The importation and promotion of sedans was the next logical step for Japanese car companies after their initial forays into the North American car market. The popularity of their small, economical hatchbacks which swam against the tide of fuel-thirsty domestic behemoths that ruled the roads in the late 1970s gave companies like Toyota and Honda the 'in' they needed in order to begin to offer their larger but equally efficient vehicles. It also didn't hurt that these new Asian products boasted superior build quality when compared to some of the lackluster efforts spilling forth from Detroit in that era.
Mitsubishi was in somewhat of a unique position when it came to building a customer base in the United States. Firmly allied with Chrysler, the company was able to sell many of its vehicles in barely disguised form as re-badged Dodges, Chryslers and Plymouths. This might have helped with the automaker's bottom line, but it did little to reinforce the brand's image in the mind of car buyers. The company had a long history of sedan production in Japan, with some nameplates stretching all the way back to the 1960s. The high-tech Starion coupe and Tredia sedan went on sale in the United States under the three-diamond banner in 1982, marking the first time the company was able to spread their wings in their own full-fledged American dealerships. Mitsubishi would continue to sell cars in partnership with Chrysler, resulting in some of the more interesting co-branded vehicles available in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The 1990s brought new ownership and a new direction to the company, changing the company's sedan strategy and forcing them to deploy a more complete lineup that could better meet with the expectations of buyers. The linchpin of their new offerings was the four-door compact Lancer, which finally gave Mitsubishi an entry-level vehicle which was not a hatchback. This was followed up with the re-positioning of the Galant as a more upscale, sporty mid-size competitor, with the company hoping to muscle in on the group of car buyers traditionally more interested in buying a Nissan over a Toyota. Capping the triumvirate of Mitsubishi's sedan competitors was the near-luxury Diamante, an uncharacteristically large vehicle which unapologetically targeted American car buyers.
Those shopping for something a bit different as a secondhand car may not have initially considered test driving a Mitsubishi, but the company's under the radar status doesn't mean that there isn't excellent value to be found in their four door models. This article examines the features of the three vehicles listed above, which together represent the best used sedans available from Mitsubishi.
2002 - 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer
When it came time to replace the Mirage, Mitsubishi decided to start with a fresh slate and began to import the Lancer in 2002. Already a hit in Japan, the automaker felt that the well-proportioned Lancer would be able to compete well against the Corolla and Civic, both of which were strong sellers in the compact car market at the time. The Lancer was tangentially tied to the Lancer Evolution supercar which would make its first appearance in the United States a short time later.
Sporty, yet not over the top looks serve the 2002 - 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer well, with a re-design in 2003 further updating the vehicle's exterior appearance. The Lancer would see a series of smaller touches affect its styling for almost every model year moving forwards. Early Lancers come with a 120 horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, and while a 4-speed automatic is available as an option, all trim levels are outfitted with a 5-speed manual transmission as standard equipment. Later Ralliart editions of the vehicle could be ordered with a 2.4-liter engine pumping out 42 more horses.
The Lancer might be in the compact class, but like so many of its compatriots it has been engineered to maximize the amount of interior room available in a small package. As a result, passengers never feel cramped while riding in the vehicle, not even those relegated to the rear seats. The vehicle's interior is an exercise in simplicity, but this essentially means that Mitsubishi has not tried to overreach their buyer base - the Lancer is comfortable, economical basic transportation, not a feature-rich sedan. That being said, all Lancers come equipped with air conditioning and a CD player, with buyers being able to add on options like cruise control.
The 2002 - 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer provides good value on the used sedan market for buyers who interested in a reliable, entry-level car.
2004 - 2007 Mitsubishi Galant
For a time, the Galant was a sedan which had trouble building an identity of its own among car shoppers in the United States. While VR-4 editions of the vehicle added serious performance and high technology appeal, the standard editions of the sedan lingered near the edges of consumer consciousness, frequently coming in as an also-ran when it was even considered at all by those looking for a mid-size four-door.
Lower trim levels of the 2004 - 2007 Mitsubishi Galant come with a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine installed. With 160 horsepower and 157 lb-ft of torque, the engine provides decent motivation for the 3,300 lb bulk of the Galant through an automatic 4-speed transmission. A 3.8-liter V-6 is the next step up, churning out 230 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque through a semi-automatic version of the same transmission. Unfortunately, V-6 models are also substantially heavier than the entry-level versions, off-setting some but not all of the larger engine's extra dose of performance. In recognition of this, power was increased by almost 30 ponies for the 2007 Ralliart trim aimed at driving enthusiasts.
The 2004 - 2007 Mitsubishi Galant offers an interior package that is more than a match for most of the mid-size competition in terms of roominess and fit and finish. Optional leather seats do a great job of gripping occupants during harder cornering, and while interior appointments may at times seem a bit plain, there are enough features available to satisfy most buyers at the Galant's price point. Those looking for an extra hit of exclusivity should definitely target the Ralliart model, which offers not only more robust performance but also nicer leather, an LCD information screen and a more powerful stereo system.
The used sedan market is very competitive at the mid-size level, but those who have no desire to join the Toyota or Honda herd would do well to check out the 2004 - 2007 Galant to see what kind of alternative Mitsubishi can provide.
1999 - 2004 Mitsubishi Diamante
Long before Hyundai decided to make an affordable luxury car for the people, Mitsubishi was offering the Diamante, a sedan that was surprisingly large for a Japanese manufacturer and which seemed to be derived from the same mold as the Mazda 929, (later called the Millenia). The Diamante was comfortable and feature rich but not overly expensive, with exterior styling that remained conservative without seeming dull.
All 1999 - 2004 Diamante's benefit from Mitsubishi's 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Rated at 210 horsepower and 231 lb-ft of torque, the motor does an admirable job of providing smooth power delivery to the full-size sedan. Despite its large dimensions, the Diamante weights only 3,300, helping the vehicle to feel much more spry while cornering than its size would suggest. Fuel economy for the Diamante is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 25 miles per gallon on the highway, and the vehicle's shifting duties are handled by a 4-speed automatic.
The Diamante's interior is at an entirely different level when compared against other models in the Mitsubishi lineup. The overall impression is that the plastics, wood grain and other trim used in the cockpit have been chosen with extra care, helping to make the large sedan feel more upscale than its price indicates. Passengers will enjoy the extra space of the extended platform, and front seats feature leather and ten different directions of power adjustment. A huge trunk rounds out the plus-sized features of the Diamante's well-engineered design.
The 1999 - 2004 Diamante was the last generation of the vehicle produced by Mitsubishi, which decided to abandon the large car market and focus on smaller vehicles and crossover SUV's. While it might be rarer than other used sedans, the Diamante is worth seeking out for those who want to avoid paying for brand image and instead see the value of their dollars reflected in the car's equipment level and overall quality.