Small Mitsubishi offers modern basics at affordable price
It’s hard to find a truly basic car these days. Every vehicle on the market meets high standards for safety, including crash-test performance that would have been outstanding just a decade ago, and standard electronic stability control. Nearly every vehicle on the market is equipped with electronic features that include USB connectivity and power windows, locks and mirrors.
The Mitsubishi Mirage is the least expensive vehicle sold in the U.S. with those features. Available as a five-door hatchback or a newly introduced four-door sedan, the Mirage hatchback starts at a sticker price of just $13,830 (or $1,000 more for the tested G4 sedan). Even the well-equipped G4 SE – the tested car with an automatic transmission, alloy wheels, automatic climate control, heated front seats, cruise control, a proximity key system with push-button start, Bluetooth connectivity, a backup camera, and a touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration – is just $17,830.
Value-oriented customers will also be tempted by the best EPA fuel economy ratings of any car on the market that runs purely on regular gasoline, as opposed to a hybrid, electric vehicle or a diesel engine. With the tested continuously variable automatic transmission, that’s 35 miles per gallon in the city, 42 mpg on the highway and 37 mpg overall as tested. Meanwhile, the hatchback hits a remarkable 39 mpg overall. And the car is especially easy to park, with tidy dimensions and a tight turning radius.
What do you give up? Unlike nearly every other economy car in the country, the Mirage has just three cylinders instead of four and just 78 horsepower. The result is that the Mirage is one of the slowest, noisiest cars sold in the U.S. today – the engine drones harshly and loudly under even gentle acceleration, and you may need to wait for larger gaps in traffic. It has enough power to cruise easily at 75 mph, though this tall, light car can be blown around a bit in high wind. And gas mileage seems to plummet quickly as you pass 60 mph; the tested Mirage averaged just 36 mpg in mostly highway driving, below the EPA estimate and significantly less than this reviewer has experienced in a number of bigger, more powerful sedans in similar conditions.
One area where the Mirage impresses is its interior space, for such a small car. Even adults can fit decently into the rear seat, and big windows and a low dashboard ensure good visibility and a relatively airy feel. The G4 sedan is nearly two feet longer than the hatchback, ending up with more rear-seat room and trunk space, but the hatchback can better fit bulky items, gets better gas mileage, costs less, and is even easier to park; choose accordingly between the two.
Also shop the Mirage against the similarly sized and similarly priced Chevrolet Spark, sold as a hatchback only, and the larger and more expensive (but still small and cheap) Hyundai Accent and Nissan Versa. If you want to achieve maximum savings, you can choose a Versa with crank windows, manual locks and a manual transmission, priced from $12,855.
New Volvo flagship offers more modern experience
Volvo has long faced the image of being a stodgy brand, left over from its boxy cars that persisted through the 1990s. Its flagship S80 model was the first major departure from that stereotype when it debuted in 1999, but then that model eventually atrophied into staid mediocrity itself. It had gone nearly a decade without a redesign.
But the biggest Volvo sedan is due for some fresh attention, thanks to the all-new 2017 S90, which has replaced the S80. Essentially, Volvo took the design aesthetic and other well-received aspects of the critically acclaimed XC90 crossover, and used it to create a modern large premium sedan.
The new S90 isn’t a sporty performance machine like an Audi A6 or Cadillac CTS, or as massively roomy as a Genesis G80. And as it comes only with four-cylinder engines, it will lose buyers who prefer the rich note of a V6. But Volvo’s classy design aesthetic, excellent interior comfort and pleasant driving dynamics make it an appealing option. And, like the XC90, a big touchscreen on the dashboard keeps the cabin bright and and up-to-date.
Prices for the S90 start at $47,945 for a front-wheel-drive version with 250 horsepower, and $53,945 for an all-wheel-drive model with the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine but 316 horsepower. A version of this car is also offered as the V90 station wagon, a rare option for someone who wants a roomy cargo hold in a premium car