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Letter From Europe - In California With Mitsubishi, Kia, Jeep, Subaru And Lots Of Snow, And Sun Of Course


Letter from Europe
by Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief

Funny lot these automotive journalists. There are some manufacturers who cannot put a foot wrong  such as BMW and then there are car companies who cannot do a thing right. Take Mitsubishi for instance. Time after time they get hammered and in my humble opinion unjustly, if my test of the Eclipse Cross  is anything to go by.

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In terms of looks it is a stunner looks more like 40 thousand dollars than 25. Then there is the astonishing 100 thousand miles 10 year warranty. To quote the theme song of the new Bond movie-nobody does it better.

During my test-both on and off road the Mitsu was quiet and comfortable. Cruising at 75 miles per hour on 101 in Marin it kept up with all  but the Ferraris and Porsches zapping by. And I got 29 miles per gallon. I am not saying that there are no SUVs which are more suitable for a dash up to Tahoe but for the money the Eclipse (has to be the most stupid name ever) is good value.

The horn is so bad that if they replace today it is already to late. The infosystem is fine, confusing initially but  ok given 5 minutes of your time. Seats fine, brakes fine, mirrors fine, lane departure a blessing.

Ride and handling need some TLC. Not dangerous but not quite right. If I were given the task of improve the Eclipse, well, I would change the name, pop in a 2.5 liter engine-I am sure there is one in the store in Japan, get someone like Lotus to improve the ride and handling and as the saying goes bob’s your uncle.

When I suggest going to Lotus there is a history of major manufacturers going to that little company in Hethel in England about an hour and a half from London. Their test driver Roger Becker was a legend when it came to problem solving and I am sure the new guy is just as good. Whether the good folks at Mitsubishi will listen to an old scribe like me remains to be seen. I am talking about pennies.

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The Kia Niro is of course an entirely different kettle of fish. For a start it is fully electric and I would suggest at or near the top of the tree. The price-just under 40 thousand dollars is highly competitive and the mileage at 239 is about 100 miles more than several rivals. 

There is plenty of torque or to put it another way-it goes like smoke. The infotainment is best in class and unlike many of its rivals it is available in all 50 States.

Charging is a problem, let’s not pretend. The ideal ownership calls for living in a home with electric outlets nearby. In my case we have an outlet I was able to plug  in the Niro. By morning it was fully charged and ready to run. With regards to the range the Niro might just get you to Tahoe but with the heater blasting and the music full on it would be touch and go.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. My neighbor, an 89 year old lawyer drove an EV for the very first time in his life. Took him all of 5 minutes to figure it all out! 

With the  Glasgow conference in mind clearly more and more people will be looking to buy EVs. Right now demand exceeds supply but when the chips all manufacturers are waiting for start arriving in normal quantities EVs will become more readily available.

If you can wait for another year I have some good news! The company just announced a new Niro and I understand that it will reach the United States during 2022. So while there is very little wrong with the current Niro you might like to wait for the new one.

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Another Mitsubishi came my way the other day, the  2022 Outlander SEL. Starting at 26 thousand dollars. The interior is especially impressive as is the company’s exceptional 10 year 100 thousand warranty.

As we don’t go into San Francisco any more-especially with an out of state  Number plate, we can only report on the highway mileage. The factory’s figure of 31 miles per gallon is correct,  cruising at 65 miles we actually managed 33, a pretty impressive figure. The engine is a 2.5 inline four cylinder offering 181 horsepower and 181 pound feet torque. It has  a CVT automatic transmission and which ever way you look at it the verdict has to be -gutless. Don’t get me wrong. It will get you to your destination in comfort, as I’ve said earlier the interior is exceptional for a 30 thousand dollar automobile. It will just take a while, especially fully laden going up to Tahoe.

Still, all in all I think the Outlander is a well built product in need of a little bit more oomph. Price wise it is highly competitive. Take it for a test drive before you spend 5-10 thou more for a rival.

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The Jeep Grand Cherokee was like having a long lost brother to our family’s much loved Jeep. We have had it for 10 years and it never missed a beat. Minor things here and there but all in all, like a trusted friend.

The one we had for test did of course have some newer features such as the updated infosystem which is quite exceptional. The fit and finish were perfect, in all fairness and I know I am biased but if you were to put a three pointed star on the front and asked 20 thousand dollars more most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid. The interior had a 90 thousand dollar feel and the whole product reeks of class.

The reliability I can vouch for, so the only sore point if you live in California is that at the time of writing gas prices are hovering around the 5 dollar mark. So if you can afford to fill her up at Around 100 dollars a pop then I have no hesitation in recommend it.

Our car has been to the desert, been to ski resorts and never missed a beat. By the way it is the only car in the family Frankl stable and there must be a reason. It is that good.

The price range for the latest 21/22 models range from 33 thousand to 88, I think the one costing about 65 is the way to go. You will have to watch your right foot, judicious use of the pedal will make a big difference between 16 and 22 miles per gallon.

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The Subaru Wilderness is an old friend having tested it recently. Second time round I liked it just as much as the first time round! With all the snow in the Sierras it would be just the ticket.

Raised suspension, all terrain tires-just what the doctor ordered. I would still welcome a little more horsepower, 182 is not what dreams are made of but it is adequate. The Subi is utterly reliable, many are still on the road 10 years later. A roomy interior combined with excellent visibility and an easy 28 miles per gallon -I got over 30- there is a lot to be said for a very fine product for about 30 thousand dollars. Sometimes I wonder how they can do it for the price. I’ve always said that Subaru make honest automobiles. I stand by that statement.

Well that's it for this month, stay well and be careful