The Mirage is one of the most economical subcompacts available, but is a used Mitsubishi Mirage the better value than its new model?
Mitsubishi might not have a huge presence in the States these days, but one of its most long-lasting nameplates, the Mirage, is still one of the most affordable cars in the country. Right now, buyers can get a brand new 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage for under $15,000. Combine that with an exceptional 10-year/100,000-mile warranty and it’s easy to see why many buyers are interested in the compact Mitsubishi. Depreciation has certainly taken a bite out of gently used models though, and so we wonder if it makes more financial sense to lean towards such an option. Today we pit Mirage against Mirage, a new 2021 vs a used 2018, to find out where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Both of the Mitsubishi Mirage models are on the same platform, so the drivelines are nearly identical. Regardless of the year, both use a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine. For 2018, the Mirage made 78 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque. In 2021, horsepower actually drops to 76, but torque remains identical. Base models are sold with a 5-speed manual transmission, but a CVT is optional. That’s the transmission we’d choose because, while it doesn’t offer the engagement of the manual, it is considerably more fuel-efficient. For both 2018 and 2021, the CVT-equipped Mirage achieves a combined fuel economy rating of 39 mpg while the manual only manages 36 mpg.
That difference might seem small, but considering that fuel economy is this car’s strongest attribute, we think every little bit counts. All Mitsubishi Mirages send all of that “raging horsepower” to the front wheels only and no all-wheel-drive system is available. As mentioned, a new Mitsubishi Mirage can be had for as little as $15,000. That number can swell to over $18,000 with added options. Despite our best efforts to build out the most expensive Mirage ever conceived, Mitsubishi’s own website wouldn’t allow it when we tried. On the other end of the spectrum, a well-equipped 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage can be had for as little as $7,000. This example we found has less than 20,000 miles on the clock as well, so good deals are available depending on location.
Both of these cars are largely identical behind the wheel. The standout aspect of the drive is how shockingly slow each is. Merging on the highway, let alone driving on the highway, is almost frightening. Just reaching highway speeds in a Mitsubishi Mirage takes more than 11 seconds of full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal engagement. Once on the highway, the Mirage feels uncomfortable in the same way that anyone who accidentally wandered onto an active racetrack might feel.
Taking low-speed corners on broken pavement results in a suspension that’s upset and unsettled. Doing the same at highway speeds feels downright unsafe as the Mirage’s skinny tires clatter and gnaw for grip. Steering feedback is slow and heavily muted. Braking is perhaps the best part of the way the Mitsubishi Mirage drives, since it’s quick and provides really exceptional feedback compared to the rest of the driving controls.
This is a city car that likes to stay on city roads. That’s where each of these cars finds its groove. In such a setting, the Mitsubishi Mirage is utilitarian but capable. With enough room for four and some gear in the trunk, it’s a decent little runabout. It isn’t comfortable and by no means does it feel special, but it will get the job done. The new car benefits from gently improved suspension components that dampen road vibrations slightly better. Still, for us, it’s wild that such a car is being sold brand new in 2021 here in the USA. Consider this, in 1991, the Honda CRX had 108 horsepower and achieved fuel economy ratings of 43mpg combined. They’re also currently valued at much the same money as the used Mirage.
One positive aspect of the Mitsubishi Mirage is that almost anyone can fit inside. Rear seats lack legroom, but headroom is reasonable throughout. In addition, the 2021 model features some updated styling inside with a bit better bolstering for the front seats. Neither is particularly luxurious, even when opting for the SE or GT trim levels which were top of the range for their respective model years. The 1.2-liter engine, whether it’s new or used, has to work incredibly hard to move around the mass of the vehicle and its occupants, and you can hear it complaining about it everywhere you go. That unrefined facet of the Mirage is almost constantly shouting at you about how inexpensive the car really is.
We did find that over long straight stretches of decent roadway, the Mitsubishi Mirage could settle in and become a decent cruiser, so long as speeds didn’t escalate above 50 mph or so. Passengers in both front and rear seats reported no comfort issues even after over 30 minutes of travel. There are a few nice interior touches as well, like a well-laid-out center control stack, great overall visibility, and storage pockets in each front door card. Still, unless calm and well-maintained roads are your main trails of travel, Mirage will be less comfortable as it struggles to handle bumps and bruises with grace.
For 2021, the new Mitsubishi Mirage is sold in four trim levels – ES, LE, Carbonite Edition, and the SE. All available trims come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as forward collision mitigation and a backup camera. The LE is identical to the ES, except that it gets 14-inch wheels and only the CVT. The Carbonite is identical to the LE, but gets some exterior trim changes. The SE features 15-inch wheels, LED headlights, lane departure warning, heated front seats, fog lights, and automatic high beams.
The used option, in the form of a 2018 Mitsubishi Mirage, was available in three trim levels – ES, SE, and GT. The ES is similarly equipped with the noticeable lack of smartphone integration to the infotainment system (though a standard Bluetooth connection is still available), and no forward collision mitigation. Bumping up to the SE gets that device integration and also adds fog lights, and cruise control. Spending the big bucks for a GT model provides front and rear parking sensors, a six-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system, and remote start.
Those in the market for a Mitsubishi Mirage would be far better suited to spend their cash on a used model. Once committed to spending more than $10,000, it just doesn’t make sense to consider the Mirage. It’s underpowered, it’s unrefined, and it’s under-equipped compared to rivals from Honda, Chevrolet, and Hyundai. We also love that Mitsubishi honors its 5-year/60,000-mile warranty for the second owner of its cars, so for buyers who find a low mileage used Mitsubishi Mirage, there’s still coverage to be had.