Review: Mitsubishi’s Mirage G4 has good value and a great warranty

The Mirage G4 has the necessary features, and the controls are intuitive.

TRANSPORTATION 101: The Mirage G4 has a contemporary look, good gas mileage, and a  great warranty. Sometimes, “plain vanilla,” is just what you need in a car.
TRANSPORTATION 101: The Mirage G4 has a contemporary look, good gas mileage, and a great warranty. Sometimes, “plain vanilla,” is just what you need in a car. –Bill Griffith

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I can hear you.

You’re saying, “I live in the city. I just want a plain, basic car that’s easy to park, no one wants to steal, and can take me away on the weekend.”

These days, most carmakers don’t advertise that car. They’d rather sell crossovers, SUVs, trucks, and pricier sedans.

But those cars are out there. The Kia Rio long has fit that bill. Others are the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, and Toyota Yaris.

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So is today’s test car, the Mitsubishi Mirage G4.

Our test car gets the job done without breaking the bank or drawing a lot of attention to itself.

Mitsubishi had a working agreement with Chrysler in the 1980s, but today the automaker is aligned with Nissan, which acquired a one-third share in the company this fall.

That bodes well for the future and should give assurances that the company will be around to back the Mirage’s 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and 5-year, 60,000-mile new car warranty.

Those might be the biggest numbers associated with this Mirage.

BEHIND THE WHEEL: The Mirage G4 has the necessary features, and the controls are intuitive. —Bill Griffith

The car comes in two trim levels—base ES and better-equipped SE.

Our test car was the SE with an MSRP of $16,995. The $835 destination charge brings the bottom line to $17,830. There were no add-on options.

Power comes from an engine with specifications that make it look like a series of typographical errors and missing digits. But they’re not a mirage.

The engine is a 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder affair that sends the power to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

That power—78 horsepower and 74 lb.-ft. of torque—gets the job done and produces outstanding fuel economy.

In an age when many cars boast 0-to-60 times under 5 seconds, the G4 putts along. You could launch a NASA rocket (10-9-8-7, etc.,) in less time than the 11-plus seconds it takes the Mirage to blast off and reach highway speed.

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Quick starts were out of the question driving it through Boston traffic, of course, but on highways throughout eastern Massachusetts we had no trouble keeping up with traffic. Passing was achieved with relative ease as long as we picked our spots.

EPA rates the G4 at 37 miles per gallon in combined driving (35 city, 42 highway). Those numbers approach hybrid numbers.

We managed to get the onboard computer up to 44.2 mpg on a trip from Newburyport to Logan Airport, through the Ted Williams Tunnel and Boston traffic, then on the Southeast Expressway to Middleborough.

Overall, our average was 36.8 mpg. A green ECO icon lights up on the instrument panel, ostensibly rewarding a driver for economical operation. At first, we wondered if it signified a selectable driving mode such as Normal, Eco, or Sport. Not in this case. The only way to shut off the Eco light was to push harder on the accelerator.

Pushing like that made the already noisy engine even louder. To be fair, the engine might not be a lot louder than the competition’s, but Mitsubishi obviously saved some weight and cost by not worrying about extra insulation. The G4 weighs 2,194 pounds, making it a flyweight on roads filled with 4,000-pound SUVs.

Even when the engine isn’t working hard, there is considerable road noise in the cabin. Solution: Turn up radio volume.

There are a few features we consider mandatory for an acceptable vehicle: rearview camera, rear window defroster, variable speed wipers, and cruise control.

The Mirage had them all, and they worked well.

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Steering was fine while driving around town but at highway speeds we found ourselves making constant corrections. (Lane-keeping assist isn’t available).

The G4 feels like it sits up high. Part of that is the driving position (a good thing) and part is a less-refined suspension. Ground clearance is 6.3 inches. However, the Mirage feels solid if you set up your path through the curves and lay on some power (a relative term here) in the process.

Inside, materials are, to be kind, basic. Highlights were a leather-wrapped wheel, which had a comfortable configuration, and gloss black trim panels offsetting a dark charcoal cloth. Dash and door panels are hard plastic. The two main cupholders were too small for my insulated coffee mug (don’t remember that happening before), though a third holder at the back of the center console (the one for the rear-seat passengers) did accommodate it.

Speaking of the rear seat, legroom was fine and two adults fit comfortably.

The driver’s seat had three adjustments—back and forward, up and down, manual lumbar dial. A two-hour drive brought no unusual complaints from back, hips, or knees.

Instrumentation was basic—a speedometer and tach. The fuel gauge is an LCD readout located in a box with the odometer. The 6.5-inch main audio display worked well with both volume and tuning knobs, easy to create presets, and user-friendly Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow you further audio options.

We missed a few items during our test. A center armrest was one. Satellite radio was another. An outside temperature readout was a third, especially on a week when there was a lot of precipitation and temperatures hovered around freezing.

Door handles are the lift-up latch type that blend into the body. It’s a nice look, but they felt flimsy.

The G4 has pleasant surprises, too, including items such as automatic climate control, heated seats, and basic safety features such as seven air bags, stability control, and hill-start assist.

Bottom line: It’s a decent value proposition, gets you where you want to go, and covers all the basics.

Bill Griffith can be reached at wgriff@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $17,830/$17,830. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 35 city/42 highway/37 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 36.8 mpg. Drivetrain: 1.2-liter, 3-cylinder, CVT, front-wheel-drive. Body: 5-passenger sedan.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 78. Torque: 74 lb.-ft. Overall length: 169.5 in. Wheelbase: 100.4 in. Height: 59.2 in. Width: 65.7 in. Curb weight: 2,194 lbs.

THE GOOD

Fuel economy, basic value proposition.

THE BAD

Less-refined suspension, steering, interior than many competitors.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Decent basic transportation with a great warranty.

ALSO CONSIDER

Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris.

Bill Griffith can be reached at wgriff@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.