Look, I'm not going to lie. Buying a Mitsubishi Mirage with a 70 bhp 1.2 litre 3 cylinder as a track day instructor is strange. I know that there's an element of the readership who will be saying "really?" Let me explain anyway. The Mirage is a cheap car, (very cheap, in fact it's $14,000 Canadian in 2022) so it isn't terribly fancy. However, it needs to be stated, I already have a dedicated race car (2003 Civic EP3) and a 2004 Jaguar X-Type for when I'm feeling like a good, spirited drive. The Mirage is a good daily, but it doesn't just stop there.
The thing is light. Genuinely, at 2095 pounds in my specifications, this car was the lightest new car available in Canada in 2022. I shouldn't have to explain too much about what this does for the driving experience; agile, nimble, and it makes a really good platform for gentle modifications (I've already put 16" wheels, and plan on adding coilovers and sway bars) in order to just make it a bit more playful. It doesn't need much fuel to set off, nor much braking pressure to get it to stop. Engine braking on this car feels particularly effective in a very nice way. Barely braking, even when approaching red lights just feels right.
Of course, given a small engine and extremely lightweight chassis, the car is also extremely fuel efficient. I have compared my fuel mileage to Toyota Prius owners and come out better. Your experience may vary as the Mirage gets significantly worse fuel efficiency at 120 km/h, but I am certainly not extremely gentle with my cars and do expect them to get back up to the speed limit in a timely manner. For me to get 4L/100 km on some occasions, and 6L/100 km on the worst of days where I hit every red light, get stuck in every traffic jam, and generally drive as my schedule requires, the machine is almost matching the carbon footprint of most electric cars (remember, they need electricity from a grid that uses some natural gas/coal to operate) without requiring the lithium mining and the environmental destruction associated with that specific part of electric car ownership. Not requiring special information-age technologies for mining in a third world country with mines that are sometimes worked by modern slave labour and guarded by child soldiers is a huge benefit in my books, sorry electric car enthusiasts. You won't convince everyone! I'm still doing my part with a car that gets 4L/100 km., so, please don't hate me!
Then there's the styling. I know, it's a personal thing, but I consider the Mirage one of the best looking new cars to be released since 2010. I generally hate the styling of modern cars, particularly affordable ones. Sure, we can all appreciate how good a 4th generation Viper or 2022 Audi RS6 looks, but everything from below $50,000 is disappointing. Feel free to point out the exceptions you like in the comments - the 2020 Toyota Corolla is decent, although I don't want to deal with 0W16 oil's rarity, as is the Mazda 3 that I also considered before finding out that the manual transmission was not available with the good engine or all-wheel-drive system (why?) but overall, there's nothing from any "affordable car" manufacturer that excited me. MINI was a consideration but the BMW link and constant reliability concerns scared me away.
Then there's the warranty - an available 200,000 km, 10 year warranty - which is the most remarkable warranty I've ever seen. Mitsubishi clearly stands behind the build quality of their cars. I know that infotainment systems like to die on new cars (made after 2010) and for once, I actually really like the infotainment system on the Mirage. I would actually want Mitsubishi to repair it if anything happened. It integrates nicely into the display and works well. It's very simple, doesn't have any annoying beeps or bongs, and the beeps and bongs from pressing buttons can be completely turned off. There's something to be said about what I'll call "Autism-friendly features" in cars like the Mirage. For anyone who doesn't know what I mean, some people with Autism such as myself absolutely hate noises and beeps. Ford's MySync is particularly egregious for this, and turned me off of the brand forever. I cannot stand Ford's infotainment system with 100 bings and bongs a minute. The only time I would buy a Ford is to have as a race car with no infotainment system in it. The Mirage has one bing that I've noticed - to tell me that the temperature has dropped and the road could be icy. This one, I actually appreciate. If you're driving from Kitchener to Quebec, and you've been driving for 14 hours, it's easy to simply not notice that the temperature has dropped 15 degrees and what you thought was rain is actually starting to freeze on the road. Even then, the bing-bing pair of beeps is quiet, comes from the place in the dashboard where the message would display, and is rather pleasant. Otherwise? The car is quiet if you're wearing your seatbelt. Not an issue for me, I always do anyway. Rant over.
Then there's the sound system. Let me be clear: it's not a recording studio. It's not the greatest sound system. However, my YouTube Music Premium works perfectly with the Mirage and it even displays the artist, song, album and everything (pause button, play button, back, forward) clearly, with no nonsense/unnecessary information, and steering wheel controls and a physical volume knob. The HVAC uses actual physical buttons, too, and has its own, simple, clearly labelled screen with clever snowflake A/C symbol.
So, in summary then, the Mirage is nowhere near as bad as people like to pretend. It's a lightweight car with decent styling, very good fuel efficiency, remarkable warranty, and a very considerate, Autism-friendly user experience. Yes, they could have stiffened up the springs and put a sway bar in the back. Yes, they could have given the manual more options. Yes, they could have put disc brakes in the back. These are all things I'm willing to live with, in order to have a car that rivals electric cars in fuel efficiency despite having a manual gearbox that's fun to row through, and even more so as it weighs less than a 2022 Miata.
Falcon Autosport authors are a team of track day organizers and motorsports enthusiasts in general. Drew drives a 2003 Honda Civic EP3 with 17 previous owners and 320,000+ km.