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2014 Mitsubishi Mirage Road Test Review - 2014 Green CUV Buyer's Guide

2014 Earth Aware Vehicle Buyer's Guide
Featuring Top 10 Green SUVs & CUVs

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

Road & Travel Magazine's Top 10 Picks

Audi Q5 Hybrid

Mazda CX-5

Chevrolet Spark EV

Mitsubishi Mirage

Jeep Grand Cherokee

The first time we saw it, we couldn't believe our eyes. It looked as if someone had taken a frog, pulled back its features to smooth them out, cast a replica the size of a pony, added some wheels and an electric outlet, and "VOILA!" the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. It seemed like a great idea to satisfy federal and state regulators who determined what diet an auto has to be on to legally cruise American roads.

Then Mitsubishi had a better idea: Bring back a totally revised 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage five door that can trounce many of the green CUV requirements if not all, doesn't require a specialized diet and has some honest-to-goodness personality at the same time.

This business of developing a vehicle that can travel on almost no energy source, that won't pollute the air, water or ground, be affordable, and still provide money for road taxes -- and that people actually will buy -- has to be driving auto makers nuts. We've been told a new, standard internal combustion gasoline-powered car, developed from the ground up, can be done for about a billion (with a "B") dollars. Magnify that by 10, 20, 40 and more when you're talking technology still in the totally new or heavily researched stage. Ouch.

The Mirage has to be a breath of fresh air for Mitsubishi, which hasn't won many converts with the two-year-old i-MiEV (other than California drivers trapped in rush hour grid seeking to drive solo in the carpool lane). The Mirage, by contrast, has tens of thousands of potential customers, if not more. And we think it could be many more. Here's why.

Let’s talk looks. After several years of waning Mitsubishi styling, the Mirage unexpectedly has punch, a small, subcompact size despite its ability to tote five and easily accommodate rear storage thanks to its fifth, rear hatch door and 60/40-split,  fold-down rear seats. It remains a teensy, tiny vehicle, in the crossover utility mode that almost mandates it be five-door for practicality.

But what happened? Did Mitsubishi designers take a chug of kickapoo joy juice before starting the redesign process? Despite its miniscule size, the new Mirage actually rocks. Styling lines travel rearward from a low drag, smoothly tapered nose, anchored by sport lights, to swoop back gracefully from front to rear. That flows into a high mounted rear spoiler (all models) that cups over the rear window, before curving gracefully down through the rear fascia.

In the "sophisticated" along with "spunky" measurements, add some trendy piano black interior trim and a multi-information meter display for a sensibly laid-out interior. The uncomplicated dash is anchored by a three-spoke steering wheel (with audio controls on our ES model), plus leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter in upmodels that lend a sporty sense.

Unlike hybrid or all-electric vehicles, the Mirage subsists solely on gasoline (easily available from the endless supply of stations that saturate the American landscape, unlike sparsely spaced EV recharging stations required by the i-MiEV). 

Underhood technology remains the green-enhanced internal combustion variety, with a small, emissions reducing 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder engine at its heart. Mitsubishi gives EPA best fuel economy ratings of 37 city/44 highway/40 combined with an ECO gauge to help keep driver attention on retaining the best fuel economy.

We aren't talking sportscar inclinations here.  After all a small IC engine generating 74-horsepower and 74 lb. ft. of torque isn't likely go win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But  Mitsubishi states the Mirage gets the best fuel economy of any vehicle its size, whether gasoline or hybrid. (That would have to exclude plug-in only electrics like the i-MiEV that get phenomenal mileage ratings of 100-plus MPG equivalent. But like a sprinter, that can only go so far -- about 62 miles from recharge to recharge at best, even with its unique ability among subcompact EVs to snuggle up to a 480-volt charging station for a quick -- 20 minute -- refill.)

The base model Mirage is the DE trim level, with a base price of $12,995 plus $795 destination. But it isn't a bottom feeder, as it comes with standard keyless entry, power windows, automatic climate control, tilt steering wheel, auto-off halogen headlamps and four-speaker audio with CD player and USB. For those wanting more upmarket features, such as push button start, cruise control, fog lights, stop/start engine switch, alloy wheels and Bluetooth connectivity, the ES model pricing adds an additional $1,200. But the total can jump a couple of thousand higher with added available options such as navigation system with rear camera, rear park assist or chrome trim.

Of course, on the driving side, the Mirage has to favorably approach the performance of the i-MiEV that, like most electric-only vehicles can perform instant jack rabbit starts from a dead stop and is easily maneuverable besides being just plain fun to drive. The Mirage won't disappoint, however with a sporty, five-speed manual (for 37 combined best MPG) or continuously variable transmission (CVT) with Idle Neutral Logic and a small enough size to scoot around corners, through traffic and onto a full-blown open express road where one needn't worry the power source could run dry.

On the safety side, the new Mirage has anti-skid Active Stability Control with Traction Logic Control, seven airbag systems including side curtains and driver's knee, along with tire pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution, as standard equipment. CVT models also include Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist.

We got a brief test run of the Mirage shortly after it went on sale at the beginning of October. While not the most powerful vehicle its size, it can hold its own in the efficiency-bound commuter category, can perform the requisite tight turns that  congested roadways sometimes demand (think of escaping a tow truck laden pile-up ahead) with a 15.1-foot turning radius thanks to the standard electric power steering.

For less than half the i-MiEV with navigation system price, we can get a loaded new 2014 Mirage with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and stay green and guilt-free without worrying about driving range. What else can we say? Hey i-MiEV, eat your electrified heart out!

For more information on Mitsubishi green vehicles, click here.

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