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2018 Mitsubishi Mirage GT drive review: Curious commuter

It’s been a long five years since the Mitsubishi Mirage roared onto the automotive scene, offering a throwback experience at a time when compact cars were the best they had ever been. When it debuted, the Mirage was such a distant outlier in the U.S. market that cars like the Toyota Yaris or the Ford Fiesta — vehicles with which it was ostensibly competing — seemed to be in another, more premium segment entirely.

What we’ll call the “thrifty” nature of the Mirage was not lost on Mitsubishi and every year the automaker has made lots of little changes to the Mirage. Whether these changes can propel an aging hatch that wasn’t exactly state-of-the-art even when it was new into another level is a different question.

Let’s recall the basics first: This hatch is still powered by a 78-hp 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine connected to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), driving the front wheels. The GT is also the top of the three trim levels, and it includes all the goodies including 15-inch alloy wheels, a 6.5-inch infotainment system, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, HID headlights, an armrest and gloss black interior details, among other items. The GT is essentially the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink model, so the cabin can seem almost cluttered compared to base versions of the Mirage. But it’s a busy and slightly deceptive kind of cluttered, the same way in which Pontiacs from the 1980s tried to dazzle buyers with sheer button count.

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Having traveled a full 1,700 miles in the Mirage over the course of a week, most of it on the interstate, I can safely say that with another several years of improvements the Mirage has the potential to offer the same kind of experience that the Ford Fiesta did nearly a decade ago. But it will likely make you pay for it dearly.

The GT offers a suspension which actually works, absorbing things like small rocks and potholes, but it does so with the lazy and floaty response of a 1990s Crown Vic taxi. The suspension overreacts in response to just about everything, but the welcome news is that it actually smooths out impacts instead of transferring them directly to the occupants’ behinds. It’s quite a remarkable contrast to the first-year Mirages, and is the single biggest improvement in the current Mirage.

The second biggest improvement is the engine response, but this is still a matter of degrees. The engine and the CVT are less noisy than they were before, though the engine still produces a desperate-sounding buzz even under modest acceleration; the 1.2-liter can be persuaded to get angry, like a Pomeranian, by activating the Sport mode. This keeps the revs higher and adds engine noise, and it actually does make the car move a little quicker. Debut versions of the Mirage were knocked for being borderline-dangerous due to their inability to accelerate on the interstate when needed, but most of this admittedly serious downside seems to have been sorted. The Mirage can now cruise at speeds just north of 80 mph (where permitted), but it still takes a solid smash of the throttle to accelerate up on-ramps in difficult traffic. The net result is more capable response compared to early models, that just barely allows the Mirage to take on modern traffic where just about everything on the road packs more than 200 horsepower.

2018 Mitsubishi Mirage GT interior

The Mirage offers a basic interior that is nevertheless comfortable on long trips. Photo by Autoweek

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The third biggest improvement since the model’s debut is the interior, even though in the GT model this is achieved via a higher sticker price. The presence of a modern infotainment screen that offers smartphone connectivity is a crowdpleaser, but Mitsubishi has also improved dozens of smaller items. For example, there is more sound insulation now, and a number of issues with inelegant plastics have been solved. The gloss black surrounds for the shift gate and the center stack are a quick and easy way to make the interior seem like it belongs in this decade, but it’s a trick that works in the Mirage. More importantly, the AC blows cold air, and coupled with speakers that can belt out some tunes to drown out engine and road noise the Mirage can do a good enough impression of a budget hatch.

Does the GT trim make sense for those put off by the bare-bones interiors of other budget hatchbacks? Unfortunately, the Mirage makes buyers pay for all the equipment that propels it (just barely) into the league of competent commuters, and those looking at fully-priced Mirages are likely to find themselves wondering why, for that price, they’re not looking elsewhere.


Jay Ramey


Jay Ramey

– Jay Ramey is an Associate Editor with Autoweek, and has been with the magazine since 2013. Jay also likes to kayak and bike.

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On Sale: Now

Base Price: $17,460

As Tested Price: $17,460

Powertrain: 1.2-liter DOHC I3, FWD, continuously variable transmission

Output: 78 hp @ 6,000 rpm; 74 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Curb Weight: 2,128 lb

Fuel Economy: 37/43/39(EPA City/Hwy/Combined)

Observed Fuel Economy: 38 mpg

Pros: Fuel economy the old-fashioned way, can use “compact” parking spots, good A/C

Cons: Slow reflexes, overly floaty suspension, still-loud CVT, outdated interior, pricey for what it is

Article source: http://autoweek.com/article/car-reviews/2018-mitsubishi-mirage-gt-drive-review-curious-commuter

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