Tiny car, tiny price. The 2020 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 is a small car at an attractive price, and it wants you to believe that’s enough. We’re not sure you should listen.

Some subcompacts (see the Fiat 500) manage to put a cheerful spin on their diminutive proportions, but the Mirage G4 isn't one of them. When automotive journalists lament that modern cars look like boring marshmallows, they may as well insert a picture of it.

To Mitsubishi’s credit, interior space is decent, but only in the hatchback. It offers 17.2 cubic feet of cargo space, which is even more than the mighty Honda Fit. The sedan doesn't fare so well, with a pedestrian 12.3 cubic feet.

But the Mirage G4’s biggest siren call is its price. Starting at $16,135 even after destination, it undercuts even its subcompact competition.

Tiny engine. Seriously. It's tiny. The 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine makes just 78 horsepower, which is anemic compared to anything except a moped.

The results are what you’d expect: the Mirage G4 takes more than 12 seconds to meander its way from 0-60 mph. Steep hills are trying; passing is all but impossible.

Small cars are often rescued by their handling, but the Mitsubishi fails there too. The turning radius is tight, but steering is vague and the suspension is somehow neither comfortable nor responsive. Above 60 mph, the short wheelbase makes for squirrely highway driving.

A five-speed manual transmission comes standard, but it fails to inject any fun into matters. We never thought we’d say this, but you may as well get the continuously variable transmission (CVT) for its extra fuel economy.

Speaking of which, the Mirage’s efficiency is its main selling point after the MSRP. Mitsubishi claims that the model is America’s most fuel-efficient non-hybrid compact car. With the CVT, a Mirage G4 achieves an EPA-estimated 37 miles per gallon combined, which is excellent by any standard.

Mitsubishi Mirage G4

More features, less quality. Mitsubishi does its best to stuff modern amenities into the Mirage G4’s frame, finding only limited success. Economy cars were never meant to be luxurious, but the base model still comes with cruise control and a 7-inch display for infotainment.

That infotainment system isn't compatible with smartphones, however – to use your Apple or Android device, you’ll need to step up at least a trim. Upper trims get unique alloys and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, but it feels like putting flowers in the laundry room.

The Mirage betrays its price in the materials. Hard plastics and thin cloth are the norm, with a generic design that left us guessing whether the dash is from 2020 or 2002. To cap it off, sound deadening is poor – at highway speeds, the complaining engine fills the cabin with droning.

Safety concerns. On the list of the features, the Mirage G4 lacks, safety tech would be near the top. Aside from airbags and stability control, Mitsubishi makes few gestures toward safety.

Automatic emergency braking isn't available, and neither is blind-spot monitoring. A rearview camera is the best the Mirage has to offer, but that’s required by law.

Safety may not be at the top of a subcompact car’s priorities, but the Mirage G4’s rivals (like the Fit) haven’t been so slow on the uptake.

Final thoughts. The 2020 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 excels in two categories: starting price and fuel efficiency. In both cases, it’s near the top of the rankings. Everywhere else, however, it’s a fiasco.

The engine wails without providing power, the interior constantly reminds you how cheap the Mirage G4 is, and the suspension doesn’t even let the driver have fun. The exterior is unremarkable, and the safety features – or lack thereof – are disappointing.

In short, it’s a hard car to recommend.

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