My last car was a 1997 Geo Metro which had logged 262k miles. I had rebuilt the car once at 149k, and by 262k it was once again tired. I am getting to the age where I don't want to be rebuilding my car anymore, and wanted a new car of similar type that would get similar mileage. But in the age of hyper-complex $35,000 hybrids, all the Metro-esque cars seemed to have gone the way of the dinosaur.
The formula for high MPG used to be simple: small, light car + tiny engine + manual transmission = 40ish MPG. Cheap, basic, high MPG cars used to be well within the financial grasp of the proletariat, and they went by names like Metro, Tercel, and Festiva. But when high MPG ceased being a matter of mere frugality and instead became green and "trendy", these kinds of cars were obsoleted in favor of expensive new technology by which people could have their Cadillac... and forgo it, too. They can get heated leather seats, a state-of-the-art navigation system, a trunk that opens/closes itself... AND 50 MPG. Nowadays, one almost has to be upper middle class to get 45 MPG, with everyone else making due with 25. But then I heard the rumors about the Mirage.
"Three cylinders... with a manual transmission? And Bluetooth? 45 MPG?"
I was definitely intrigued. I had heard about the 3-cylinder "EcoBoost" engine that Ford was offering, and being a Ford guy I considered it. But the cheapest car Ford offers with that engine is about $18,000. That's certainly affordable, but I was really looking for cheap! So I went to the local Mitsubishi dealership to try out a Mirage, despite the absolutely vitriolic... almost bigoted... professional reviews. Turns out, the sales guy who came out to meet me was an old friend of mine! I wound up getting a good deal on a 5-speed 2015 ES in 'Infrared Metallic'.
I haven't looked back. I liked the car when I bought it, but now I love it! For what I use it for, it's perfect. I drive 100% in-town, and manage around 44 MPG doing it! No lie... 44 MPG in the city! Sometimes more... 46-48. The relatively soft suspension compromises high-speed handling prowess for the sake of low-speed maneuverability and a pliant ride, which is okay by me. It is, after all, a "city car". Some have said the car is a little woozy in terms of handling on the freeway, and that would not surprise me. It really is set up for Third World potholes, and handles them almost like a '70s Cadillac... though it sometimes does so with some clunks and clonks. Strange for a car in this segment, most of which seem to ride like buckboards.
Acceleration is more than adequate, despite what you may have read elsewhere, but I don't really hammer the gas pedal. Neither will anyone else who buys the car for its intended purpose... economy. If you drive this car with ANY kind of eye toward fuel efficiency, you will absolutely blow away the EPA estimates for highway and city economy. I have a hard time getting the car under 40 MPG, to be honest. I'd recommend the 5-speed unless you absolutely can't or won't drive a manual. The CVT, while reliable, seems to get more mixed reviews.
Creature comforts are great, and in line with what one would expect well into in the second decade of the 21st century, even in a low end car. Auto climate control, power windows, locks, mirrors, cruise, tilt wheel, nice stereo, keyless ignition, Bluetooth, USB cable, rear wiper/washer, alloy wheels, fog lights, etc, etc. These are things that people are typically forced to live without on economy cars. Truth be told, my Mirage has more features than my BMW 325i has.
The seats are comfortable enough. They are firm and basic, but not at all arduous, even for long periods of time. The clutch and steering are almost comically light. The Mirage steers like a 1960s Oldsmobile, and those who remember the ridiculously over-boosted power steering and soft suspension in those cars know what I am talking about. The interior is certainly spartan, but what else would a person expect at this price point? Corinthian leather? Hand-polished walnut?? Lots and lots of sturdy, if unremarkable, plastic components abound. Sheesh... it's the 21st century. What ISN'T made of plastic? The 'carpet' in this car is kind of a thick, slightly rough, felt-like material. On close inspection it's not the prettiest stuff, to be sure, but easy to clean and likely to be very durable. I almost feel as though I could just hose the inside of the car out should it get too dirty, like an old Land Rover. Critics lament the lack of things like "soft touch plastics" and a "dampened glove box door". I say, "WHO CARES? It's an economy car!"
The Mirage buyer puts three automotive characteristics above all others: cost, efficiency, and warranty. If these three things top your list of what you are looking for in a car, the Mirage is a great bet. Conversely, if things high-speed handling, straight-line acceleration, and avant-garde styling are what you need, you might look elsewhere.
Personally, this car suits me to a tee. And is a worthy successor to the ol' Metro!