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2004 Mitsubishi Galant

The Setting
Mitsubishi, the poor thing, has not had a great run of things over the past few years. They've really only had one successful vehicle in the US (at least until the Evo showed up) in the Eclipse, and got into an awful situation with their 0/0/0 program. Zero down, 0% interest, and 0 payments in the first year brought out the worst of the worst from a credit risk standpoint, and they were so hungry for sales that they approved almost everyone. The result was a very busy bunch of repo companies at the end of the first year as buyers couldn't pay for the cars they bought. Interestingly, this ploy was aimed at attracting young buyers, but the average age of buyers (and defaulters) was in the low-40s, meaning these were adults that should have known better.

So, Mitsu needs a savior. Their white knight, DaimlerChrysler, basically just announced that they would not fund Mitsu's loss, would not put more money into them, and planned to liquidate some (possibly even all) of their holdings of the company. So, forget that savior.

The Car
It's always been said that there's no problem in a car company that product can't fix. Carlos Ghosn said it of Nissan, and he was right. So, Mitsu launched the Evo in the US, and is selling every Evo they can bring here. But, that's a low-volume car, which can't save a company that's losing $1 billion currently. Hence the car in this review, an all-new, bread-and-butter Galant. The platform was first used to spawn the Endeavor, which, I must say, is ugly and competes against other Mitsu products, let alone other DCX products. Bad move.

The Galant, however, looks quite nice, even in the odd-looking front. To me, it almost looks like the son of the first Dodge Intrepid. I love the profile (as seen in the pics on the right), and think there are some very cool angles at play here. Also, the car does a good job using the new Mitsu car front end (also seen on the new Lancer, but not the Evolution).

Basically, Mitsu had to go head to head with Toyota, Nissan and Honda if they were to succeed. Historically, the Galant has always been slightly smaller and cheaper than the competition, offering an alternative. While that's a nice idea, there's a reason why all other companies were using a larger size. Also, Mitsubishi never established the quality name that Toyota and Honda did. They needed to stop being a quirk in the market, and try to compete with a full and solid product. Well, they're sort of there.

While I like the overall exterior, I do have one complaint, and that's it. Mitsu should stop trying to make their cars look like they were tuned by a kid from "The Fast and The Furious". Namely, I'm talking about the rear light treatment. The crushed ice/chrome light area is not working. They got it grossly wrong on the current Eclipse by making it gray (with some sort of lines drawn into it), but even when they get it right (as they do on the Galant), it still looks cheap. It screams PepBoys (I like PepBoys...not a knock on them), rather than a clean, well-designed and executed, quality family/mainstream vehicle. What they did do right was echo the front light treatment beautifully. If you look, you'll see similar shapes within the plastic light covers for the various light elements in the front and back. Also, the back lights integrate very well into the stylish lip they've designed into the rear.

So, while the exterior is actually quite good, the interior is lacking. As can be seen in the picture on the left, Mitsu is continuing with the Aiwa-stereo-looking HVAC and radio area that they first introduced on the Endeavor. It works better on the Galant as it's not quite as over-wrought and bulbous, but I can't say it's the nicest looking thing.

Now, if you've come to know anything about me, it's that I'm a nitpicker about details, and specifically about steering wheels. Can you guess that I don't like the wheel on the Galant? Why is it like this? This is a truck steering wheel...and from the early 90s at that. The same wheel (well, a very similar one) can be found in the Endeavor. I fault GM with the same thing in the new Malibu. This is a car, not a truck, and should have a sleek steering wheel with four, or even better, three spokes. Look to the Germans, to other Japanese makers (Toyota makes a great 3 spoke in the RAV4 and Corolla S) for inspiration. Go ahead, copy them, we won't mind. Now, while you may think I'm nuts for caring about the wheel so much, think about it. You look at this thing a lot, and the look and feel of it are thus important. I feel the same way about gauges and controls. They must be nice, clean, functional and fit the personality of the vehicle. This wheel is grossly out of place in this car.

My other quip with the interior is echoed in just about every review of the Galant you'll find. The headliner is the cheapest thing I've seen since the first generation Chevy Cavalier. It looks like someone took a sweat shirt, turned it inside out, and used that as the headliner. It's a pilly, cheap looking material. Surely a better headliner could not cost that much more. Could it?

The Final Review
So, what to make of this thing? I like the car overall. It doesn't blow away anyone who drives it, regardless of the clever "See what happens next" commercials Mitsu is running. Magazines seem less pleased with it than I do. I think the car looks sharp on the outside. I prefer it to the Camry, and at least prefer the rear end of the Galant to the Accord's rear end. Also, it's mainstream, but different at the same time. I think they really executed the exterior well.

Now, the interior is another story, and I really feel is the downfall of this car. It's where owners will spend the most time, and it is just nowhere near any of the competition. This car, to me, feels like a modern shell wrapping something from the early 90s. The mini-home-stereo HVAC and stereo area, the steering wheel (which looks somewhat like a late-80s Nissan Stanza wheel cross-bread with a truck wheel), and the awful headliner really ruin the package. It's such a shame because I really think they had a winner on their hands. Or, at least a winner for Mitsu. That's not a knock on them, but more to say that selling 50,000 to 100,000 of any car would be a good thing for Mitsubishi, whereas Toyota or Honda would probably cancel or severely remake a model that sold so few units (Camry and Accord sell 400,000+ per year). Mitsu, great try, but stop pinching pennies so hard, and buy an Accord so you can copy its interior. Then we can talk.


Enough to Save Mitsu?

Managing Editor

So, a big sedan with a powerful V6, cheap interior, spacious cabin and edgy-but-not-over-the-top styling. Sound familiar? Nissan did the exact same thing in 2002 with the Altima. The new Altima helped Mr. Ghosn turn Nissan around, so who's to say that this new Galant can't do the same thing for Mitsubishi? Only time will tell, but Mitsubishi is about two years late to the horsepower war party and it didn't dress appropriately to catch people's attentions - at least in my opinion. The Altima was pretty much a fresh idea in the mid-size family sedan market of 2002. No manufacturer back then offered a big sedan with so much horsepower, a 5-speed manual at a very reasonable price. Nissan basically caught the industry off-guard and made the Altima into a best-seller. However, two years later, the same idea is not nearly as fresh. Considering even Accords are rolling around with 240 HP and 6-speed manuals (in the coupe's case), the mainstream buying public has many more choices for stirring their souls. For this reason, it is imperative for Mitsubishi to make the Galant stand out in some way from the mid-size crowd. Unfortunately, I don't think they did enough to really make the Galant a superb vehicle. Ask yourself, what does this car have that others don't? The answer is pretty much nothing. Now ask yourself, what does this car lack with respect to the competition? That answer will take a little more time. For starters, the V6 model is only available with a 4-speed automatic transmission. Most other manufacturers offer at least a 5-speed automatic, so the flaw is pretty obvious here. Secondly, the interior is just too boy-racer-ish and not as refined as most of the competition. Ok, ok, so considering its hulking mass and size (3600+ lbs in GTS Trim), it's gotta have a big trunk right? Well, no, not necessarily. At 13.3 cubic feet, it's smaller than the trunks in the Accord, Camry, Altima, and Passat. Keep in mind, this is while the Galant is bigger on the outside than the Accord, Camry and Passat. The Camry even offers more interior room (102 cu. ft. vs. 99 cu. ft). These are areas that are important for a supposed family hauler. However, one thing the new Galant has going for it is the excellent warranty that eclipses anything offered by the aforementioned cars. Also, there are incentives already in place for the new Galant that should generate some public interest. Only time will tell if a long warranty and big incentives will work for or against Mitsubishi. Hey, if it worked for Hyundai...