Review: 2022 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 GLS CVT

Is it still the top choice for fleet owners and penny pinchers?
by Niky Tamayo | Jan 7, 2022
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PHOTO: Niky Tamayo
CAR MODELS IN THIS ARTICLE

When it launched in 2013, the Mirage G4 was noteworthy for being the lightest sedan on the market. Not the prettiest. Not the sportiest. But at 905kg, definitely the lightest. And arguably the most economical. And priced so low, a friend and I calculated that dealership margins on it were abysmal. Not negative-numbers abysmal, as with the hatchback, but low enough that Mitsubishi dealers needed huge volumes to make a profit.

And that they got. Because with the G4’s easy maintenance and ultra-low fuel consumption, nothing at the time—not even the Chinese—could match it for value.

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But the G4 has grown over the last decade. Well, not physically. Most of the body panels and the interior on this latest generation are nigh-on identical to the ones on the 2013 car. What has changed significantly is the price. Where the ‘fully-loaded’ 2013 GLS launched at P700,000 pesos, this one stickers at P899,000. I drove a seven-seat SUV last year that cost less than that. One big enough to drive a Mirage into. Even the Koreans have bigger sedans that cost considerably less than the mini-Mitsubishi.

So is there still a place on the market for the G4? Let’s find out.

Styling

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The big news here is the new front end, which apes the more exotic-looking Xpander without actually doing too much that’s controversial. The headlights, for one, are nearly the same shape as the old ones, and the grille is a pretty standard straight bar-type assembly. Much of the radical ‘X’ motif is chrome inlays and black plastic on the bumper. The sheetmetal is largely carried over, the only notable changes being a simpler hood stamping and the removal of the front cheek-lights, both moves probably saving a dozen-odd grams of weight.

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The new paint colors are conservative as well, varying shades of white and gray, but this red metallic is quite eye-catching, even if the paint is a bit thin—more weight savings there. New 15-inch swept-spoke alloys come standard across the range and do add quite a bit of flair to the otherwise unremarkable lines.

Interior

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The cabin is immediately familiar to anyone who’s owned a Mirage or G4 over the past several years. But there’s nothing wrong with that. As opposed to the tan interior on the older GLS, the all-black scheme here should be easier to live with, the dark seat fabric hiding the scuffs and spills of daily use better. Base seat support feels good, though I dislike the way the stitched seam in the middle of the backrest pushes into my back as I lean into it. But that should loosen up as the miles pile on, and the legroom is still remarkably generous for the size. The G4’s rear legroom is a match for bigger sedans, and the fold-down armrest with cupholders helps provide some separation on the narrow bench.

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Unfortunately, lightweight construction and space-saving mean you don’t get door pockets back there, or a front center armrest. And the thin rear seats don’t fold for a pass-through into the usefully large trunk. Furthermore, the lightweight doors, hood, and trunk feel flimsy, allowing more noise to filter in from the outside than in other cars.

Engine performance

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Weight savings are important here, because the G4 still packs a tiny 77hp 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine mated to the same continuously variable transmission. Hardly enough motor for a sedan, in this day and age, but a lesson in lightness and simplicity. Well, maybe a bit too simple. With just two-and-a-half engine mounts suspending the engine, noise and vibration are noticeable inside the cabin. And the single rubber O-ring that keeps the intake snorkel from rattling doesn’t do a very good job. The snorkel on this brand-new unit already shakes like Shakira at idle.

Still, if you’re a fleet owner, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of the setup. Replacing the air filter takes less than a minute. The CVT needs servicing every twelfth of never. The engine uses only three liters of oil every oil change. There’s so little weight that brake pad and shoe wear is negligible.

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Also attractive to peso-pinching purchasing officers is the economy. The G4 does double-digit economy in the city and over 22km/L on the highway with very little effort. Granted, this comes at the expense of being one of the slowest new sedans on the market, with 100kph coming up in 14sec. As long as you don’t have anyone else in the car with you and the wind is blowing in the right direction. But downgrade to the manual, with its feather-light shifter and clutch, and you can add another 3km/L to that, easily. You can also drop a second and a half from the 0-100kph time. Still not fast, but quite a bit more entertaining.

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Ride and handling

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Not that the G4 is all that exhilirating to drive, either way. But things have improved in that regard. Well, maybe. Where old G4s used 14-inch Bridgestone Ecopias and 15-inch Potenzas, the new model uses 185/55 R15 Michelin Energy XM2s across the range. While not the last word in performance, stiff construction makes the handling a bit less wayward than before. They’re relatively quiet at highway speeds, and dual center grooves promise better wet-weather performance to boot.

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There’s still quite a bit of body roll when you push it, but the rear seems to cope with a full load decently. Nobody will be singing paeans to the accuracy or fluency of the steering, but unlike the steering in the older hatch, it tracks steady on the highway and doesn’t take a million rotations to go around a U-turn. None of these changes elevate the driving experience much. Few will realize there’s any difference at all, but they make the G4 a bit easier to live with on a daily basis.

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Indeed, the G4 is one of the most painless cars to drive in traffic, with good sightlines and a narrow beam. Parking is made much easier by the rear camera. Not the highest resolution in the biz, but with a very smooth refresh rate and a good field of view.

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Extra features

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Aside from that rear camera, you get a new seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an upright pocket by the USB port for your phone—though that’s a bigger and more useful tray in the older Mirage without the USB port—and a four-speaker system. Which is lighter than a six-speaker system, yes, but at P900,000, I do expect a little more for my money.

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Otherwise, you get push-button ignition and exterior door and trunk locks with the remote keyfob, foglights, and an interior that feels quite a bit more high-rent than before, though not exactly overflowing with features. No power seats. No sunroof. No rear A/C.

Verdict

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In the end, these decisions keep the Mighty Mitsubishi lean and green. Even with the optional CVT, it weighs 940kg, over a 100kg lighter than any other sedan on the market. Except the Suzuki Dzire, but at under four meters long, that’s barely a full sedan. Used to be, it took exotic aluminum construction to achieve that level of weight savings. But while the G4 doesn’t cost exotic money, it’s no longer cheap, either. The Korean Reina/Soluto twins cost up to P100,000 less. For Mitsubishi G4 GLS money, you can even get into a Honda City, which is much larger and more powerful.

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But also costlier to run. Dzire aside, nothing in this segment can match the G4’s ultra-low servicing costs and carbon footprint. Especially when looking at the manual variant, which can achieve some truly mind-boggling numbers in traffic. When using the Mirage, I’ve gotten into the habit of buying gas ‘tingi-tingi,’ as tricycle drivers do. So it won’t be for everyone, but for the eternal cheapskate, the G4 still makes a lot of sense in 2022.

SPECS: 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 GLS CVT

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Price: P899,000
Engine: 1.2-liter gasoline I3
Power: 77hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 100Nm @ 4,000rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Layout: FWD
Seating: 5
Score: 16/20

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PHOTO: Niky Tamayo
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