The new Mitsubishi Mirage armors up for the local auto industry’s long march to recovery

The tried-and-tested formula gets bolstered by a bold look and upgraded infotainment
by Niky Tamayo | Aug 28, 2021

“The G4’s legendary frugality and ease of ownership should keep owners happy beyond this initial honeymoon phase”

There’s no denying that 2020 was a bloodbath in terms of automotive sales. Well, a bloodbath in terms of business, in general. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it’s an exit sign or yet another roadblock, we’re not quite sure yet, but the automotive industry is rebounding from its yearlong slump as people get back to work. Which means people need wheels, and now have the money again to buy new cars.

And over the past year, many of the few cars actually sold had the familiar triple-diamond badge, the ‘mitsu-bishi,’ plastered to their front end. One of the cornerstones of the brand’s sales success is the Mirage, a subcompact economy car whose fuel economy is second to none, and which is one of the few cars actually produced in the Philippines in volume. But as the market opens up once again, can the new Mirage-based G4 hold its position in an increasingly crowded and crossover-addicted market?

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

The G4 comes out of the gate swinging, with the new ‘dynamic shield’ front end giving it a more aggressive, more serious look. Other changes fall under the “blink and you’ll miss it” category. Slightly more aggressive swept-spoke alloy wheels. Revised taillights. A subtle bodykit—on this top-of-the-line variant—that sharpens up the sheet metal. Sheet metal that hasn’t changed since the introduction of the model eight years ago. But that new face and kit, paired with a selection of businesslike, metallic color options, certainly give it a more premium feel than before.

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And keeping the steel bits identical keeps costs—and vehicle price—in check, helping the brand to extend the life of the local stamping plant and assembly line that started churning out G4s four years ago. This local production has contributed in no small way to Mitsubishi’s success, exempting the car from the punitive “safeguard duty” levied by the Department of Trade and Industry on foreign-made cars earlier in the year.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

You’ll find a little more change on the inside. Piano-black and textured black finishes give it a more focused look than the black-and-cream scheme of the old GLS. Red-accented ‘carbon-fiber’ patterned instruments give off a racy vibe, but it’s otherwise quite restrained. Not much has changed with the leatherette-wrapped steering wheel with its piano-black inserts, but it does feel nice under the fingertips.

No leatherette in here for the seats, though attractive new fabric spices things up and should prove harder-wearing. They do feel somewhat more supportive than the old ones, but we’ll need more seat time to confirm how much more. What doesn’t require more seat time to measure are the improvements in the in-car-entertainment system. The new head unit features more touchscreen area, at a full seven inches, while still retaining easy-to-use physical controls for quick functions. It also finally supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As long as you have a decent cable, you can sync your phone to the head unit for music streaming and navigation. Sound is good, by the standards of this class—certainly better than in my old Mirage—but not groundbreaking in any way.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

Then again, the G4 doesn’t need to be groundbreaking. This is, after all, an entry-level sedan. But at the time of its release, the Mirage platform certainly was a quantum leap for Mitsubishi. This was the brand going back to the basics of what an economy car should be, paring it down to its bare essentials.

This meant a base three-cylinder engine, to save both weight and fuel. No extra friction or weight from a fourth cylinder, which made 26km/L at a trot on the highway dead easy. This also meant that the engine bay could be smaller, with fewer engine supports and crossmembers. The 3A92 isn’t the quietest of engines, and the CVT isn’t going to get your pulse racing, but it’s got some grunt for a 1.2-liter unit. This is a proven workhorse that gets the job done. From experience, maintenance costs are impressively low, with only three liters of oil required to top it up at every change.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

The high-stiffness RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) chassis, on the other hand, provides excellent crash safety while boasting ultra-lightweight construction. At a base weight of 900kg, the G4 sedan is supermini-light, while providing the legroom and utility of a regular subcompact sedan. Rear legroom is impressive, even compared with some bigger cars, and the trunk is a full 450 liters in size. Granted, you do give up some elbow room to bigger subcompacts, but for those who love to travel light, this is the current class champion.

For all this focus on light weight and efficiency, this new G4 I’m driving certainly doesn’t feel spartan. I’ve got the A/C humming along, keeping me cool without howling. The driving position feeling more laid-back and natural than the stiff upright position some small cars demand. The steering still isn’t the best in the world, but it’s finger-twirling light when you’re making tight turns, and body motions are well-controlled. Almost sporty, in fact.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

A standard rear camera on the GLS makes parking a breeze, but you honestly don’t need much help on a car this easy to drive. Standard ABS, EBD, dual airbags, and Isofix mounts help provide peace of mind, and make this unpretentious little car a solid choice for family use. And with the improvements in refinement and materials, you won’t feel like you’re consciously downgrading when you move into a G4. Not anymore.

But this newfound civility and respectability comes at a price. While this GLS we’re driving is very price-competitive with similarly equipped cars, at just P899,000, the base GLX MT sits at P769,000—a P30,000 jump over the previous model and a fair bit more than other base-model sedans. Bundled with this price, however, is a free two-year service guarantee, which includes disinfecting services in a nod to the ongoing pandemic. Even beyond that, the G4’s legendary frugality and ease of ownership should keep owners happy beyond this initial honeymoon phase.

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PHOTO: Christian Halili

So, that’s the new G4. Something old, something new, something borrowed, nothing blue. Only Red, Gray, and Titanium in metallic finish. If you want white, you’ll have order it special. In whatever color you get it, the G4 is an attractive and well-thought-out little car, one of the few holdouts against the crossover invasion. And hold out it has, with over 90,000 in local sales over the past several years. That’s a significant chunk of the G4’s global production. Granted, it’s a drop in the bucket compared with the global crossover epidemic. But in a new normal, with a leaner market and more modest economic outlook, it may just be the ticket for getting a lot of people back on their feet and back on the street.

For a rundown on the 2021 Mitsubishi Mirage G4’s variants, prices, and specs, click here

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PHOTO: Christian Halili
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