Would anyone ever have known who Kim Kardashian was if she hadn’t followed in her friend Paris’ footsteps and made a sextape? For better or worse, things worked out very well for her as a result but the rest of us now know more about her and her family that we ever wanted to and that’s even if we actively try to avoid anything hearing, seeing, or experiencing anything to do with her and her relatives.
Mitsubishi didn’t exactly make a tape, but back in 2014 they did introduce an extremely homely car in the U.S. that was ridiculed and panned. Not the same, right? But that virtually universal condemnation made a huge amount of press with none of it seeming to focus on a single positive attribute of the car. In some ways, I don’t think Mitsubishi would have garnered any publicity whatsoever if they had instead paid someone like Giugiaro $50 to just recycle another of his existing hatchback designs and given it a four-cylinder engine. It would have probably just disappeared among the waves of other small cars (when those were still kind of a thing over here) and that’d be the end of it. Instead, EVERYBODY knows exactly what a Mitsubishi Mirage is and nobody says it looks just like everything else. Sure, it gets ridiculed, but it got press. Lots of it. And it was free. Same as with Kim.
Perhaps the rear end is too small (comparatively), but after all that publicity, Mitsubishi probably isn’t making nearly as much money as any one of the K-clan are, which is rather unfortunate. But I for one have somehow gotten intrigued again by Mitsubishi and look at every one I see (any model, not just the Mirage). I actually purposely had a Mirage lined up as a rental back in March in the hopes of writing about it but that trip died due to Covid.
The media company that handles Mitsubishi hereabouts knows I’m willing to try whatever model they get but said not to hold my breath, they don’t often get one, especially not a Mirage. And I don’t really want to go to a dealer. But they are in junkyards, most of the ones I’ve seen so far have been accident victims, and this one was in fairly decent shape post-wreck, so it’s a good find to show off and examine a little closer here.
First off, this is a top of the line ES model in an actual color called Sapphire Blue. Mirages come in a multitude of bright hues along with the required grayscale colors and may be the only car currently available in Purple (besides maybe a Challenger). In 2015 you could get a manual transmission, and you still can today in 2021 as it turns out. If you say you’re a car guy and aren’t googling for Manual Purple Mirage inventory right now, you can just hand that card right in, mister.
The sticker price for one equipped like this one (which sadly has a CVT) was $15,395 plus an $810 destination charge for a grand total of $16,205 (back in 2015). Of course, Mirages, while selling better than any car enthusiast would have predicted, still generally have a lot of room for negotiation, I do not believe many left the showroom at full asking price and the prices started a lot lower than for this one.
Note that this one isn’t 100% stock, it has been modified with a set of rather attractive alloys and is carrying 185/60-14 tires instead of the standard alloys with 165/65-14 tires. Perhaps that’s what drew my eye to this one to begin with, equipping any car with wheels that look sort of like those on an old GTI and with the same size tires is always a good start as far as I’m concerned. This owner seemed to care about his car and wanted to make it his own (or he found a set of wheels and tires in the junkyard that were better than his own and went with it).
Mirages (especially the slightly upscale ES trim as here) came with a ton of kit. First off there’s keyless entry, here instead of the lock there is a soft button that gets you into the car (the passenger side does have a keyhole here though if you are part of the afraid-of-modern-tech crowd. You can just climb in that way). Note that the handle is painted body color too. That stuff doesn’t just happen at the factory.
You also get a stubby but sporty roof-mount antenna, a huge spoiler, rear wiper, turn signals in the front-facing part of the mirrors, painted bumpers, amber turn signals in the rear lights, and four passenger doors. The front fascia also features fog lights.
Yes, that is a rigid cargo cover that lifts up, and while the spare is gone, it would have been covered with a board and some carpet. Here we now only have a plastic spoon. But the rear seats fold 60/40 style, and the rear glass has a defroster. From a space perspective that looks like plenty to get the groceries with and for the Costco run just fold that seat down. You could probably sleep in back too if you went full fetal position.
Somebody nabbed the badges (there’s usually a chrome one here) but we get to see the embossed Mitsubishi diamond logo instead. I’m guessing some markets just have this without a badge on top.
The engine is a 1.2liter triple with four valves per cylinder generating 74hp@6,000rpm and conveniently also 74lb-ft of torque at a lower 4,000rpm. In this case, paired with the CVT it was rated at 37mpg city and 44mpg on the highway. I was surprised to see just how light this car is, curb weight is reported at 2,051 pounds and under 2,000 with the manual transmission. It makes a Miata for example look like a fat pig, especially considering that this seats five. Just don’t get into a small overlap crash, but it probably still does better than many regular cars over a decade old would.
It’s a little filthy in here and is missing its airbag, but while googling this thing I felt that Cars.com for instance was ridiculously harsh in its criticism. While they like the fuel economy, value for money, and available tech features, they panned it for having “Rudimentary” cabin materials. Really? I think the materials here look pretty good for the price level it plays in and the seat fabric looks better than many at significantly higher prices and looks very durable. They also didn’t appreciate it not having a telescoping steering wheel (Hello…it’s not meant to be super fancy) although it does tilt, and anonymous styling (no way, everybody knows what this is compared to the other hatchbacks, there’s nothing anonymous about a Mirage. Line up every hatchback on the market in 2015 and even XR7Matt could pick out the Mirage every time).
It’s curious that the owner fitted a steering wheel cover, as that rim is leather covered underneath it (standard) as is the shifter knob. And note on the left side of the instrument binnacle, that’s a push button starter located exactly where a Porsche 911 has it. In case you want to practice your LeMans starts in your Mirage, you can! And for a bit of relevant history, there was a race car named Mirage that raced at LeMans, was the first to wear the now-iconic Gulf Oil color scheme, the first to win races for Gulf Oil and the last car to win LeMans overall for Gulf Oil. Maybe just a little of that provenance can transfer to our Mirage.
I think our own Tom Halter would feel happily at home here as it has Automatic A/C Climate Control (standard) with micron air filtration and floor ducts for the rear seat occupants. Power windows and locks are included, the 140watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 player has four speakers, is Bluetooth equipped, and the steering wheel features cruise control as well as radio and phone controls. You CAN get a touchscreen with Navigation and there was even a Rockford Fosgate audio package available this model year.
The gauges feature a speed and tach, and the fuel gauge is handled in the small LCD screen. I love that there is an “Eco” indicator, does that stay lit 24/7? And 140mph seemed a little optimistic until I researched it and it seems that this little diamond tops out around 125mph. Not too shabby. No mileage reading available? Hang on, I’ve got it covered…
Did you think this would be the number? These cars seem to be able to take some abuse and the interior has held up great. That’s not a bad number at all and I truly think the front end damage is what put it here, if this apparently did around 25k-30k miles a year around the metro Denver area there’s a good chance of getting into some sticky situations.
Plugging the specs into the Edmunds trade-in value finder with all parameters selected in the car’s favor (i.e no damage) spat out an estimated value of around $2,000 so almost anything would total this thing. Of course I believe the actual retail value would be far higher, even with this kind of mileage figure.
The side air vents are the rotating type, the dashboard does in fact feature some styling, the glovebox looks large, and the center console has storage as well as cup holders. The parking brake is a manual affair, all the better for helping you negotiate those tight turns in the parking garage at speed as this car and engine are most likely a momentum play, but nothing wrong with that. My own first car, the ’79 Mazda 626, only had 80hp, topped out at 19 less mph on the top end and was plenty fast for me to get into trouble with. Interestingly it was about the same color too, hmmm.
The back seat will hold all three of the real Kardashian sisters (not the step-sisters, see, I know waaaayyy too much already and I haven’t even seen the tape), and the doors look tall enough to make entry and egress manageable without too many contortions on their part even though they seem limber enough.
I’d forgotten these were built in Thailand, which also builds huge amounts of pickup trucks that we don’t get over here. Build quality seemed quite good, nothing really looked broken or worn out beyond damage that wasn’t the car’s fault.
At least it got a spot looking out on the road here to spend its last few weeks. I still want to drive one and while I have no notions that it’ll be any kind of mini-GTI or whatever, I think when viewed through a reasonable person’s lens with an eye on actual out-the-door costs and taking into account what’s included for that price, it’s probably a perfectly fine car.
Heck, anyone who offers a 10yr, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty gets a lot of credibility in my book as having the confidence to back up their product. I don’t know if I could go ten years with either a Mirage or a Kardashian, but I’m pretty sure I know which would cost less over that timeframe.