SEE ALSO: Mitsubushi Buyer's Guide
Although best-known currently for sport-utilities and sports cars, Mitsubishi also makes some very interesting sedans. The Galant is the company's entry in the ever-popular, ultracompetitive midsized, middle-class sedan category. Some of Mitsubishi's sports car proficiency must have rubbed off on the Galant. It has its own unique character and more than holds its own against the toughest competition in the automobile business.
The Galant is in the middle of the midsized class in size, and is offered in three trim levels. All are very well-equipped for their market positions. Changes are minor for 1998, with a new heavy-duty starter and battery and solar-tinted glass for protection against ultraviolet light on all, and trim enhancements on the midlevel ES and premium LS models. The Galant is offered only with a 4-cylinder engine, but that 2.4-liter powerplant is a strong performer with a frugal appetite for fuel.
The mid-level ES model is the most popular Galant, and I've had two different examples over the past months. First was a late 1997 car with a 4-speed automatic transmission, which I had just before the model-year changeover. More recently, I had a week with a 1998 Galant ES with the 5-speed stick shift. This is a new offering, and adds a sporty touch to the car. Both were equipped with the "Premium Package" option group, and so were nearly identical except for the transmission. In either form, the Mitsubishi Galant ES is an enjoyable car with ample space and comforts, and a sporty attitude.
APPEARANCE: A touch of elegance, a touch of sportiness. The Galant is an unostentatious, gently-rounded, medium-sized sedan with subtle styling. The ES and LS models have been brought upscale a bit in looks this year with chrome trim around the side windows. The double "D"-shaped grille is now black with chrome accents. The real air intake is below the body-colored bumper and has a similarity to that of Mitsubishi's Eclipse sports car. More sportiness is found in the new eight-spoked alloy wheels, optional on the ES, and subtly-sculpted side panels with gentle fender flares. A high, sharply-truncated rear deck helps reduce aerodynamic drag to a low level and provides plenty of trunk space.
COMFORT: Interior materials of the Galant ES are high-grade synthetics, although leather is found in the top-level LS. The ES has plenty to offer - standard equipment includes power windows, mirrors, and door locks, very good air conditioning, and a 6-speaker AM/FM/cassette audio system. The supportive front bucket seats are manually adjustable, as is the steering wheel. The rear bench seat has plenty of room for medium-sized adults, and folds completely down to increase cargo capacity. The trunk is commendably large and useful, with a low liftover. With the rear seat folded down, a fully-assembled bicycle fits easily in the car. The instrument panel is designed to give the driver all necessary information at a glance and helps to give the Galant its sporty character. A shaded area behind and above the inside rear-view mirror helps prevent glare when driving into the sun, an unusual feature in this class.
SAFETY: The 1998 Mitsubishi Galant has safety-cage chassis construction with front and rear crumple zones, dual airbags, child- safety door locks, and side-impact protection beams.
ROADABILITY: The Galant has a sporty character that is rare in its category. While not quite a "sports sedan" in the purist sense, it is nonetheless an enjoyable driver's car. Call it a "sporty sedan" in the manner of a "sporty coupe," but with extra room. Much credit should go to the multilink independent suspension, mounted to rubber- isolated crossmembers to lessen road noise and suspension harshness. The result is a good ride comfort and good handling. The power- assisted rack and pinion steering has just the right effort. The Galant is a fun car in a class where fun can be hard to find.
PERFORMANCE: No V6? No problem. The Galant's 2.4-liter, 141- horsepower four has more than enough power for any situation. It is especially enjoyable with the new standard 5-speed manual gearbox, which makes it a great family sporty sedan with a high stealth factor. But because of the engine's great torque characteristics, the 4-speed automatic decreases performance very little, and can be a sanity-saver in commute traffic. Adaptive electronic control software "learns" the driver's style and road conditions, increasing efficiency. It doesn't hunt for gears on hills, and shifts quickly and smoothly. Fuel economy is exemplary with either transmission. I got an average of 26 mpg with the 5-speed and 25 with the automatic.
CONCLUSIONS: The Mitsubishi Galant ES combines functional space with sporty performance and handling, and good fuel economy.
SPECIFICATIONSM Base Price $ 17,670 Price As Tested $ 20,860 Engine Type single overhead cam, 16 valve, inline 4-cylinder with dual balance shafts Engine Size 2.4 liters / 145 cu. in. Horsepower 141 @ 5500 Torque (lb-ft) 148 @ 3000 Transmission 5-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 103.7 in. / 187.6 in. Curb Weight 2877 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 20.4 Fuel Capacity 16.9 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular Tires P/60 HR 15 Goodyear Eagle GA Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, antilock optional Suspension, front/rear independent multilink with coil springs / independent multilink with coil springs Drivetrain front engine, front wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 23 / 30 / 26 0 to 60 mph 9.5 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 17.2 sec Coefficient of Drag (cd) 0.29 OPTIONS AND CHARGES Antilock Brakes $ 965 Premium Package - including: power sunroof, 15-inch alloy wheels and 195/60 R15 tires, foglamps, remote keyless entry, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, Homelink system, rear seat heater ducts $ 1,805 Destination Charge $ 420