2014 Mitsubishi Mirage SE
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage SE
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage SE
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage SE. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Steven Bochenek

You’re getting a two-fer. Through a bizarre and ultimately dyslexic set of misunderstandings and coincidences, I ended up driving the lowest-end model of this car, the Mitsubishi Mirage ES, when I was supposed to review the highest. So I had to test the SE too. Fortunately the first experience only shone light on the second, and much of the content of what would have been the original article has been expanded. The base model did most of its time in city traffic, the SE mostly in the country.

The difference in price between the models is $4,600, which doesn’t sound like much for a luxury car, say, or big SUV. However, the ES was $12,498 before taxes and this SE was $17,098. Sure that’s still a low price, but it’s also a leap of 37 percent!

So how does Mitsubishi achieve such, umm, in-expense? Well, it’s aptly named Mirage. They started with very little, creating a simple machine with just the basics (simple is okay because less can go wrong) and passed the savings on to you.

So, how little and simple? Weighing in at just 930kg (curb) it doesn’t need a lot of push to roll. But be conscious when opening the doors. They’re so light, they practically fly out of your hands, and you don’t want to scratch those doors in tight areas.

Speaking of not a lot of push, there’s that 1.2L three-cylinder engine which coughs up a maximum of 74 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque.  It was fine for regular city commuting. Even out of town on Ontario’s steep Niagara Escarpment, up and down some of the province’s most aggressive hills, the SE climbed well enough, though that continuously variable transmission (CVT) gets noisy. There’s little baffling material to lessen the noise and noise-canceling technology was not among the basics Mitsubishi left in.

The base model’s combined highway/city fuel economy is a respectable 5.3 L/100 km and, no, it doesn’t require premium to achieve those numbers. Upgrade to the CVT and you’ll get slightly better fuel economy of 4.9.  However, I’m not convinced it’s worth it, given the accompanying price jump. Furthermore, to achieve those numbers you need to drive mindfully. In a rare flash of scheduling symmetry, three pals were available midweek when I learned that I needed to drive the SE. So we packed four grown men with night bags and computers plus groceries for two days into the Mirage and put 340 km on it with a heavy foot. The cost for refueling was $30.41: a final cost of about 8.9¢ per kilometre.

Plus, unless you loathe stick shifting, the CVT robs you of the some of the only fun this subcompact offers. Only some though. Beyond the tactile decision-making fun of shifting your own gears, there’s the terrific sensation of speed this subcompact provides.

Note that previous sentence featured the word sensation.

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage SE2014 Mitsubishi Mirage SE
2014 Mitsubishi Mirage SE. Click image to enlarge

Remember how stripped down this is. At 930kg, the Mirage is 255kg (562lbs) lighter than a MINI Cooper, a car made famous by its tininess, yet not even 6 cm longer. Conclusion? You don’t need to speed in the Mirage to feel like the Millennium Falcon.

In so light and small a car as the Mirage – don’t bother with the stereo on a busy and windy highway – any speed over 60 km/h on those 14-inch wheels feels quite invigorating. At and exceeding 100 km/h on the highway, that thrill is amplified from invigorating to bracing. By 120 km/h it’s electrifying and occasionally terrifying.

For city life, the Mirage is certainly a viable choice. Tight spots and seemingly impossible parking spaces are a piece of cake. The turning circle reduces donuts to cheerios. If you live downtown, this car is easy to place and definitely not on any thief’s top-ten list of what to knick for joyriding.

The six-way adjustable mechanical seat offers not a lot of motion but fortunately fit my frame well. If you weigh much more than 200 pounds, long rides may become uncomfortable. It’s an efficient enough drivetrain but there’s not much power for you to seize upon opportunities and deke through urban jams. So make sure it fits you well.

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