Selling Points: Strong engine
Deal Breakers: Visibility, as-tested price, materials, comfort, rear seat access and room, interior design
Our Advice: Though its competitors number few, most are arguably better than this Mitsu. Look past the engine and warranty and strongly consider the alternatives.
For as long as many folks can remember, the U.S. car market has been increasingly dominated by Japanese manufacturers while domestic automakers have recorded declining sales. Today, it seems that Fords are fine for rental lots, while Toyotas and Hondas are preferred for personal driveways. However, a shift is occurring, whereby American cars are becoming desirable and worthy of consideration again, now serving as an example for certain Japanese nameplates that seemed to have lost their way.
One such company, Mitsubishi, has been selling vehicles in the United States for about 25 years. Among the brand’s most impressive early models was the Eclipse coupe, available at one time with a gutsy turbocharged engine and road-hugging all-wheel drive, while Chevy was pushing its mundane Cavalier. Those were the good days when Japan delivered sporty and engaging cars, whereas the domestics delivered boring, low-quality transportation. Fast forward to 2006 and Toyota and Honda are still building hot-selling rides, and surprisingly, so is GM. Its reinvigorated large suvs are well-built and stylish, and models like the Pontiac Solstice and Cadillac CTS are attracting buyers. Ironically, 2006 is also the year of the redesigned Mitsubishi Eclipse, now featuring poor build quality, many low-grade interior materials, a lofty price, a powerful V6 that lacks the spirited character of the original turbo four-banger, and a bloated exterior design. Plus, it’s a front-driver only.
There seems to be one simple rule adopted by all successful car companies – build vehicles people want to drive and sell them at reasonable prices. And as a caveat, build them well. Toyota and Honda get it, Nissan gets it, Hyundai and Kia are starting to get it, and it’s even starting to sink into GM’s thick head. But after spending a week in the 2006 Eclipse GT, we’d say Mitsubishi needs to do some studying. Maybe it can call Detroit about getting a tutor.