One of the last vehicles to debut late in the second day of the 2013 New York International Auto Show was the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage. The revival of the Mirage nameplate doesn't boast much in the way of technology, horsepower, or sex appeal, but this economical little hatchback does make some lofty claims where fuel efficiency is concerned.
One of my first cars was a black, fifth-generation Mitsubishi Mirage ES Coupe. That generation -- the last to be sold in the U.S. -- was available in coupe and sedan variants, and I thought the coupe was the cooler of the two.
However, the revived 2014 Mirage is available only in this 5-door, hatchback configuration. With the strong re-emergence of small, efficient hatchbacks in the U.S. market, could this be the car that saves Mitsubishi from obscurity? Maybe, but I'm guessing that the Outlander Plug-in Hybrid that shared the stage with the Mirage at the New York show will generate more buzz and sales.
The Mirage's face borrows design elements from the automaker's Lancer and Outlander models, albeit with a more rounded, cutesy aesthetic. The top-of-the-line ES trim level pictured here features fog lights and chrome trim elements.
The diminutive 5-door measures just 148.8 inches from nose to tail, 96.5 inches of which is encompassed in the wheelbase. The hatchback doesn't seem to leave much space for cargo behind the rear seats. Fortunately, the Mirage's rear bench folds flat with a 60/40 split.
The Mirage is powered by a 1.2-liter, MIVEC 3-cylinder engine that outputs a mere 74 horsepower and 74 pound-feet of torque. Mitsubishi is hoping that in this case, less power is more efficient with an estimated 40 mpg combined fuel economy (pending the EPA's stamp of approval). That breaks down to 37 mpg city and 44 mpg highway.
For comparison, Mazda's tiny Mazda2 makes 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque from its 1.5-liter, four-banger and sips fuel at 29 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.
Power reaches the front wheels via either a 5-speed manual transmission or this Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). The CVT uses a feature called "Idle Neutral Logic" which essentially shifts into neutral when the vehicle is stopped and the brakes are applied to reduce drag on the engine and increase efficiency. Think of it as a lite version of auto stop-start without the actual stopping and restarting.
The standard feature list on the entry Mirage DE is pretty low-tech, with the high points being automatic climate control, keyless entry with panic alarm, and a four-speaker, 140-watt audio system with a USB/iPod input.
The Mirage ES on display at the show features "eye-catching" 14-inch aluminum alloy wheels, leather trim for the steering wheel and shift knob, keyless entry and push-button start, cruise control (of the nonadaptive variety), and Bluetooth hands-free calling. No word yet on whether that Bluetooth connection includes stereo audio streaming, but I'd be surprised if the feature were omitted.
Mirage ES owners who want a bit more tech can option a touch-screen navigation system with rear-view camera. The system, frankly, looks pretty basic, but this is a pretty basic, no-frills sort of car. Also available is Mitsubishi's Parking Assist technology, which I believe is just a sonar-based distance sensor.
Power steering is electronic, which further boosts fuel efficiency. I don't expect the Mirage to be a performance stunner, but zippy, small-car handing a la Honda's Fit, Mazda's Mazda2, or Scion's iQ would be a boon. I'm anxiously waiting to sample the driving experience.
Instrumentation is simple, centering on a large speedometer flanked by a half-gauge tachometer. The interior doesn't look cheap per se, but I definitely got the feeling that this is a low-budget car based on my short time climbing around the cabin.
Mitsubishi brags that the 2014 Mirage's low 0.28 coefficient of drag and its thrifty engine will make it "the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid gasoline vehicle available in America" when it debuts this fall. Pricing hasn't been announced, but I'm expecting the 74-horsepower Mirage to undercut the Hyundai Accent and Mazda Mazda2's approximate $15,000 starting price tags.
Would you drive a car that only makes 74 horsepower to reach 40 combined mpg? Sound off in the comments.