- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2000

Mitsubishi is now using the slogan "wake up and drive." This week, I've been driving its 2000 Mirage coupe and the slogan fits this little car perfectly.

The Mirage isn't what it seems to be. It has a sporty appearance plus a sharp-looking spoiler on the rear deck giving it the illusion that it's capable of zooming from zero to 60 mph in two seconds flat. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture. This little coupe looks like a genuine sports car with its low-slung aggressive front end, distinctive taillights and a rakish rear deck. But looks can be deceptive which is what a Mirage is all about.

Under the hood is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine producing very modest performance. Its real claim to fame is fuel economy: 28 miles per gallon city, 36 highway. To expect great acceleration from the 113 horsepower engine would be foolhardy. And my tester was the LS model, the car with the "big" engine. The DE model has a 1.5-liter, 92 horsepower engine. However, this is not to suggest the Mirage is sluggish; it isn't. By simply shifting gears downward, the car was a pleasure to drive, especially because the manual transmission seemed to float from gear to gear. An automatic transmission is an option.

But this doesn't explain the slogan. What would make me wake up and drive? Other than its swift appearance, what makes this car exciting? For one thing, the Mirage offers a high-quality appearance at a reasonable price. The base price of my tester was $14,607. With a $1,030 option for a Sport Package, plus destination charges, the total was $16,062. The Sport Package included the rear spoiler, side air dam, fog lights, chrome tail pipes, white meters, and 14-inch alloy wheels all giving the Mirage a tantalizing look.

The trunk offers a respectable amount of storage and easy access, plus the ability to lower the rear seat backrest to store something as much as five feet long. The Mirage also has a means to lock the backrest to prevent anyone from gaining access to valuables stored in the trunk when the car has to be valet parked and a separate valet key is used. What's interesting is this thoughtful feature is overlooked by other manufacturers even on cars costing much more.

The Mirage is easy to enter and exit if your seat is up front. It even offers the front-seat passenger help getting out with a hand grip above the door. For passengers required to sit in the rear, it's another story. Even my little grandson had difficulty making it to the rear, but once his belt was buckled, there wasn't any complaint. This car will seat three across the rear, but there is very little leg room.

On the other hand, the two front-seat passengers have plenty of leg and head room. The seats, although mechanical, are easy to adjust to a comfortable position. Visibility from the driver's seat is excellent and all the controls seemed easy to operate, including the cruise control within fingertip reach while my right hand remained on the steering wheel.

The heating and air conditioning controls are positioned in the choice location in the center of the dash panel. By choice, I mean it is located just above the sound system where it is easy to see and reach. Below it is an AM/FM stereo CD player with four speakers, plus space for an optional single in-dash CD player. And there's a pullout dual cupholder, too.

What's my conclusion? The Mirage is an affordable, sharp-looking sporty car. If you are a sleepy head looking for a fun car, it's time to wake up and drive.

MOTOR MATTERS



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