Maybe Mitsubishi needs to remind people it has a mid-size family car.
Wracking your brain to remember what it is? Judging by the sales numbers, you’re not alone. A lot of people are overlooking the Mitsubishi Galant.
True, the Galant, which was last redesigned in 1994, is in its final model year before another redesign comes in the next model year.
It’s also true that more and more family car buyers are turning to sport-utility vehicles instead.
Still, several of the Galant’s competitors — like the Honda Accord and Civic sedans and the Toyota Camry — posted sales gains last year while the Galant suffered a steep, 35 percent drop. The Camry even became America’s best-selling car.
I tested an ES, a midlevel version of Galant, and found it to be a competent family hauler.
There’s decent room for four inside, with an especially good amount of front legroom. The Galant can carry five, but three adults fit snugly in the back; two back there is best.
All seats are supportive in the Galant, and gauges are well-arranged. I liked and regularly used the convenient driver side foot rest.
I had a five-speed manual in the car, and it was easy to get the most out of the 2.4-liter, four-cylinder. The Galant eagerly got up to highway speeds, with some buzzy sounds, typical of four bangers, emanating from the hood. The car just as easily and comfortably settled into slower, city traffic.
The Galant’s steering is a bit looser than I’d like, and the body isn’t quite as stiff for those tight corners as in some other autos.
But overall, the Galant is capable in the day-to-day chores a family vehicle faces. And its styling is mainstream and attractive.
So what gives?
Perhaps part of the problem is that the Galant is competing with recently restyled competitors who are grabbing the spotlight. The Accord is new for the 1998 model year and so is the Nissan Altima. The Camry was redesigned a year earlier.
And perhaps part of the problem is that the Galant is too much like its competition in size and attributes and yet ranks below its Honda and Toyota competitors in widely publicized reports from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power and Associates.
For example, the Galant is about the same overall length as the Honda Accord sedan. And the Galant’s 141-horsepower, four-cylinder engine has about the same horsepower as the 2.3-liter four in a base Accord.
The Galant gets about the same fuel economy as the Accord and Nissan Altima. And the Galant’s 12.5-cubic-foot trunk is within 1.3 cubic feet of that in the Altima.
Both the Accord and Galant ride on standard 14-inch tires. And both have similar headroom in the front and back seats.
But Honda ranked third best in Power’s Initial Quality Study last year, followed by Toyota, while Mitsubishi ranked fourth from the bottom.
And in both its 1996 and 1997 New Car Buying Guides, Consumer Reports said the Galant was “a notch below” its Honda and Toyota competitors.
Ouch. That can hurt.
But also be aware that Mitsubishi’s ranking last year in the Power IQS is an improvement from its 1996 showing, and the company is striving for further improvement.
In fact, in the detail of the Power study, there were dozens of cars that fared worse than the Galant.
And even while the Galant doesn’t warrant the same praise by Consumer Reports as a Honda Accord, the Galant, nonetheless, is a “recommended” buy in the Consumer Reports medium car category.
That’s worth noticing.
What we drove: 1998 Mitsubishi Galant ES, a five-door, five-passenger, mid-size sedan with 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission.
Base price: $17,670
Price as tested (includes options and delivery charge): $20,860
Curb weight: 2,877 pounds
Length: 187 .6 inches
Turning circle (curb to curb): 34.8 feet
Standard features: Two front air bags; five-way adjustable driver seat; rear window defogger; solar tinted glass; center console with armrest and storage; driver vanity mirror; tilt steering; intermittent wipers; manual side mirrors.
Options on test vehicle: Anti-lock brakes; power sunroof; fog lamps; keyless remote entry; rear-seat heater ducts; 15-inch alloy wheels; upgraded tires; illuminated front vanity mirrors.
EPA figures: 23 mpg (city), 30 mpg (highway)
Fuel: Unleaded regular