When reviewing the 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse sports coupe last August, we noted that it was payoff time for those who waited for the redone 2000 rather than grab one of those pre-redesign '99s.

Just about every gripe with the old coupe was solved in the new coupe, making it well worth the wait.

For 2001, which starts now at Mitsubishi, the redesigned coupe is joined by a redesigned Spyder convertible.

As with the coupe, the convertible is larger, roomier, peppier than the old version and streamlined to remove previous bulges.

As with the Eclipse coupe (Cartalk, Aug. 29, 1999), the convertible Spyder features deep louvers (Mitsubishi calls them strakes) in the doors, sharply sculpted front and rear wheel wells and a smaller, lower-slung spoiler that's far less ugly than the old whale-tail that resembled a giant hook to be used to hang the car in the garage at night.

The '01 Spyder allows you to slip in with out a shoehorn, roomier because it's built off the larger Galant platform and, therefore, longer, wider and taller than its predecessor.

Comfy and cozy dimensions, though still cramped and confining if an adult is sentenced to the back seat, which should be reserved for grocery bags.

But in convertible duds, there are still a few problems. The glass rear window on the drop top is rather small. And the spoiler, though lower slung, still stands in your field of vision out that window.

While the car has a couple of rear side windows to aid side visibility, the glass is woefully small and the top wraps so far around the sides that pulling out to pass or backing out of the mall lot is an adventure you should attempt only after calling your insurance agent and boosting collision coverage.

The power top travels up and down smoothly. Once down, vision problems are solved and the enjoyment begins.

For 2001 the 2-liter, 210-horsepower, turbocharged 4-cylinder has been replaced by a 3-liter, 200-h.p., 24-valve V-6, same as in the coupe. The V-6 is much quieter and smoother.

No acceleration lag as with the old turbo and no insurance agent insisting premiums must be boosted thanks to a turbo.

A 5-speed manual is standard, a 4-speed Sportronic automatic with clutchless manual shifting is optional and the unit in the car we tested. Very smooth.

The Eclipse convertible is offered in GS version with 2.4-liter, 147-h.p. 4 and GT performance version with the V-6, the unit we tested.

No qualms with the suspension, which, in the past model, was buckboard rough. Lateral and up-and-down movement are well controlled in the '01.

The 17-inch steel-belted radial tires (16 on the GS) hold the pavement well in aggressive motoring. The GT is noticeably agile.

A sore point noted with the GT coupe has been fixed on the GT convertible. The exhaust gave off a muffled roar at takeoff. Nice sporty sound effects.

Sadly, though, the exhaust continued to roar at all speeds, even cruising. A major irritant. Mitsubishi added a new converter to the GT to stifle the roar. Thank you.

Some complained that the old convertible allowed a tad more wind noise than appreciated with the top up. For 2001 the seals at the header have b een tightened. No air rush that we noticed. Rather quiet, in fact.

Other sore points: Sure wish there was an all-wheel-drive option for the Snow Belt as well as for more sure-footed handling on clear roads. The 17-inch radials are all-season treads, but we'd still prefer AWD for optimum handling.

To keep base prices down, four-wheel anti-lock brakes and traction control (with Sportronic only) are available only on the GT and only as part of a $2,650 premium package that includes leather seats, upgraded audio system, power driver's seat and side air bags.

Leather seats and a classier radio to get the safety and security of ABS and traction control? Shame on Mitsubishi.

Base price of the GT with automatic tested is $26,237. Key standard equipment includes four-wheel independent sport-tuned suspension and gas shocks; front and rear stabilizer bars; air conditioning; power windows/locks/mirrors; AM/FM stereo with CD player; keyless entry; 12-volt accessory outlet; and rear-window defroster.

(Before you ask, the new Toyota MR2 roadster (Cartalk, April 19) starts at about $3,000 less than the Eclipse Spyder GT yet offers ABS, air and most of the same power goodies as standard. No traction control, however. The GT is peppier, but the shorter, lighter weight MR2 is a joy if you play within its limits. Though only a two-seater, the cabin feels roomier in the MR2, but Eclipse obviously holds the edge in storage and hauling capability.)

>> 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GT Wheelbase: 100.8 inches Length: 175.4 inches Engine: 3-liter, 200-h.p., 24-valve V-6 Transmission: 4-speed Sportronic automatic Fuel economy: 19 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway Base price: $26,237 Price as tested: $29,382. Includes $2,650 for GT premium package with ABS, Infinity sound system with AM/FM stereo with cassette and four-disc CD changer in dash, leather seats (power driver's seat), side air bags and traction control. Add $495 for freight. Pluses: Attractive redesign on larger Galant platform for better room upfront. Peppy V-6. ABS and traction available. Top-down motoring. Exhaust rumble tamed. Minuses: Top creates side and rear vision problems. Rear seat present but not practical. ABS and traction optional in a sports GT model in which they should be standard. >>