In North America, compact vehicles from Mitsubishi derived from the Mirage or Lancer lineage were sold under the Mirage name from 1985 to 2001, as Chrysler owned the right to the Lancer name, with the Dodge Lancer. Mitsubishi licensed the Mirage name from Grand Touring Cars, Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona for use in the United States, as they already owned the rights to the name with the Mirage (race car) series.
When DaimlerChrysler briefly controlled Chrysler and Mitsubishi, the Lancer name was given to Mitsubishi for usage in North America. In Japan, it was sold at a specific retail chain called Car Plaza.
1st Generation (1978-1982)
Mitsubishi launched the Mirage as a three-door front wheel drive hatchback in 1978, as a response to the first fuel crisis some years before. It had a distinctive design with large windows and Mitsubishi's Super Shift transmission (four speeds, but two modes). A five-door joined the range in 1979. This version of the Mirage was exported to the United States as the Dodge Colt and Plymouth Champ from 1979 and received the highest United States Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy rating that year.
A 1600 cc engine joined the range in 1979.
In 1981, the Lancer Fiore, not to be confused with the regular Mitsubishi Lancer, was launched. The Fiore was a four-door version of the Mirage. At the same time, the range was facelifted.
In 1982, a turbocharged, 105 PS (77 kW) version of the 1400 cc engine was made available.
In many countries, this car was known as the Mitsubishi Colt. In the United Kingdom, where Colt was the marque, it was called the Colt 1200 and Colt 1400, after the size of the engines, which it shared with the larger Lancer.
Since most overseas markets did not have the Minica kei car, the Mirage was the entry-level model.
Local CKD assembly of the Mirage took place in New Zealand by Todd Motors, where there was a sports equivalent called the Mirage Panther in the early 1980s. The replacement Mirage Turbo had the distinction of being that country's second locally assembled turbocharged car from 1983, following the Tredia Turbo.
The facelifted model was also built by Mitsubishi of Australia, and had an unusually long model life, from 1981 to 1990. The Australians offered the Colt with the 1.4 L engine, and a larger 1.6 L. This model was imported for a short time to New Zealand in the late 1980s, where it was sharing showroom space with the locally assembled third generation models.
2nd Generation (1983-1987)
Mitsubishi launched a new Colt in 1983, still splitting the range into Mirage (three- and five-door hatchback) and Lancer Fiore (four-door sedan) models, though some export markets did sell the four-door as the Mirage. A station wagon was added in 1985 and a four-wheel-drive wagon in 1986.
Engine power for the 4G32BT engine for the USDM "Turbo Sport" model, was 105 horsepower; the 3 door hatchback Turbo Sport weighted in at a low 2005 USDM pounds.
Many export markets sold the hatchbacks as the Mirage or Colt, and the sedan and station wagon as the Lancer.
A commercial version of the wagon was sold in New Zealand as the Mitsubishi Express, replacing an earlier model based on the Mitsubishi Galant Sigma.
New engines were added: the 1300 and 1500 cc engines replaced the 1200 and 1400; an 1800 cc diesel was also added.
The Mirage was not sold in the United States by Mitsubishi until 1985, and it was this version that made the marque's début there.
The four-door model formed the basis of the Proton Saga, Malaysia's first locally built car. Proton would spin the Saga off into a five-door hatchback (styled differently from Mitsubishi's own five-door hatch version) called the Saga Aeroback in 1987.
The Mirage was available in Europe as the Mitsubishi Colt, and the following versions were offered:
- 1200 EL/GL 3-door
- 1300 GL 3/5-door
- 1500 GLX 3/5-door
- 1800 GL Diesel 5-door
The Lancer saloon was available in the same trim levels as the hatchback model (but not with the 1200 engine), while the estate versions were available as 1500 GLX and 1800 GLD only.
Australia got only the 1300 GL and 1500 GLX versions.
Third generation (1987-1992)
The 1987 third-generation Mirage was stylistically distinct: Mitsubishi had scored well with its revamped Galant and transferred its styling to the smaller cars. The basic model was a three-door with an upright tailgate. The top Mirages in Japan were called the Mirage Cyborg, featuring a turbocharged 1600 cc engine developing 145 PS (107 kW).
Engines available were 1.3 and 1.5 12-valve 4-cylinder engines, and 1.6 and 1.8 16-valve 4-cylinder engines. European versions were available in 1300 GL, 1500 GLX, 1600 GTi, 1800 GTi 16v versions. In some markets a 'van' model was produced, being the three-door hatchback without rear side windows (attracting a reduced sales tax in the Dutch market).
Four-door models were usually called Lancer overseas, but Mirage in Japan and North America. In Australia, all the models in this range were badged Mitsubishi Lancer.