Even though we have high fuel prices in Canada, the trend is away from small fuel-efficient cars to larger vehicles.
Subcompact and even compact sales are down but sales of small SUVs and even mid-sized vehicles are up. There are a couple of things at play here. The first is the stronger (although maybe not so much in the last couple months) Canadian dollar which, over the last several years, has allowed carmakers to jam more content into their cars and often the retail price has dropped too.
The second is that vehicles are becoming more fuel efficient, so buying a slightly bigger car isn’t much of a hardship. With this as a backdrop, it is interesting to see that Mitsubishi has introduced a three-cylinder fuel saving car at the smallest end of the market.
The Mirage is sold in two trim levels; the base starts at $12,498 and comes pretty sparsely equipped. It’s a small car with a little price tag.
The much bigger Nissan Versa is cheaper at $11,898 and has buckets more power. The car that most people will choose is the Mirage SE with many more goodies but the price jumps dramatically to $15,398 and with the automatic transmission it lands at $16,598.
At this price, there are plenty of options in the subcompact class. Styling is not what I would car eye-catching.
On the plus side, the Mirage SE does come nicely equipped.
The front driver’s seat has adjustment and both front seats have very good seat heaters that bring your backside up to the appropriate temperature in short order. The centre cluster is nicely finished and it features Bluetooth with streaming audio. There is an auxiliary jack but no USB jack to charge your phone.
The back seat is small and the rear cargo area is what one might expect from a little car. But this vehicle does not live in a vacuum.
The Kia Rio, with more features, like satellite radio, is only a $1,000 more and is way up on space and horsepower. The Nissan Versa Note is massive in comparison and for $1,700 more has push button start and even a backup camera.
So yes, the Mirage is nicely equipped and has a good price, but there are other options out there that are as good if not better.
What this little car was designed to do is deliver impressive fuel economy.
This is achieved by placing a 3-cylinder engine under the hood and matching it to either a 5-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). With just 74hp, this car is way down on power compared to the rest of the subcompact set, even the Fiat 500 has 101hp and the Nissan Versa has 109hp. This combination of small packaging and small engine deliver a rating of 5.3L/100km in the city and 4.4L on the highway. In my mostly city driving I was achieving 7L/100km.
The problem with such a small engine is that it often needs to be pushed hard to accelerate and pass other traffic.
The engine and CVT are loud, especially when the car is cold. The steering is very light for easy maneuverability but at higher speeds it feels too vague. This car is happy cruising because the engine settles down to a lower RPM and the noise level drops.
Ask this car to perform and it’s an experience filled with noise and vibration.
With a very low starting price and potentially good fuel economy the basic Mirage has a place for a buyer who wants a basic runabout that sips gas but if the trend away from small cars is any indication, that will be a small number.
Contact: zack [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca
Power: 1.2L 3-cylinder with 74hp
Fill-up: 5.3L/4.4L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $12,498-$15,398