Some things that capture the attention of car-people might seem surprising to the average person – not obvious things like the aching beauty of the bird-lady on the grille of a Rolls-Royce or the flowing lines of the universally-loved Jaguar E-Type, I’m talking about smaller, less expected details — even details that conventional, expected wisdom might consider unworthy, even ugly. Details like the backup camera on the 2018-2024 Mitsubishi Mirage.
Yes, the backup camera on the Mirage! That ridiculous, tacked-on looking thing! I know it seems like an absurd thing to devote any attention to at all, but I think you should hear me out. You see, there’s something kind of subversive and punk about the backup camera on the Mirage, and I think it’s one of those things that many of us have noticed, but haven’t quite taken the time to put into words. So maybe now is the time.
The Mirage made its backup camera standard in 2018 (though it was optional before), the point when it pretty much had no choice anymore, legally. Oh, and speaking of car backup cameras, you know what’s interesting about them, in relation to other camera systems? They have their image flipped, on the horizontal axis, just like a physical mirror is. If it didn’t, it would be really confusing, not just because we’re all used to looking at a reversed image in a mirror, but also because you as a driver are facing the opposite way from the camera, so all your motions would be reversed if the image itself were not reversed. Neat, right?
Anyway, back to the Mirage. The method used to put a rear-view camera on the Mirage screams the least possible effort, and I think that’s what I like about it. There’s an honesty to it, a complete lack of pretension, and what seems to be some genuine self-awareness.
Let’s just look at how this installation is accomplished:
There is no attempt to integrate anything into, well, anything. The camera is contained in a nice enough housing, but that little plastic housing – which at least is painted the body color of the car – doesn’t seem to be influenced by any of the design cues or decisions made for the rest of the car. It’s just a camera housing that positions the camera at the right place, and facing the proper angle.
It’s not like there weren’t other options; the camera could have been worked into a slightly enlarged Mitsubishi diamond-star badge, or placed in the spoiler above the tailgate or hidden in the black window area or in the rear bumper – there’s a lot of possibilities other than the one chosen, which, it’s worth remembering, was chosen deliberately.
Hell, even my Changli, the cheapest car in the world, has a better-integrated backup camera than the Mirage. Look:
So this can’t have been just a way of being cheap; sure, Mitsubishi picked one of the cheapest solutions possible, but if the freaking $930 Changli could work a backup camera into the design in a less obtrusive way, then you would think the industrial juggernaut of Mitsubishi could, too.
And, yet, again, Mitsuibishi didn’t.
But what it did do has a strange sort of charm. It’s just stuck on there, defiantly, and while almost every reviewer seems compelled to comment on it – this 2014 review says “notice the tumor-shaped protrusion on the car’s rump,” for example, even though the only being capable of growing a tumor that looks anything remotely like that is, I don’t know, Robocop? But the fact that the reviewer felt compelled to point it out and compare it to a tumor (not even just a lipoma) says that this little bit of plastic and electronics has some strange power.
The Mirage’s backup camera is a defiant fuck you to auto reviewers, auto designers, and the entire concept of cars as status objects. Mitsubishi could have tried to integrate the backup camera into the tailgate in some more elegant way, maybe with some additional plastic trim that would have hidden the camera, or made it flow into the curves of the body.
But, again, they didn’t. Because fuck it. It’s a Mirage, and at least this way if the camera sticks out like an alleged tumor or whatever, at least whoever saw it can think hey, that cheap little Mirage has a backup camera. I mean, it’s kind of absurd to be hiding it in the first place! It’s a camera, it’s not the car’s rectum, there’s nothing to be ashamed of!
The auto industry has some strange fixations on what should be shown and what should be hidden as it is. The Mirage’s backup camera isn’t playing into any of that. It’s also worth noting that if the Mirage were a rugged sort of SUV like a Land Rover Defender or an Ineos Grenadier then a little chunky pod with a camera wouldn’t be looked at as weird at all. It would just be an accepted part of the design.
Sure, those vehicles have a very different aesthetic, but maybe the Mirage is saying why should those types of vehicles only have the freedom to not hide their reverse cameras?
If you’ve ever noticed the Mirage’s backup camera, and my guess is you have, then I bet you felt something. I bet you expressed what you felt with derision at first, but I would call upon you to look deeper, to really think about what you’re feeling. Maybe there’s a bit of discomfort, because what you’re seeing is a car that just doesn’t care about the expected rules and norms anymore.
It’s been derided and mocked so many times that it’s immune. It doesn’t give a shit. It gets its driver and passengers where they want to go, and when they want to go backwards, it turns on that little camera in that little protuberance, and it does the exact same thing as one of those backup cameras hidden behind a badge and needing some little motor to expose it, all dramatically.
The backup camera on the Mitsubishi Mirage should catch your attention, but not for the reasons you may think. This little lump of optics and electronics is a middle finger to so many conventions of the mainstream automotive world, conventions that perhaps deserve not just to see that middle finger, but to sit, and, where applicable, spin.
Respect the Mirage’s silly reverse camera. But if you’re not willing to do that, I can guarantee you that it won’t care.