Mitsubishi Motors is one of those car manufacturers who have a low key profile in this country, no doubt handicapped by the voluntary import quota, but who, undaunted, keep coming up with interesting models.
Last June we reviewed its “Dynamic Four” Galant Saloon, so called because of its unique combination of four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel anti-lock braking. As we noted at the time, the car impressed with both its stability and handling.
Introduced at the same time as the saloon, but very much in its shadow, was the Galant Coupé. It was not fitted with the Dynamic Four hardware and it was only available in front-wheel drive form powered by a SOHC 2-litre engine as a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, but no longer. In an effort to broaden the technological appeal of its cars, Mitsubishi now offers the Dynamic Four package on this model as well.
In fact, coupé is an incorrect nomenclature for there are more than two doors, the only difference between this and the saloon being the opening rear hatch. While the interior remains the same, Mitsubishi has taken advantage of the new variation to uprate the 2-litre, 4-cylinder, twin cam, 16-valve engine but with a catalytic convertor remaining an essential part of the engine. The modifications can only be found internally where revised inlet and outlet ports complement a reprofiled camshaft to give both better torque and power output. The only external giveaway is the increased diameter of the exhaust system.
It was most refreshing having the chance to be re-acquainted with this system. The surefootedness of the car was reassuring as we drove along some pleasant roads to the north of Nantes in France, although it has to be said that the conditions were never poor enough for the set-up to be meanfully tested. To have used Ford’s route for the four-wheel drive Cosworth in Spain would have allowed us to form a better judgement.
The car itself was comfortable to drive with adequate room in the back for all but the tallest of passengers. As typical of Mitsubishi practice, the two main dials confronting the driver, the speedometer on the left and the tachometer on the right, were huge, but neat. The twin trip meters in the speedometer may not be used a great deal, but are nevertheless a useful item. Windscreen wipers on the left-hand stalk and indicators and lights on the right-hand follows usual Japanese practice, but can cause confusion being as they are a mirror image of most European practice. The horn button is sensibly placed in the centre of the wheel. With the cloth-lined seats being adjustable in six different positions and the steering column as well, there was no reason to complain about the driving position.
If there was one aspect that was disappointing, it was the fact that it was hard to believe there was a 16-valve, twin cam engine lurking underneath the heavy bonnet, so sluggish was the car. More than anything, it seemed that one of Mitsubishi’s famed turbochargers was missing. The car, though, was quite happy to live at a rapid gait once brought up to speed and it did not seem unduly stressed.
With an increase in price varying from one half to two per cent as from April 16, the 2000 GLSi 5-door Coupe in manual form is now £13,669 and £14,419 as an automatic. Whether many customers will be prepared to pay another £3280 for the “Dynamic Four” system remains to be seen, but for the extra element of safety the model brings with it, it seems a small price to pay.
Mitsubishi has not spent its time on just uprating the Galant Coupe, however, for it has also been rejuvenating the Colt and Lancer models. So as to dispense with confusion, the Colt is the baby of the model available in 1300cc, 1500cc and, until now, 1600cc versions.
The arrival of the new 1836cc, 4cylinder, twin cam, 16-valve engine, however, has done wonders for the car. Utilising lessons learnt from the larger Mitsubishi engines, the new unit is fitted with the manufacturer’s ‘Silent Shafts’ to reduce engine noise as well as with a needle roller bearing system for the rocker arms which increases efficiency and decreases noise and vibration. Torque is improved by seven per cent and fuel efficiency improved by a claimed 15 per cent at idling speeds. Now developing 134 bhp at 6500 rpm, compared to 124 bhp of the 1600cc engine and 119 lb ft at 4500 rpm (105 lb ft on the superceded unit), the car’s overall performance is obviously better than it ever was. The claimed top speed has increased by 3 mph to 125 mph and 0-62 mph is less than 8 seconds.
These figures and times are really all very academic even though they do provide a criteria by which to judge it and other cars. It is only in driving that the difference can be fully appreciated. It may only be another 200cc, but the internal improvements have transformed it into a sweet little unit: its willingness to rev and its improved pulling power allied to one of the slickest of gearboxes, gives this car the edge over many rivals.
As with the Galant 4WD/4WS Coupé, we never really had the opportunity to put it to the test over demanding roads, but its ride was good and the handling, so far as we could tell, predictable for a frontdriven car. Being a three-door hatch, there is naturally a premium on space, the car losing out in headroom, in the rear seats and in the luggage compartment.
At £10,779 it is not exactly cheap, but for those in the “hot hatch” market, it is worthy of consideration.
Mitsubishi’s Lancer models have always passed me by, but the chance to make their acquaintance in France was very welcome.
The Lancer is available in several different guises, but unlike Colt there is not a base 1300cc model, the range instead starting with a 1500cc engine. New to the line up, however, is the saloon and Liftback powered by the same 1836cc engine as found in the Colt GTi, capable of running on both leaded and unleaded petrol, linked to the same smooth gearbox. Being heavier than the Colt, though, both versions of the Lancer reach 62 mph from standstill in a claimed 8.3 seconds, which is still respectable by any standards.
Never having taken notice of the Lancer before, I was most impressed at just how pretty the model was, both in Liftback and saloon versions. Roomy inside, with a similar dashboard layout to the Colt, a sunroof option (not available on the Colt) comfortable seats and plenty of legroom, it presented an attractive package.
If there was one cause for concern, however, it was the build quality. On the saloon test car, which had less than 2000 miles on the clock, there was an occasional, but irritating, rattle emanating from the scuttle, but otherwise it was a splendid little car.
For the outlay of £12,319 you can purchase the 16V Liftback model while £12,069 is the asking price for the saloon, WPK
Ace rally driver Erik Carlsson has given his name to two more cars in the Saab range. The 9000 Carlsson has been joined by a CD Carlsson and a 900 Carlsson. The CD Carlsson is the top model and retails for £26,495. It continues the Saab tradition of combining luxury with performance, and provides plenty of both. Indeed it is a very impressive motor car, but taking into account the price tag one is inclined to be a bit more critical, and it is then that several details tend to let down the car as a whole.
Saab has never been a firm to place a premium on beautiful styling, and it could be argued that the CD is no exception. Several people said that they thought it was ugly, and while I think that might be a slightly unfair description, actively to like it would definitely be an acquired state of mind. Saab describe the car as having “a purposeful but dignified exterior, with an elegant body kit and spoilers, including a cheeky new rear bridge spoiler, driving lamps, and unique body striping.” Now, an elegant body kit is most usually a contradiction in terms, and the only circumstances under which I can imagine a rear spoiler being cheeky is if it’s on a racing car and you’ve put it on upside down. Pointless is the descriptive term that springs most readily to mind when the actual device sits almost entirely sheltered from the airstream, and the car is meant for the open road. I agree that not everyone sticks to 70 mph, and I also agree that there is a place for front air dams and side skirts, to limit underbody turbulence and increase stability at high speed; but so often these things look as though they have been glued on as an afterthought. They usually have. Prejudices aside, Saab has made a good job of a bad practice, and in fact the striking styling will compete well in the performance/luxury car section of the market. The majority of one’s time is not spent abstractly gazing at a car but inside and actually driving the thing, and so more importantly the interior of the Saab is very impressive. The seats provide excellent lateral and head support, and the drivers seat can be adjusted to suit any individual driving position. The passenger seats are more than adequate, there being plenty of leg room in the back, and a long space between the dashboard and front seat passenger. Head room is also good. Seatbelts have built-in tensioners and are height adjustable. Windows, sun-roof and mirrors are all electronically controlled. Excellent ventilation rounds off the high level of comfort and for an extra £1,695 one can purchase an Automatic Climate Control system.
The controls are all well positioned and are clearly marked. Instrumentation is complete and easy to read. There is a tachometer and speedometer, a temperature and fuel gauge, and a gauge marked ‘turbo’ which indicates the pressure in the inlet manifold. There is an electronic display that indicates your present fuel consumption, which is thoroughly depressing if you wish to travel at all quickly. There is also an information display which can indicate the average fuel consumption, the range of the car taking into account the fuel in the tank and the present consumption, the ambient temperature and the battery charge.
The steering column is adjustable, although there is no reference in the manual as to how it is adjusted. Visibility out of the front is excellent but out of the rear is appalling, no doubt because of the ‘state of the art’ high boot. Reversing into tight spaces is very awkward indeed. The gearstick is well positioned but the car is very much let down by the gearbox: changes up to and down from fourth are good, if a little notchy, but finding fifth gear is not as easy as it should be. Too often one catches the gate between third and fifth and the change is spoiled. It is a problem one could get used to, but then for £26,495 one shouldn’t have to. The clutch is light and progressive, but there is nowhere to put your left foot when the clutch is not in use.
The steering is one of the Saab’s highlights and is perfectly weighted. It is exact and responsive at any speed, and combines with the crisp but comfortable ride to communicate precisely to the driver the attitude of the car under heavy cornering, or travelling at high speed along bumpy and twisty roads. There are traces of torque steer under heavy acceleration, and this is particularly marked when accelerating hard out of a corner. The steering would also wander, though not uncontrollably, under heavy braking. This puzzled me, and I could only surmise that the short suspension movement became so compressed under braking that the wheels would be steered partly by undulations in the road surface. Despite this slightly unnerving tendency the anti-lock brakes pulled the car up sharply and safely.
As I have already indicated the handling is excellent. The predominant tendency is towards understeer, but only slightly, and in a way that does not make the car tiring to drive. The ride is firm but not harsh, and the Saab feels thoroughly surefooted. However it does need to be driven with a certain amount of respect; accelerating through a corner demands concentration in order to avoid being caught out by the kick of the turbo when it starts to work at about 3000 rpm. If driven carelessly the front wheels can break away, and you need to back off before the car will corner properly again.
The engine which only runs on unleaded fuel, is a four cylinder turbocharged unit of 1985cc and produces 195 bhp at 5600 rpm. The model we tested was fitted with a catalytic converter, and this reduced the power to 185 bhp. Peak torque comes in at 3000 rpm, and it is in the area between 3000 and 4500 rpm that the engine is most useable. Below this speed the engine is quite docile, the thrust comes in sharply at 3000 rpm but after 4500 rpm seems to flatten out. Although the car will keep accelerating all the way up to 6000 rpm, it is equally effective to change earlier and use the power slightly lower in the rev range. However the lack of power below 2500 rpm necessitates frequent use of the gearbox; acceleration in fourth or fifth gear below this engine speed is very slow. Once one is used to the power band, and the gearchange, the Saab can be moved along very quickly indeed. If you want to burn out your clutch and tyres you can accelerate to 60 mph in about six seconds. Much more importantly the acceleration needed for overtaking between 40 and 80 mph is available by the bucketful. Daunting rows of ditherers and caravans can be dealt with in one glorious surge of power.
The CD Carlsson is an impressive car. It is an effortless motorway cruiser and also provides plenty of fun along a country road, but this generally successful blend of luxury with sporting performance is let down by one or two annoying details which, considering the price, really shouldn’t be there to bother one. CSR-W.