Thanks to Mazda, Ford offers the stylish Probe.

Thanks to Isuzu, Chevy offers the eye-popping Storm.

And now thanks to Mitsubishi, Dodge offers the Stealth, a sporty-lookinghatchback coupe that can be dressed in economy or sports duds depending on themood and funds of the potential buyer.

Cooperative ventures between Japanese and U.S. automakers are lauded fortheir ability to save both automakers time and money in bringing out a newcar. What we tend to overlook is that cooperative ventures also meanautomakers are able to bring out some very good cars they might never havebeen able to pull off on their own, regardless of the time and money involved. Mitsubishi has done it again with the Stealth. After giving Chrysler thesporty Plymouth Laser and Eagle Talon versions of its Mitsubishi Eclipse,you`d think the Japanese automaker would rest on its laurels and let Chrysler come up with something on its own for a change.

Not so.

The Dodge Stealth is the Chrysler version of Mitsubishi`s new 3000GTsports model. Unlike the Laser/Talon/Eclipse trio built at Diamond-Star inNormal, the 3000GT and Stealth look significantly different from one another. Stealth started life as the Intrepid concept car on the 1988 auto showcircuit. Mitsubishi developed the car, but Chrysler was in charge of exterior styling, the reason Stealth doesn`t look like a 3000GT clone.

The front-wheel drive Stealth comes in four versions: base, ES, R/T andR/T turbo, the latter an all-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steering coupe powered bya twin turbocharged 3-liter, 24-valve, V-6 boasting 300 horsepower.

We test-drove the ES with its nonboosted 3-liter, 24-valve, 225-horsepower, V-6. Though 225 horses usually would raise some eyebrows, theES is noticeably docile. Sensational styling takes precedence over 0- to 60-mile an hour performance. The focus is on the look of power without theintimidation that usually comes with 200 to 300 horsepower.

The 24-valve, 3-liter isn`t a slouch. It`s got good off-the-line pepcomplemented by a smooth shifting 5-speed manual (automatic an $813 option).It just doesn`t have the same potential as the R/T turbo-but then it doesn`trequire that you give it a turbo`s tender, loving and frequent care either.

We were a bit surprised that the EPA rates the ES at 19 miles per galloncity/24 m.p.g. highway with manual, 18/24 m.p.g. with automatic. The fuelguage barely seemed to move and after a week`s driving finally touched thehalfway mark. Perhaps the EPA got confused with the R/T turbo?

Stealth is built on a 97.2-inch wheelbase and is 179.1 inches longoverall. It`s one of those new cabin-forward designs, which means front seatoccupants seem to be sitting up with the engine. Stealth sits low but wide,contributing to the above-average handling you`ll enjoy. The 16-inch Goodyear Gatorback tires and responsive power steering add to the handling. You`ll beable to scoot in a S tealth where you have to tiptoe in a Camaro or Firebird.

Front air dam, popup headlamps, plastic rocker panel cladding and hoodblisters (a design tool used to make room for the front suspension struts)contribute to the sporty styling. The R/T versions go a step further with doorscoops and rear deck spoiler.

Despite its ample length, Stealth falls victim to typical woes associated with so many sporty-looking cars. Rear seat room is abominable. There are two buckets back there with seat bottoms recessed so deeply that you couldprobably fill them with water and raise fish. The human form won`t fit onthose seats if older than 2.

The rear hatch opens to the cargo-carrying area. Cargo had better standno taller than a six-pack of beer (cans), because the slant of the roof robsthe Stealth of carrying capacity. Both rear seat backs fold down flat toprovide added cargo room. Because you can`t fit people in the back seatsanyway, you might as well leave the backs d own.

A nice touch from the Mitsubishi folks is the spring-held hood ratherthan the prop job so common on small sports models. When the hood is lifted,there`s a schematic looking up at you, pinpointing the fluid filler locations for every system, from oil to power steering.

One goof was placement of dual cupholders in the center console, whichsits too far to the rear of front seat occupants for convenient reach and use. For the safety-minded, driver-side air bag is standard. ABS is standardin the top of the line R/T turbo, but only available in one of five optionpackages on the ES.

Our car came with a $3,221 option group package that included anitlockbrakes, power door locks and windows, cruise control, rear window wiper/washer, AM/FM stereo with cassette and compact disc player, security alarmand electronic variable suspension. The cheapest option package with antilock brakes runs $2,436 and includes all of the above except the disc player, alarmand electronic suspension.

With the variable suspension you have the choice of the softer touring or firmer sport settings. Sport allows tighter corners and turns at the expenseof more road harshness.

Base price of the ES is $18,056, which compares with $16,293 for the base model and $29,267 for the top-of-the-line R/T turbo. By comparison, theChevrolet Camaro base coupe starts at $12,180 and the top-of-the-line Z28convertible at $20,815 and the Pontiac Firebird base is $12,690, the top-of-the-line GTA is $24,530. You can`t get antilock brakes in the Camaro orFirebird.

Stealth is designed to fill the niche above the Dodge Daytona and belowthe upcoming Viper.

Though the price is a bit stiff versus a Camaro or Firebird (and it would have been higher if Stealth adopted the active spoiler of the 3000GT, whichraises or lowers based on vehicle speed), the styling and performance, as wellas winter-worthy front-wheel-drive (rather than rear-wheel-drive found onGeneral Motors cars) should attract some buyers from the Chevy and Pontiacstables.

Standard equipment on the ES includes stainless steel exhaust with dualchrome tips, power brakes and steering, intermittent wipers, side windowdemister, tinted glass, rear window defroster, tilt steering, AM/FM stereo,dual power body colored outside mirrors, remote hood/liftgate/fuel doorrelease and leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Air conditioning runs $846, leather seats $843.