segment standards, but it’s not nearly as generous as the Nissan Versa Note.
Thanks to its tiny footprint and compact turning circle, the Mirage is easy to park, and squeezing through tight urban spaces is a breeze. Not surprisingly, acceleration is less than energetic with this 3-cylinder motor. When passing or merging, driveline noise can also be intrusive, particularly with the CVT.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Chevrolet Spark — More enjoyable to drive than the Mirage and with a nicer interior.
2018 Ford Fiesta — Again, more fun for drivers. And its excellent fuel economy (with the turbocharged 3-cylinder engine) compares well with the Mirage’s, albeit at a higher price.
2018 Nissan Versa Note — If passenger space is a priority, the Versa Note offers ample headroom and a massive back seat.
2018 Toyota Yaris — Has a far more pleasant interior than the Mirage, and its engine has greater pep.
Used Ford Focus — More space and a generally well-executed car. It won’t have such good fuel economy, though.
Assuming most buyers will want the automatic transmission (a $1,200 option in the ES), they might as well stretch to the SE model for the extra equipment. Don’t limit your choices just to the Mitsubishi Mirage, though. There are several alternatives that could be more suitable. Sometimes buying the cheapest is not always the best call.