Junkyard Find: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
After better than 1,800 Junkyard Finds, Junkyard Treasures, and Junkyard Gems since I started doing this stuff in 2007, the oldest discarded vehicle I’ve shot is a 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan in Denver (that’s not counting a lot of older junked cars I’ve shot with ancient film cameras, of course).
Before today, the newest junkyard car I’ve documented was this 2012 Fiat 500, but now I’ve got a car that might still have had That New Car Smell if it hadn’t been cruelly abused every day of its short life.
I see plenty of affordable and/or rental-spec cars in the one-to-five-year-old range in these car graveyards, of course, but nearly all of them have been in instant-total-depreciation crashes or fires (with the exception of the Chrysler 200, which seems to be so unwanted that it gets scrapped rather than put its owners through the hassle of a brake-pad change). This car was in a crash, sure, but just a fender-bender that shoved around some sheet metal and plastic. The owner found a replacement fender from a burned car, applied some tape to the mangled plastic bits, and the young Mitsu went back on the road for a while.
When you know you’re a car’s final owner, you can do stuff like this to it. Might as well go all-out with a full-on Groovalicious Purple Princess of Peace treatment, I say.
I don’t know how it’s possible to trash a car interior made with harshly cheap (but tough) modern materials so badly in just five years that it needs Pep Boys seat covers to hide the damage, but such is the case with this car.
Soon after the launch of the current-generation of Mirage in North America for the 2014 model year, it became fashionable for automotive journalists to issue sneeringly scathing negative reviews of this cheap little transportation appliance. Unless you’re stupid, they implied, you’ll get a Versa or Sonic or — wiser still — spend the extra money on a Fit or Yaris. As Jason Torchinsky explains so well, part of the reason for the onslaught of negative American press for the Mirage was the fact that we’re all starved for really bad cars these days (say, as bad as the wretched Subaru Justy or hateful first-gen Hyundai Excel) and we all want to have fun thumbing through the thesaurus for suitably cutting negative words. Mitsubishi makes a great target for this because they don’t have many vehicles available here, and so getting frowns from their PR staffers or even de-invited to their not-so-upscale press events doesn’t matter a whole lot.
However, the Mirage came with (and maybe still does come with) a great warranty for the price, which was low, low, low, and Mitsubishi dealers were eager to negotiate with customers who might have received the brush-off from other purveyors of new cars. I drove the 2014 Mirage and found it to be a perfectly competent point-A-to-point-B machine, capable of driving up Grapevine Hill at 80 mph with the air conditioning on. Air conditioning! Imagine having air conditioning (or even power windows) in a Ford Festiva! We have become spoiled in the last couple of decades.
Sure, the Versa has nicer interior plastic and the Fit is way more fun to drive, but let’s say you’re 23 years old and The Man will fire you from your entry-level job — to which you just barely cling by the most fragile of fingernails — if you’re late to work even once, and you endure a hope-I-die-soon 70-minute suburb-to-suburb freeway commute on the cruel stop-and-go highways of Atlanta or Los Angeles or Houston. You don’t give a rat’s ass about the tactile pleasures of the goddamn dashboard plastic or the barely-detectable roughness of a three-cylinder engine. You want a cheap car that runs every day and that will be covered by a heavy-duty warranty — for years — when something breaks, and you don’t want to get jerked around by a dealership yelling at you about your lack of a credit history.
Such a purchase wouldn’t have made sense for me, of course, because I’ve spent my entire driving life keeping terrible old hoopties running for next to nothing, but I understand the appeal of the Mirage (which, as you can see in this side-by-side comparison with a 1996 Eclipse, isn’t even all that small) for ordinary people who just want to get to their jobs. In fact, I liked the Mirage so much that I went back in 2017 and reviewed the GT. Yeah, I have a soft spot for Mitsubishis, ever since I yearned for a new Starion when in high school.
All that said, the Mirage depreciates hard, and so many of them meet this fate when they get damaged in a way that would be non-fatal for, say, a Kia Rio. Even the value-hemorrhaging Fiat 500 remains a few years behind the Mirage, in terms of the examples I see during my junkyard travels. Neither car reaches the disposability levels of the Chrysler 200 (itself based on a Mitsubishi platform), of course, but then nothing does.
Rainbow your life!
That Indonesian-market ad was all about the wonderful dreamworld you’ll enter when driving a Mirage. In the United States, the TV commercials emphasized one thing: CHEAPNESS.
This Japanese-market ad may cause permanent eye damage, with its pungent colors and searing contrasts. Why didn’t we get that electric-green paint here?
The Mirage may be a Japanese design, but assembly takes place in Thailand. Thais can buy a sedan version (known as the Attrage) now, and it looks action-packed!
In Mexico, the Mirage sedan gets badged as the Attitude. LA GUERRA COMIENZA.
The German Mirage goes by the Space Star name, and it’s like a muscular gymnast.
The Netherlands. Truly a world car.
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