MIVEC vs VTEC – What’s The Difference?

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, if you wanted power (albeit at higher RPMs) and efficiency, then Honda had you sorted with its legendary VTEC system. Learn what VTEC means here if you’d like more information. 

VTEC became a byword for providing the user with an engine that could potter around town and be frugal when needed, but also put a big smile on your face when it kicked in, yo:

Cars like the DC2 Integra Type R, CRX Del Sol and the legendary S2000 all benefitted massively from the “full fat” implementation of VTEC, but there were also different variants available that focused more on bumping up the power of economy-focused cars.

Of course VTEC still exists these days, but it has been dampened somewhat by the fact that most cars producing much power do it now via forced induction. 

Imagine telling someone back in the late 1990s that the Civic Type R’s turn of pace would one day depend not on your ability to rev it up to the to top of the rev range and let VTEC take control, but instead a potent turbocharger (ably assisted by VTEC, however). 

But was Honda the only car manufacturer of the era using VTEC?

No – plenty of other car companies developed similar technologies.

Mitsubishi is one such example.

Although Mitsubishi couldn’t claim to use VTEC (which is Honda’s term) they built and promoted cars with “MIVEC” – Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control system … what a mouthful.

Higher end Mitsubishis would come fitted with MIVEC, which could substantially improve power output.

Credit: Rutger van der Maar

A great example of this is the JDM hero that is the Mitsubishi FTO (read our FTO buyer’s guide and model history here for more information on this superb sports car).

The best FTOs – as you’ll know if you’ve read our buyer’s guide – came fitted with a 2 litre V6 engine. 

In GR spec, the base version of the 2.0 V6 which lacked MIVEC, this meant a power output of around 170hp. In GPX trim, which came with MIVEC, output was lifted to just under 200hp. A 30hp difference is nothing to sneeze at … and MIVEC makes the top-spec FTO a genuinely fast car. 

These days, the technology is used across Mitsubishi’s range in order to improve economy and reduce emissions, as opposed to provide a “MIVEC just kicked in, yo” power experience. 

But MIVEC the same as VTEC? Yes, for all intents and purposes it is. Some will argue that Honda’s implementation (at least in performance-focused cars) was more aggressive – that you’ll notice VTEC kicking in more than MIVEC – but the intent/purpose/principle is the same. 

Although there are some technical differences (which I won’t go into in this article because this is more of an overview) fundamentally both of these technologies enable an engine to use two cam profiles on the same camshaft, which effectively allows for an economy mode and a power mode.

Recap – MIVEC vs VTEC 

Long story short, MIVEC and VTEC are brand names of the same thing – variable valve timing technology.

The exact setup and implementation differs but the primary purpose and intent is the same – to allow the driver to “tap in” to more power when needed, while maintaining good economy during everyday driving (although also bear in mind that the implementation differs within the manufacturer lineup as well; e.g. VTEC on a base model Honda Jazz/FIT is not designed for noticeable power, but instead to help balance power and economy – compared to something like Honda S2000 where the “kick in” is much more noticeable). 

Of course Mitsubishi and Honda aren’t the only manufacturers using this type of technology either. Ford has ZETEC, Toyota has VVTi, even little old British car company MG got in at one point with VVC  … the list goes on. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, valve timing technology was fairly ubiquitous as a means of allowing a manufacturer to blend economy and performance. 

So when looking at MIVEC vs VTEC, which should you pick? It’s actually pretty simple – if you want a Honda, you’ll have to take VTEC. If you want a Mitsubishi, you’ll have to take MIVEC. Decision made, job done! 

Have you ever owned a MIVEC-equipped Mitsubishi? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment below – it would be great to hear from you.

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  • Ben

    From his early days playing the original Gran Turismo and with his Hot Wheels car set, Ben has had a long interest in all things automotive. His first foray into the world of automotive journalism was way back in 2009 and since then he has only grown more interested in the industry. Ben also runs and heads up the video production side of Garage Dreams, focusing on small informative documentaries about some of the world's most legendary cars.

9 thoughts on “MIVEC vs VTEC – What’s The Difference?”

  1. I have a 2008 Lancer Evo X with mivec and it is noticeable when it kicks in especially around 5500 rpm or you floor it from a stop or rolling launch. Pair that with the turbo on this 4b11t motor and it’s definitely a ripper. I love the car and it’s got 208k on the clock currently with original motor and transmission. The motor has been rebuilt several times to handle more and more power but overall, solid car.

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  2. I have the 09 lancer gts with the 2.4 non turbo MIVEC and it’s definitely noticeable and feels good as yu hear and feel it kick in I couldn’t imagine mine with a turbo as I can not get mine to keep traction in high rpm first gear it loses its mind lol. But I have had vtec 01 prelude and I remember the first time I felt it kick in boy what a rush. But I’ll take the mivec any day as this one relies solely on throttle response not rpm it seems

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  3. Hi. I have a 2012. CJ Lancer 2.0 mivec it’s definitely has that granny drive below 3k rpm then “cam mivec kick in” untill 4500 to 5k rpm before safety turn on without even touching the limiter and the power drops out. great for mid-range rpm racing and slow city driving. you can tell that it screams for forced induction to be built in and used.

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    • Thanks for commenting – sounds like a great car. MIVEC and VTEC-type systems are great for city driving and then having fun (which I guess was the point in the first place?). Forced induction definitely ups performance, but I must admit that I’m a sucker for an old-school NA engine.

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  4. I own the black FTO used in this article 😀
    And yes, my mivec kicks in at 5500RPM, but you can hear it, you dont really feel it.
    Espacially with the V6 engine and the change of sound when hitting that 5500 rmp is lovely, this enjoying this when i drive the FTO. We own a Mitsubishi Mirage Asti too, with a 1.6 4G92 Mivec wich feels a lot different.

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