The common refrain among folks that follow the auto industry is “There are no bad cars.” While practically every new car serves its purpose as safe transportation, some cars are clearly better than others. This leads to the question... How cheap does a mediocre car have to be before you would consider it?

Awhile back I made the argument that if you absolutely needed a three row crossover and must have a new car, the Dodge Journey can be a decent deal if you can score one for well under $20,000. Many of you commented that the Journey is garbage an any price and that you would rather buy a better used vehicle. However, for the average car buyer, the lure of having a “new” vehicle over something pre-owned is stronger than many of us realize.

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Mitsubishi, which has been struggling in the US market for some time, has managed to find the right balance between quality and price with the new Mirage. According to Ward’s Auto, Mirage sales were up 73.6 percent compared to last year. In may Mitsubishi sold almost 12,000 units; it found more buyers than more “desirable” cars such as the VW GTI, BMW i3, and every Land Rover. It even out-sold other small cars like the Toyota Yaris and Kia Rio.

The Mirage is doing so well, even Mitsubishi is surprised. Bryan Arnett, senior manager-product strategy for Mitsubishi Motors North America told Ward’s, “It’s selling really, really well, beyond expectations.” While some of that success can be attributed to fleet sales, Mitsubishi is finding through dealer feedback, the combination of a low price and long warranty is a big draw for budget minded buyers.

“(Customers tell dealers), ‘Well, wait a minute, I didn’t think I could afford a new car,” Swearingen says. But after seeing the Mirage’s $12,995 entry price, its 44-mpg (5.3-L/100 km) highway fuel-economy rating and learning about the brand’s 100,000-mile (161,000-km), 10-year powertrain warranty, “it’s very easy to sell them on a new car,” - Don Swearingen, MMNA’s executive vice president.

While most critics panned the Mirage as a sub-par econobox, perhaps our Jason Torchinsky was on to something. If you need a vehicle and like the idea of buying something brand new with a full warranty for the least amount of money possible, the Mirage is a decent little car. It’s not exciting, it’s not fancy, but it will get the job done.

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However, despite Mitsubishi’s success in undercutting its rivals, other automakers are still struggling to gain sales traction despite having lower price points. Dodge Dart sales continue to lag even though you can find cars in some areas of the country with almost $5,000 off MSRP.

Cadillac still can’t crack the Germans in sedan sales even when the automaker lobs huge incentives at ATS and CTS models and those cars are hardly penalty boxes to drive. In fact, if you option them right both the ATS and CTS are pretty damn good luxury vehicles. We have discussed before that Cadillac simply can’t overcome the badge snobbery that keeps the German sales so strong, yet Hyundai has found away to grab luxury car buyers without having the prestige. The key difference here is Mitsubishi and Hyundai priced their cars low off the bat, while Dodge and Cadillac are forced to do reactionary discounts to slow sales.

The original MSRP of a vehicle compared to its content is a value equation for many buyers. The Genesis offers a lot of features for its price when you consider the equipment you would get with the usual luxury players for the same money. On the other hand, the Mirage might not have many bells and whistles, but it gives your cash strapped used car buyer an opportunity for something new.

Which cars do you think are priced just right... which ones would be on your shopping list if they came in at a lower MSRP?

If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.

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