by Aiden Eksteen
With a number of hallowed nameplates in Mitsubishi's back catalog, the brand has the potential to create something incredible. The Mirage G4 - the brand's subcompact sedan offering - isn't that. Without sounding too harsh, the Mirage G4 makes other budget subcompacts look like luxury offerings, with cheap build quality, a short features list, and a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine that can best be described as anemic. Just 78 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque is to the front wheels via a CVT automatic on most trims, with a manual only available on the base model. Fortunately, Mitsubishi doesn't ask much for the Mirage G4, but it does command a $1,000 price premium over its hatchback sibling, and much to the delight of penny-pinchers everywhere, the G4 delivers exceptional gas mileage estimates that leave for dead the likes of the Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, and Kia Rio. Sadly for Mitsubishi, it's not enough to redeem what is ultimately a subpar subcompact.
For the 2020 model year, all Mirage models now feature a restyled honeycomb grille, front fascia, and rear end. All models now come standard with automatic climate control, there's a new meter panel design, new armrests, and new carbon fiber-look window switch panel accents. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality are now standard in the LE - a new trim for the G4 lineup. Upper-level models are outfitted with newly designed seats with fabric synthetic leather upholstery, and finally, the RF Mirage model has been purged from the lineup.
The Mirage G4's new grille and front fascia are designed on what Mitsubishi has termed the "Dynamic Shield" concept and portrays Mitsubishi's latest design language - giving up the chrome-bar detailing for a black honeycomb mesh design. While all models are fitted with LED taillights and a high-mounted stoplight, the top-spec model is the only trim fitted with front halogen foglights. The ES is equipped with 14-inch steel wheels with covers, while the LE and SE are both equipped with 15-inch alloy wheels in their own styles.
As the sedan version of the Mirage, the G4, is 20.1 inches longer than the hatchback version at 169.5 inches in overall length, and its 100.4-inch wheelbase is 3.9 inches longer than that of the hatchback. Both ride with a ground clearance of 6.3 inches, but the G4, with its height of 59.2 inches, is fractionally shorter; the G4 is 65.7 inches wide. At around 70 pounds heavier than the hatchback, the G4 has curb weights ranging from 2,117 lbs to 2,194 lbs.
The Mirage G4's 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine is excruciatingly underpowered: the 78 hp and 74 lb-ft of torque it musters up is barely enough to help it plod towards 60 mph in a labored 13 seconds, according to independent tests. The five-speed manual gearbox, which is available only in the base-spec Mirage G4, helps provide better control over power delivery, but barely makes a difference. Things go from bad to worse when you swap out the manual for the CVT that becomes standard on upper trims. With the CVT equipped, the G4 is painstaking to drive, giving the impression that the engine is dying a slow, horribly boring death.
Acceleration and power delivery remains lethargic, be it from a standstill or when on the go. While it may be passable within city limits, it's incompetent at highway speeds, unable to maintain speed or effect passing maneuvers. The powertrain is noisy, unrefined, and continually sounds strained, making the Mirage G4 a backmarker in the segment in this area.
Should you find yourself straying onto a highway, not only is the Mirage G4 incapable of traveling the appropriate speed consistently, but its wayward handling also makes the experience highly unpleasant. Wind and road noise permeates the cabin with headache-inducing tenacity, the light body structure is prone to crosswinds, and the suspension and steering feel loose at speed. Conversely, the loose steering makes in-town driving fairly easy. Not enjoyable, but easy. A tight turning circle and steering that requires a single finger on the wheel mean that accessing tight gaps is an easy affair. Unfortunately, though, ride quality doesn't improve much even at low speeds, with the cabin a rattlebox that gets shaken up on anything but the smoothest roads. For many in this segment, a low asking price doesn't come at the expense of refinement, but for the G4, cheap really does mean cheap and nasty.
One advantage of the Mirage G4's tiny engine - possibly the only advantage - is the best-in-class gas mileage it affords. With the five-speed manual gearbox in play, the Mirage G4 returns EPA estimates of 33/40/35 mpg city/highway/combined. With the CVT automatic equipped, it returns even more impressive estimates of 35/41/37 mpg. The Mirage hatchback is a little more fuel-efficient though, with the manual model returning 33/41/36 mpg and the CVT model returning 36/43/39 mpg. The Kia Rio Sedan doesn't come up too far behind in gas mileage, with EPA estimates of 33/41/36 mpg coming from its four-cylinder mill and CVT. The Mirage G4's 9.2-gallon gas tank affords the CVT-equipped model a maximum range of 340 miles before running empty.
There is seating for up to five occupants in the Mirage G4, though with limited passenger room overall; only two adults will realistically fit in the rear seats. The seats are uncomfortably thin and unsupportive, and the driver's seat is oddly positioned behind the steering wheel, feeling too high set and unergonomic. Ingress and egress are otherwise pretty easy and outward visibility is clear all-round. The G4's overall build quality is as is expected from a budget-friendly vehicle and the materials are mostly low-quality, although this isn't uncommon in the segment.
The Mirage G4 offers only 12.6 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk, which is 4.5 cu-ft less than what is offered behind the rear seats of the hatchback version. That is enough room for about two suitcases, provided they aren't too big. The Kia Rio Sedan offers a little more in practicality with 13.7 cu-ft of cargo room offered in the trunk, but the Nissan Versa proves the most practical with 14.7 cubes of usable trunk volume.
As for storage solutions within the cabin, there's a small storage slot beneath the steering column, a moderately sized passenger-side glove box compartment, a small-item bin in the front of the center console, and dual cupholders. There are door side pockets with bottle holder sections on the front doors only, dual cupholders are made available for rear passengers.
One can't expect much from the Mirage G4 as a budget-friendly entry-level vehicle, but it still disappoints in comparison with its rivals. The base model, the Mirage ES, comes fitted with remote keyless entry, power windows, a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, a four-way manually-adjustable front passenger's seat, steering wheel infotainment controls, automatic climate control, cruise control, and a rearview camera. With the mid-spec model, the Mirage LE, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob with accented red stitching, steering wheel voice recognition control, a driver's seat armrest, and heated front seats are added. The top-spec mirage SE is fitted with a fast-key entry system and push-button start. Hill start assist is standard across the range.
A rather crummy seven-inch touch panel display is standard in the Mirage ES and it comes connected to a stock AM/FM stereo with four speakers. Only HD Radio and Bluetooth wireless technology are standard with the base setup. The LE and the SE are upgraded with a 6.5-inch touchscreen display and are both fitted with an MP3-compatible AM/FM stereo with a CD player. Functionality in both Android Auto and Apple Car Play is included in the LE and the SE as well. All models are fitted with a single USB port and 12-volt power outlet, both located within the front center console. A Rockford Fosgate premium audio system with a 300-watt amplifier and a molded enclosure with dual subwoofers is available for the Mirage G4 as a standalone option.
The 2020 Mirage G4 has not yet fallen subject to any recall, with the 2018 year model being the last subject to a major recall - pertaining to faulty airbag system where the airbags would potentially not deploy in the event of an accident. Although J.D. Power has not rated the Mirage for reliability, Mitsubishi covers the G4 with a five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and an industry-leading ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. This is only the second area in which the Mirage G4 scores highly, with reliability being a high point.
The NHTSA is yet to evaluate the Mirage G4, although it awarded the hatchback variant four out of five stars overall. The IIHS, on the other hand, has evaluated the current model, awarding it mixed results. Of five specified crash tests, the Mirage G4 scored top results of Good for only three, getting a score of Moderate for small front overlap on the front driver-side, and Average for the side impact test. Every model is equipped with seven standard airbags, which includes a driver's side knee airbag. There's a rearview camera, cruise control, and hill-start assist covering driver-assists, but no front crash prevention equipment is available.
As a budget-friendly and entry-level vehicle, the Mirage G4 is a very basic package - its number one concern is getting from one point to another at the lowest possible cost. So, buyers will benefit from a relatively affordable starting price and best-in-class gas mileage, but that's where the advantages end with the Mirage G4. The value-for-money appeal ends there as it is equipped with low-grade underpinnings and fitted with the bare minimum in features. This makes for a ride that is not only painfully slow, but considerably uncomfortable too. Moreover, the low-quality, thinly-cushioned, and unsupportive seats only add to insult. Mitsubishi makes a futile attempt at leveling out the Mirage G4's flaws by including a relatively decent infotainment system in the mid and top-spec models, but its compendium of faults is just simply inescapable. There are certainly many subcompact sedans better than the Mirage G4, offering far greater value and better, more well-rounded packages overall.
With little to no features, the least Mitsubishi can do is give the Mirage G4 away at a fair price. The base ES trim starts at an MSRP of $14,995 with the five-speed manual gearbox, while equipping the CVT pushes the asking price to $16,295. The mid-spec LE is priced from $17,195 while the top-spec SE asks $17,745. Prices exclude options, tax, licensing, registration, and a $995 destination fee added to all purchases. These prices don't put the Mirage G4 in a good light, though, as a base-spec Yaris sedan starts at $15,650 while the Kia Rio is only $100 more - both offer substantially more value.
If one must settle for the Mirage G4, then the mid-spec LE would be the one to go for. Though there is very little difference between the models, the LE is significantly better-specced than the base trim. The upgrades include a touchscreen infotainment system and with full smartphone integration in Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and the available Rockford Fosgate premium sound system helps drown out the noise of the whining CVT gearbox. The LE also comes standard with a few more necessities such as a driver's seat armrest which the ES lacks. The LE is also the only model from the lineup that comes with red accented stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, giving it a little more style over the other two models.
If the Mirage G4 fails to ignite even the slightest interest within your entry-level car desires, then the Nissan Versa may just be the rival to consider. All-new for 2020, the Versa comes equipped with a significantly more powerful and more capable engine that makes it vastly more enjoyable and a little easier to drive around. And, that engine isn't much less fuel-efficient, returning 32/40/35 mpg. There's a little more passenger room in the Versa too, and a lot more trunk space, making it more comfortable and practical. A major advantage the Versa carries over the Mirage G4 is the selection of driver-assist technologies it gets as standard, where the G4 practically gets none. That makes the Versa the safer vehicle for a first-time owner. Overall, the Versa offers far more value for money as opposed to the Mirage G4 - it is most certainly the better buy and, with a base price of $200 less than the Mirage, it's a no brainer.
Despite asking $755 more at a base level, the Kia Rio proves to be worth every penny of the substandard Mirage G4. Not only does it feature a more powerful 1.6-liter engine with 124 horsepower compared to the G4's paltry 78, but thanks to a new CVT gearbox for 2020 it's 36 mpg combined gas mileage estimate is not far off the G4. Interior space favors the Kia, as does its build quality and fit and finish. More supportive seats and better standard infotainment are high points for the Kia, while on the S trim, an available package adds automatic emergency braking - a feature you won't find on the G4. The Kia matches the Mitsubishi for a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, but also offers greater levels of practicality with a larger trunk. Quite simply, the Mirage G4 is dead in the water with the Rio around.