In 2022, Mitsubishi announced that its budget Mirage hatchback would be getting a Ralliart Edition at some point in 2023 in one of the thinner press releases I’ve seen in recent history. Apart from confirming the model’s existence and telling us the paint scheme, the release made no mention of special equipment and no photos of what such a machine might look like. Naturally, I took a shot in the dark and predicted that the U.S.-market Mirage Ralliart would look like the one Thailand gets. Well, after months of waiting, our Mirage Ralliart is finally here. Time to see if I’m having humble pie for lunch.
Well, the mud flaps are now black, but the American-spec 2023 Mitsubishi Mirage Ralliart appears virtually identical to the global model. This means it gets plastic slabs around the arches, black 15-inch alloy wheels, a graphics package straight out of Need For Speed: Pro Street, and a handful of black accents to zhuzh up the exterior. On the inside, purple-ish upholstery reminiscent of that in early high-spec Mirage models is back, while a smattering of bright red accents bring a little bit of Warped Tour to the cabin. However, that’s where the upgrades stop — no suspension tweaks, big brakes, nor powertrain upgrades here.
It’s easy to dismiss the Mirage Ralliart as a commuter car cosplaying as competition-bred, even if that’s what it largely is. It bears nearly zero resemblance to the Evo X-powered Mirage R5 rally car, cranking out 78 horsepower from a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine roughly the size of the car’s own 12-volt lead acid battery. The only choice for getting that motivation to the wheels is a continuously variable transmission, and the rear brakes are still drums. However, I don’t think the Mirage Ralliart actually needs performance upgrades. [Editor’s Note: Thomas won’t do it, but I will absolutely voice my deep disappointment that the coolest version of the current Mitsubishi Mirage doesn’t come with a stick. It ain’t right! -DT].
This isn’t the first time Mitsubishi has made something like this: Remember the Lancer OZ Rally? Here was a fairly basic Lancer with OZ wheels, a body kit, natty black-on-white gauge faces from the Evo VII, and special floor mats. It still put out a pedestrian 120 horsepower, but that didn’t matter because this thing sold and it was memorable. See, many people just want the illusion of performance in an economy car because sports suspension can feel harsh, a bigger engine means bigger fuel bills, and higher performance often comes with higher insurance premiums. Consider time stuck in traffic between sky cube and cubicle, and 120 horsepower does just fine. From the neat wheels to bright optional paints, the Lancer OZ Rally was a spot of sunshine every dreary winter day.
Looking around at the current automotive landscape makes me wonder: When did we stop being allowed to have visually-fun cheap cars? Twenty years ago, the budget car market was in a very different place. You could order a Toyota Echo with flares and skirts, go square with a Scion xB, get a chunky lip kit on a Chevrolet Cavalier, or even get a little bit weird with a Suzuki Aerio. Cheap cars came in yellows and bright blues and conspicuous golds, largely free of premium aspirations but firmly tasked with simply being cars. Sure, that trend of body kits on stock economy cars was a bit stupid, but so was Super Troopers, and I bet you watched it twice.
In a flurry of soft-touch plastics and noise reduction measures, automakers have largely forgotten that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating getting from point A to point B in reasonable comfort and economy with some cosmetic add-ons. Sure, the Mirage corners like an air mattress, but it doesn’t ride badly over pockmarked pavement, gets an honest 40-plus MPG at a 60 mph cruise, and comes with a ten-year / 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. You know what’s really great? A car that works and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
In 2023, the Mitsubishi Mirage’s only sin is that it costs nigh-on as much as a Kia Rio hatchback, and that’s hardly enough to condemn it. After all, if you want the reliability of a brand new car but need to keep the sticker below $20,000, you only have three options — Mirage, Rio, and Nissan Versa. What people choose often comes down to whatever is on the lot.
While its spoiler likely doesn’t provide much downforce and its no more off-road capable than a standard model, the Mirage Ralliart is good because it livens up our roads a touch. It’s a bit of unusual whimsy for the grey, crossover-laden roads of 2023. Although its price tag of $19,550 is on the high side compared to a base Mirage, this loaded-up trim is cheaper than the $20,915 Nissan Versa SR or the $20,615 Kia Rio S Technology Package. Plus, neither of those competitors feel quite as outlandish as a Mitsubishi that looks like a skate shoe.
(Photo credits: Mitsubishi)
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