These reviews are written by independent automotive journalists providing an objective
and reliable assessment to help you make a smart buying decision. 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage.
Reviewed By: Helen V. Hutchings
© 1997 NewCarTestDrive.com
A cut above basic transportation.
its parent company, the Mitsubishi Mirage has gone through its share of
ups and downs over the past few years. Initially offered as a subcompact
hatchback, with an optional turbo edition, it won acclaim as a pocket rocket.
But hatchbacks fell out of favor with U.S. buyers, and Mitsubishi followed
up the original Mirage with an anemic coupe that quickly became a rental
For 1997, the Mirage returns to respectability as an extensively redesigned
line of small cars. And if they're not the mini hot rods of yesteryear,
they're solid performers, well built, comfortable, competent and capable.
They're also long on value. These are cars you and your pocketbook can
both live with--happily.
The new Mirage line entails two body styles--coupe and sedan--and two
trim levels, the basic DE and the slightly fancier LS.
The new generation of Mirage is wider, longer, taller and roomier than
previous versions. It is also quieter, with greater powertrain sophistication,
a much improved chassis and refined suspension system.
We think Mistubishi struck an appealing and effective balance with the
new exterior design. The smooth but conservative lines of both the coupe
and sedan seem well conceived to stay fresh over a long period of time,
which means your car won't look dated next year, or the year after that.
The squared off trunk and taillights give the car a sporty look, enhanced
by a tall rear deck spoiler on the coupe. The downside of the spoiler is
that it does impede rearview mirror vision as it cuts directly across the
center of that field of vision.
Unlike most small cars, the coupe and sedan don't share a common wheelbase.
The sedan wheelbase is three inches longer, which pays off in additional
rear legroom. There are other differences, as well. Both models are larger
inside and out than previous generations.
The overall profile goes from a low nose to a high rear deck, a look
which is prevalent in the more sohisticated market offerings. The wedge
shape also contibutes to stability at freeway speeds, as well as fuel economy,
since it guides the air around and over the car.
Depending on the engine/transmission combination, a Mirage owner can
anticipate fuel economy ranging from the low to the high 30-something mpg
realm on regular fuel. This falls off a bit with the optional 1.8-liter
engine, but not much. Even with an automatic transmission, the Mirage's
fuel economy is near the top of its class.
Incidentally, you will no longer see Chrysler clones of the Mirage.
The advent of the Dodge and Plymouth Neons ended Chrysler's need for Mitsubishi-supplied
The Inside Story
Borrowing from the dictionary, it seems apt to describe the Mirage interior
as organic. The dash, controls, even the seating seem totally natural.
Controls are where they should be without searching and they operate easily
and logically. The seats are comfortable and supportive--surprisingly so
for a car in this entry level segment. And the driver-side height adjustability
feature makes the Mirage useful to a wide range of body types.
Slim roof pillars and the large, raked windshield provide excellent
vision in all quarters, as well as an open feel to the cabin.
Mitusbishi has obviously done its homework with the interior color schemes
and fabric selection, which has a quality feel and should bear up well
over the long haul.
A surprisingly thoughtful touch: sun visor extensions to block those
rays that always seem to filter in around the inside rear view mirror and
directly into your eyes. It's a feature we usually associate with much
more expensive cars.
We were also favorably surprised by the low interior noise level. The
Mirage is exceptionally quiet for a small car, another sign that Mitsubishi
has taken pains with quality. There's not much wind noise, and very little
road noise filters up through the suspension components.
Like all cars, a variety of sound systems are available for the Mirage.
They range from a basic AM/FM radio, to radio/cassette or radio/CD combinations.
All of the sound systems we sampled were more than adequate and excelled
in ease of deciphering how to operate. This was also true of heat and ventilation
controls, as well as other functions on the dash.
A word of caution here. If bottom line cost is a major issue--and it
usually is in this class--weigh your option selections carefully; the extras
can add up quickly.
So what interior upgrades or options really matter? Since modern car
marketing has options grouped by packages, it makes little sense to list
Suffice it to say that most of the amenities which add to the cost of
the car will also add to its value later on as a resale.
Some specific items (which are part of packages) we feel add significantly
to the liveability of the Mirage are the tilt steering wheel, the 60/40
split-folding rear seatback (to expand cargo capacity), and power door
locks. All of these items are part of an option group that also includes
power windows and remote adjusting mirrors.
Ride & Drive
Option-wise, what's important to the driveability of Mirage? The 1.8-liter
engine definitely makes a positive difference.
The economical but anemic single overhead cam 12-valve 1.5-liter engine
powers the DE coupe and sedan, while the twin cam 16-valve 1.8-liter is
standard for LS models and it gives the Mirage respectable hustle, particularly
with the standard five-speed manual transmission.
We invariably prefer manual transmissions in this size class, since
they make the most of limited engine power, and they also lend a little
more driving fun.
However, if you'd rather have the car shift for itself, the four-speed
automatic offered as an option ($680) for the Mirage is a very good one,
enhanced by Mitsubishi's Adaptive Transmission Control Management (ACTM)
system. The ACTM's computer control actually catalogues and learns driver
habits and adjusts the transmission's shift points to obtain optimal performance.
Although even the basic Mirage is commendably agile, its responses can
be enhanced with Mitsubishi's Value Package, which includes larger diameter
(14-inch versus 13-inch) wheels and tires, creating a bigger contact patch
between car and pavement, which means better grip.
Even if the handling enhancement doesn't matter, the package makes sense
from an all-around enjoyment point of view since it also includes air conditioning,
floor mats and upgrade sound system components. Other package details vary
between coupe and sedan models.
While the Mirage basically holds its own in terms of handling compared
to some very good competition, it's distinctly above average in terms of
Like the handling, this is a benefit of an exceptionally good job by
the Mitsubishi chassis engineers. The extensively stiffened platform gave
the suspension team plenty of latitude for tuning, and they chose a supple
setup that sops up small bumps and potholes without sacrificing a firm
sense of control.
We think it's a pleasant blend, one we'd rate in the upper half of this
In an aspirational world, it's easy to overlook an entry level car like
the Mirage. But we think this appealing new small car is considerably more
than mere basic transportation.
It's pleasant to drive, nicely styled in and out, well assembled and
an excellent value.
All in all, we'd say this Mirage is not an illusion.