The Chevy Sonic is dead. So is the Toyota Yaris. So is the Ford Fiesta. The Chevy Spark, Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, and Mini Hardtop are all still sold here, and the Honda Fit is too, but maybe not for long. For my money, though, I’m increasingly in on the Mitsubishi Mirage.
Some data points. The first is that the sixth-generation Mirage has not been updated beyond facelifts since 2012. The second is that automatic climate control is now a standard feature, like cruise control and front variable intermittent wipers. The third is that the Mirage has a three-cylinder engine that makes 78 horsepower, which is less than many motorcycles. The fourth is that the Mirage gets the best gas mileage—39 mpg combined, according to the EPA—of any non-hybrid, gas-powered car in America, helped by the fact that its curb weight is 2,095 pounds.
The fifth is that the Mirage starts at $13,995, and while the Spark is probably the cheapest non-Changli, non-ridiculous new car you can buy starting at $13,400, the Mirage isn’t far behind. The sixth is that the Mirage still comes in a manual.
The seventh is that the interior is unfussy and looks like this:
The eighth is that the Mirage has seven airbags. The ninth is the following sentences from Car and Driver’s review of the Mirage, which they present as bad. They are in fact good:
Heavy throttle inputs are required for passing maneuvers on the freeway, and the engine gets raucous when pushed. Also, there’s a lot of engine vibration within the cabin.
The tenth is that a few years ago Doug DeMuro called the Mirage the “worst new car you can buy,” while offering a critique that was almost entirely based on cosmetics and the car’s alleged lack of power, even though its power-to-weight ratio is roughly the same as a 1978 BMW 318i.
That’s because there isn’t anything actually wrong with the Mirage, and for all the time that car enthusiasts spend complaining that cars are too complicated these days, that cars these days have too many semi-autonomous features that they don’t need or want, that cars these days have too many dumb big screens that they neither want nor need, that cars these days are simply too refined, well, the Mirage is just sitting right there. It’s a vehicle that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Clinton administration except it also has traction control.
It’s also a car with more personality than a Spark, Accent, Rio, and Versa combined, though I suspect the Mirage’s real crime is that it’s too honest. You simply don’t need most of what modern cars give you.
You can also be sure that for all the smug reviews of this car, Mitsu is not worried, as the buying public votes with its feet. Mirage sales have increased every year since 2013, according to GoodCarBadCar.com, rising to 26,966 last year. That’s likely also in part because the Mirage has less and less competition in its segment. Subcompact cars are getting discontinued left and right. But it’s also because the Mirage is probably the best kind of car there is: a cheap car that functions, and isn’t pretending otherwise.