1991 Eagle Summit

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    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

By 

Orlando Sentinel

In the base model Eagle Summit no frills doesn't necessarily mean no thrills.

This year the average price of a new car is around $16,000, so with a sticker price of half that, you'd be correct in assuming the entry-level Summit isn't furnished with much in the way of luxury or power goodies.

The list of things you don't get is longer than that of what you do get in the Summit.

For instance, you don't get a right sideview mirror or power steering. You don't get a tachometer or a fifth gear. There also is no rear window defroster, tape player or clock.

You don't even get cloth covered seats. They're vinyl.

What you do get is a simple, basic car that is nicely designed and assembled, cheap to run and fun to drive. Though it doesn't look it, the Summit is a very snappy little hatchback.

The Summit, which also is sold as the Mitsubishi Mirage and Dodge and Plymouth Colt, has sold well since its 1989 introduction and has been praised for its economy, quality, performance and value. This year, the three-door hatchback has a new body style.

ENGINE, PERFORMANCE

Several important improvements have been made this year under the hood. Horsepower is up to 92 from last year's 81 with the 1.5-liter engine, and a four-speed automatic transmission replaces the old three-speed unit.

The increase in power is due to the addition of one extra valve per cylinder. The 12-valve, in line, four-cylinder engine in the test car came with a four-speed manual transmission.

Weighing just 2,205 pounds, the Summit must be one of the quickest hatchbacks for that amount of money. It zips away from lights and enters interstates eagerly.

I would describe the feel of the shifter and clutch as utilitarian; they are firm, solid, easy to use and very unspectacular.

The test car had only two options, air conditioning ($753) and an AM/FM radio ($217). With the air on, the Summit gets impressive fuel economy. On a trip from Orlando to Daytona Beach cruising at a steady 65 mph, the summit delivered 37 miles per gallon. In the city, I logged 33 mpg. The 13.2-gallon gas tank ensures long intervals between fill-ups.

STEERING, HANDLING

The Summit is the only car I have driven in the last two years that has not had power steering. Though it was a surprise - it really wasn't a big deal. The car is easy to maneuver and once you get rolling you don't even miss it.

Power steering is standard on the Summit's more expensive models. The car's rack and pinion steering unit could be a little sharper, but the turning radius is good.

The Summit's handling is somewhat sporty. It handles curves nicely and without much fuss, though high-speed hi-jinks are definitely out.

The front disc/rear drum brakes are power assisted and, though not overpowering, do a credible job of hauling the car to a stop. Like the transmission and shifter they don't stand out in any way, but they do get the job d one.

FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS

I do not like the vinyl covering on the seats. The person who chose the material has never sat down, wearing a pair of shorts, on a hot car seat.

The Summit's front bucket seats, however, are very comfortable and offer a good deal of support. I would invest in a set of seat covers to avoid the vinyl surface.

The rear seats split and fold forward to allow 95.8 cubic feet of cargo to be hauled. With the seats up, passengers are likely to find that there's just enough room to make trips tolerable.

Controls are a monument to simplicity. One stalk on the column controls the windshield wipers, the other stalk operates the lights and turn signals. That's it, really, except for pretty straightforward air conditioning and radio switches.

I found the car's heating and air conditioning system to be excellent. The gauges are laid out nicely and are easy to read.

I have one other gripe. The car is an example of what is known in the industry as badge engineering, wherein one car is given subtle detail changes and i s sold under numerous brand names. Aside from a redesigned grill and a tiny Eagle logo on the steering wheel, Chrysler didn't spend much in the way of tailoring the Summit to the Eagle division. The radio and keys still say Mitsubishi on them. It is being sold as an Eagle; it should say Eagle.

In any case, for $8,000 and change the Summit delivers performance, fuel economy, comfort as well as enough room to haul large items. It does everything you could ask for in a small car with a small price.


    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

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