The first Mirage I tested: a base model ("ES" trim in Canada) with 5-speed manual transmission.
I had a chance to try both transmissions today, back to back over the same sub/urban route. Very impressed by the CVT. Will post more tomorrow (visiting family).
Update Oct. 27th - OK, here's what happened ...
First off, thanks to Donnelly Mitsubishi ...
I'm going to put in a blatant plug for Donnelly Mitsubishi, in Kanata/Ottawa, Ontario. I dropped in unannounced at the end of a blustery, cold Saturday and was treated like gold. Sales guy Corey Jones introduced himself to me and I explained my interest in the car & what we we're doing with this forum.
"So, are you going to buy one?" he wondered.
"Well, probably, eventually... one day..." I know this was not the answer he was hoping for. I was up-front that a purchase wasn't on my near term radar, and I didn't want to waste his time if he had other things to do.
Yet Corey was more than happy to show me the two cars, and ended up spending about an hour with me, the "3-cylinder aficionado / blogger." (That's how he described me to his colleagues when we were finishing up.)
So, go see Corey, Vahid or Hassan if you're in the Ottawa area.
Cutting to the chase: I'd get one...
I would buy one. Absolutely. I can say this even though I spent just a short amount of time in the cars.
(Now I just need to wait for my 15 year-old 1.0L Pontiac Firefly / Chevrolet Metro with 32,000 km (19.9k miles) on the clock to wear out, get crashed or stolen. )
I spent about 20 minutes driving each car. While first impressions were positive, that's not enough time to get thoroughly aquainted. I'm still hoping to get some more seat time in the future.
But it was long enough to do the main thing I wanted to do, which was a quick sub/urban fuel economy comparison of the CVT vs. the 5-speed.
Comparisons are being made by some North American auto writers between the Mirage and the old Chevrolet/Geo Metro, which was the last 4-passenger, 3-cylinder subcompact car sold here (last available in 2000). They're really not that similar. I know, because I drove to the dealership in one.
- Mirage is noticeably more refined: quieter, smoother. (Note: my Firefly has only 32k km of gentle highway driving on it; so the comparison isn't to a worn-out rattle trap).
- Mirage is more substantial feeling & looking, despite being only about ~100 lbs heavier.
- The base Mirage has quite a long list of standard features/equipment that was AWOL from econoboxes of the 80's & 90's. It's significantly safer in a crash, too.
- Engine vibration at idle is well isolated (much more than in my Firefly).
- Manual gear change quality is better; though with similar clutch feel (very light). It was easy to get moving & shift smoothly.
- Very light steering. I did not notice the "wooden" or vague on-center feel some reviews have mentioned, though I was driving in the city, not on the open road where it would be more noticeable. There's more assist for my taste, and a faster ratio would make it a bit more responsive. But will most buyers care?
- The turning circle really is impressive. I did a couple of u-turns, and just when I thought I would bump up against the steering lock, there was still more steering available. This car will be great in tight manoevering.
- I'm already generally familiar with the 3-cylinder engine note, and I dig the "thrum" soundtrack. My last 2 cars were 3 bangers (current Firefly & previous Honda Insight).
- However, I didn't push the engine hard at all in either car, so can't comment on the volume, something some reviewers have mentioned. (Though I'm sure not as loud as a Metro under similar load.)
- The ride felt very compliant/smooth on the roads I was on.
- I didn't fling the car around, but I did a little side-to-side slalom steering, and yes, body roll is apparent. Is it a deal-killer? Nope.
- There's a "cold engine" idiot light to remind you to take it easy on the car after a cold start.
- There really is a surprising amount of leg room in the back seat. With the front driver's seat adjusted for Corey, who is 6'2", I was comfortable in the back (I'm 5'10"). Yes, the rear seat cushion looks horridly flat & uncomfortable, but when you actually sit on it, it's fine.
- Rear headroom is another matter: my head just brushed the headliner. A concession to better aerodynamics (sloping roofline).
- Forward vision is great. But the rising belt-line, plus the downward slope to the rear roof makes rear vision less great. On top of that, the factory rear seat headrests block more of the rear view, so I understand why drivers would want to yank those off. (Hopefully leaving them in the car for when passengers are actually sitting in the back.)
- I couldn't find any "B trip" average fuel economy gauge in the Multi Information Display. That's not to say it's definitely not there (I didn't crack open the owner's manual). But I did cycle through the menu multiple times, and couldn't find it. Hopefully I'm wrong, because it's an oversight not to have a gauge that lasts the duration of your tank (or however long the driver wishes), and if so, it's something Mitsu should offer. EDIT/UPDATE --- fifteenwindow explains how to change the gauge from auto-reset to manually resettable, below. (Thanks!)
Thoughts about the CVT...
The second Mirage I drove: up-level trim ("SE" in Canada) with CVT.
I have a low opinion of automatics in general, and I was prepared to dislike this one. But it genuinely surprised me, in a good way.
I've written before about a couple of CVT's I've played with -- one in a Jeep Patriot SUV; the other in an Audi A4 -- and what steps you can take to squeeze better fuel economy from them. (Mainly, it involves using the "manual mode" via the shift gate or shift buttons to request a higher gear ratio than the default programming would otherwise offer for a given road speed.)
The Mirage CVT has no manual shift gate. This is fine: the car needs no special encouragement from the driver to return optimal fuel economy, because once the car is warm, it's always willing to deliver its best to a driver that wants it.
I was frankly astounded at how eager it was to drop engine RPM down to very quiet, efficient levels when cruising down the road at light load. ~1250 RPM at ~50 km/h (30 mph)? Sure! Here you go! Wonderful.
The transmission has a 2-stage gearbox incorporated with the variable pulleys & belt mechanism. I'd like to say that I was able to feel when it shifted between "high & low" gears, but a 20 minute drive wasn't enough to be certain. I can say that when I backed off the pedal ever so slightly after accelerating, the car obliged with a marked drop to a lower RPM range. It felt more like a gear "shift" than a sliding change in the pulley ratio. Similarly, when I wanted to increase speed, the car would stay at low revs for a small amount of pedal travel, then past a certain threshold, revs jumped up as if it were downshifting for more power.
This CVT will also shift to neutral to save fuel when the car has come to a stop -- ie. "Idle Neutral Logic". I only felt it do this once for sure in my drive (which had multiple stops). I would need to spend more time with the car to get a better feel for when this feature is active or not.
I didn't notice an unusual amount of "freewheeling" when releasing the accelerator in "D" gear, as one member here has mentioned. It felt like a normal automatic to me in that regard. And "B" mode (engine braking/power mode) was fun to engage a few times when decelerating, a unique experience in a CVT compared to downshifting a conventional automatic or manual.
Considering that most buyers will choose the automatic, I say "way to go on this one", Mitsubishi! The CVT beats the heck out of a stepped gear automatic, and not just for fuel economy, but for power delivery too.
Sub/urban fuel economy comparison: CVT vs. 5-speed
I'll write more about this tomorrow, but will save the suspense: the 5-speed trounced its official Canada/U.S. city fuel economy rating on the route I drove, using very basic eco-driving techniques: the factory gauge showed 4.9L/100 km (48 mpg US = 20.4 km/L = 58 mpg Imperial).
Note: we don't have Auto Stop 'n' Go (idle stop) in North America, and I left the engines running in both cars for the entire drive, even while stopped at traffic lights, as most drivers will.
The CVT didn't do quite as well as the manual over the same route, but it did exceed its EPA rating by a good margin. There were other factors at play that may have held back the CVT relative to the 5-speed. I'll post more about that tomorrow.
UPDATE ... fuel economy comparison posted: Gas mileage/MPG test: 2014 Mirage CVT vs. 5-speed (sub/urban Ottawa route)