New Car/Review

1997 Mitsubishi Mirage LS

by John Heilig

Mitsubishi

SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

ENGINE:            1.8-liter inline four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 113hp @5500 rpm/116 lb-ft @4500 rpm
TRANSMISSION:      Five-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:      29 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, 30.2 mpg test
WHEELBASE:         98.4 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:    173.6 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT:    52.6 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:     66.5 in.
CURB WEIGHT:       2348 lbs 
FUEL CAPACITY:     13.2 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  11.5 cu. ft.
TIRES:             185/65R14
INSTRUMENTS:       Speedometer, fuel level, water temperature,
                   digital clock.
EQUIPMENT:         Power windows, power door locks, 
                   power mirrors, cruise control, 
                   air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio 
                   with cassette, anti-lick brakes,
                   dual air bags.
STICKER PRICE:     $15,639

Not many manufacturers build as wide a range of automobiles and trucks as Mitsubishi. In the mid-sized range, they offer the Galant, and in the compact class they offer the Mirage, this week's tester.

Mirage is a solid, five-passenger four-door sedan. And while it claims to carry five passengers, and will in a pinch (pun intended), it's best for no more than four. It offers excellent fuel economy and great practicality.

In addition, the Mirage isn't bad for long trips, as one of our testers showed in returning a child to school after the Thanksgiving holiday. Our tester was the Mirage LS with a bottom line of $15,639, which I thought was high for a small car. But prices are in the stratosphere for all cars these days.

In any case, the Mirage is powered by a 1.9-liter 16-valve inline four cylinder engine that drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. The engine, rated at 113 horsepower, is just right for the car. It's a bit buzzy, as most four cylinders are, but it's peppy and it gets you where you want to go, and it does it with a minimum amount of fuel. The EPA ratings were 29/37, and we averaged well over 30 mpg for most of the miles we used the Mirage on.

Up front seating is two individual buckets with a console that holds the shifter. These seats offered a reasonable amount of side support at the hip area and were quite comfortable, something you don't always find in a compact car. All too often we've had compact cars and simply couldn't wait for the week to end because of the pain inflicted by the seats. You won't have this problem with the Mirage.

Rear seating is a bench that's nominally for three but is really wide enough for only two adults. In addition, you get good legroom, another benefit you won't always find in a compact. The upholstery was a grey-on-grey cloth that won't show the dirt.

The trunk is practical and useful at 11.5 cubic feet. The rear seat backs fold down to offer additional trunk space if you're not carrying rear-seat passengers.

I want to comment about the heating system. We drove the Mirage in the early days of winter, which can be quirky in my part of the country. We had some freezing days, yet the Mirage's heater warmed us quickly and cleared the frost off the windshield in a short period of time.

Our tester was the LS version with a $2,400 option package that included most of the goodies, including the oversized tires that aided ride and handling.

With a compact car you're not going to get the same quality of ride you'd expect in a large sedan. But the Mirage's ride was not objectionable. It has a short wheelbase and tends to be choppy in some situation, but the ride isn't nearly as uncomfortable as it is in some sportier cars. Handling was small-car decent. We were able to corner well whenever we had to. I wouldn't take the Mirage on a race course, but it did the job it was asked to do with no complaining.

I thought the sticker was high for a car in this class. I thought a sticker price of $13,000 to $14,000 would have been more appropriate, since it competes with the Cavalier and Neon.

The Mitsubishi Mirage is a good compact car. it's solid and well put together. It delivers exactly what you'd expect, but nothing more. And maybe that's why it's not a turn-on car. But for good general vanilla traveling, it's a good car.

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