The 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage has landed
– and firmly on its feet, it’s worth noting, with an updated design, value-enhancing features, and the right to call itself the most fuel-efficient gas-powered vehicle in the country.
There’s just one problem: the Mirage came to play, and it seems that just about everyone else has vacated the sandbox.
An updated Dynamic Shield grille is the most notable visual upgrade, reflecting the brand’s latest styling direction. The car on display at the Montreal International Auto Show until January 26 is a pre-production model, so while the red accents on the grille are kind of cool, they almost certainly won’t make it into the final iteration. Still, the other adjustments such as updated front lighting treatments and minor rear styling updates do make a difference in the car’s walk-up impression.
It’s a mid-cycle refresh, so the powertrain is the same: a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine producing 78 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 74 lb-ft torque at 4,000 rpm, paired to either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. It’s not the most energetic around, but it does now officially own the title of the most fuel-efficient gas-powered car in Canada. The 2019 Mirage is rated by Natural Resources Canada at 6.6 L/100 km in city driving, 5.6 on the highway, and 6.2 combined when fitted with the CVT, and the 2021 likely won’t divert much from those figures
That said, it doesn’t exactly have a lot of competition in that space anymore. The Nissan Micra has been discontinued, as have the Nissan Versa Note and Chevrolet Sonic. The Honda Fit gets close on fuel efficiency but not on price, and the Fiat 500 doesn’t get close on either. The Smart is gone as well, and it was too expensive to really fit into this discussion anyway.
That leaves only the Chevrolet Spark
as a true competitor. Once pricing shakes out on the 2021 Mirage, it will likely continue to be more expensive than the Spark’s current $9,998 price point; the 2020 Mirage will start at $12,298 and will add standard automatic climate control, making it the lowest entry point to that feature in the segment. (But the 2019 base model comes with 14-inch steelies, while the Spark starts with 15-inchers. No word on whether this will change for 2020 or 2021.)
But the Mirage will match the Spark on its standard 7-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, and available safety features such as forward collision mitigation and lane departure warning. Lower fuel bills and a 10-year warranty might just be exactly what this segment’s highly cost-sensitive buyers need to get pulled over the line.
In fact, Mitsubishi is banking on it.
“It's quite a unique customer,” said Juyu Jeon, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada. “Why customers buy Mirage is all obsessing about fuel efficiency. (For) 65 percent (of Mirage buyers), the top reason to buy Mirage was fuel efficiency, which is almost 30 percent higher than the segment average.
“It’s going to provide an even further unique position for Mirage. … The value position will be even stronger to those unique customers.”
Mitsubishi is buoyed by the fact that it’s currently bringing in strong sales in a softening market. In 2019, the brand’s sales were up by 1.2 percent while the industry as a whole was down by 3.6 percent, with double-digit-percentage growth posted for the RVR
subcompact crossover and Eclipse Cross
Those are all SUVs, though, which is where the heat is on in today’s market. Mitsubishi keeps saying that it’s an SUV brand, a claim that the current product line-up and these sales results largely support.
But the Mirage is the only thing left in the brand’s line-up that isn’t an SUV. So, why does Mitsubishi continue to hold such enthusiasm for it as buyers defect to SUVs putting passenger car sales in freefall, and how does the Mirage continue to fit as the company evolves in that direction?
“Our laser focus on SUVs doesn’t change,” Jeon said. “We are an SUV brand. But what ‘SUV brand’ means is we’re providing … plug-in hybrids (with the Outlander PHEV), fuel efficiency, and reliability. It’s kind of aligned. Why do people buy this car? Fuel efficiency and reliability.
“This is the entry model to our brand. Thus, we see the value to have the Mirage here. While our SUV focus doesn’t change, this will provide first-time new car buyers an opportunity to experience the brand.”
Pricing and model details will be announced closer to the new Mirage’s arrival in Canadian dealerships late this summer.