Mitsubishi is grasping desperately for any lifeline to keep selling cars in the United States, and it is coming up as dry as the Salton Sea. Its latest strategy seems to be to build things that nobody else does, such as a small SUV with a third-row seat. (Thanks to the coming 2014 Nissan Rogue, this is a short-lived distinction.) Or a tall, tiny, cramped electric car that’s barely more than a golf cart, the i-MIEV. And the company’s latest effort: a tiny Mirage hatchback that starts around $13,000.
Our gray Mirage ES with an automatic transmission set us back $16,050. It includes some nice features, such as alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control and audio controls. What it does not include are commonly desired features such as a smooth and/or powerful engine, a nice ride, responsive handling, or comfortable seats.
It’s 1.2-liter, three-cylinder engine puts out 74 hp, a motorcycle-like 25-hp per cylinder. Paired with an unsteady continuously variable transmission, it sounds like the car is powered by a deflating balloon as it saunters by. Truly, who in America seeks that unpalatable combination? Especially if they have to drive down auto mall row past Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, and Toyota dealerships to do so? At least it comes in fun colors such as Kiwi Green, Plasma Purple, and Sapphire Blue.
The Mirage is among the cheapest new cars you can buy in America. But thus far in our test, we’re not sure why anybody would in the face of so many good used car alternatives for little or no more extra money. Since its days of pushing "Zero down! Zero payments! Zero interest!" deals in the halcyon 1990s, it seems like Mitsubishi has been chasing unqualified new-car buyers. As far as we can tell, this car does little to clear up their Mirage.
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