Introduced in March 1978 as a response to the 1973 oil crisis, the Mitsubishi Mirage started out as a front-wheel-drive (FWD) three-door hatchback. In September 1978, Mitsubishi released a five-door hatchback version built on a longer wheelbase. Although Mitsubishi put a lot of effort into the Mirage over the past couple of decades, it has received mixed reviews—many of them strongly negative. However, Kelly Blue Book (KBB) has chosen to review the car in a slightly positive light, giving it an overall rating of 3.0 out of 5.0.
The KBB review also stated, in part, “. . . a base 2021 Mirage can claim a comfortable ride, good fuel economy, a decent trunk (in the G4 sedan), attractive pricing, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.”
With an MSRP of $14,295 ($15,290 after the $995 destination charge), the “2021 Mitsubishi Mirage subcompact hatchback and 2021 Mirage G4 sedan are two of the least expensive brand-new cars sold in the United States,” according to KBB.
A fresh face for the 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage with surprising safety
With the loss of vehicles such as the Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic, and Honda Fit, the subcompact car segment has shrunken further for 2021. One of the few models that refuse to go anywhere, nonetheless, is the Mitsubishi Mirage. And it’s entering 2021 with several new upgrades intended to polish up its reputation a bit.
Mitsubishi fused its latest styling cues into both the new Mirage hatchback and sedan, giving it a new face for 2021. While the division in the United States hasn’t revealed much about the newly updated Mirage, some hints are coming out of Canada: a much sportier body, LED headlights and taillights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a 7.0-inch infotainment system (a half-inch bigger than the current model), and an additional set of safety features – a set that surprisingly includes a forward-collision warning system.
You can expect things like automatic high-beams, a lane-departure warning system, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
It seems $15,000 only gets you a 78-hp engine these days
In the engine department, don’t expect much. Each trim level (all the way to the top) gets a 1.2-liter Dual Overhead Camshaft (DOHC), 12-valve inline 3-cylinder engine. If you thought that sounded pretty fancy, just know that all that fanciness only gets you 76 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque. And since manual transmission historically costs a lot more, each trim is paired with a 5-speed manual transmission—you’ll have to pay extra for a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
It’s not the most athletic or sprightliest engine in the subcompact car class, but that’s most likely the point. The 2021 Mirage is supposed to get 36 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. Guess what that makes it – the most fuel-efficient, non-hybrid vehicle on the market – only staying true to form. Not only that, as pointed out by KBB, Mitsubishi will be including a 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, as well as a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Cost-cutting makes the Mitsubishi Mirage affordable but weak
Bad reputations are difficult to shake, especially in the automobile industry. What most car buyers in the United States don’t appreciate is that the Mitsubishi Mirage has been designed after the keijidosha or Kei car. The Kei car is essentially a “city car” that is intended only for short city commutes.
Consisting of over one-third of domestic new car sales in fiscal 2016, Kei cars have become very successful in Japan—that’s even despite the government’s 50 percent tax increase in 2013. But in the United States, few people purchase a vehicle merely for driving to and from work or the store. Not only that, but Americans tend to travel more by personal vehicle than people in Asian and European countries, which means a lot more wear and tear.
In reality, the Mitsubishi Mirage was never designed to be anything more than a city car. Thus, keeping to the keijidosha design philosophy, Mitsubishi used cost-effective materials like rear drums brakes. This is likely why the 2021 Mirage has only 78 hp and takes a grueling 12 seconds to get to 60 mph.
It’s also why Mitsubishi probably didn’t see any reason for equipping it with all kinds of fancy tech. But with the top GT trim costing over $17,000, you can buy something a lot better for your money—even if it’s a pre-owned model priced under $20,000.