There have been 9 generations of car from Mitsubishi called Galant. The first was launched in late 1969, and was quite an advanced design for its day, offering modern looks, a truly pillarless design on the coupe model and decent quality engineering. As the Dodge Colt, it was the first time that a Mitsubishi product was offered for sale in America when it was launched there in 1971. In 1974, as the Colt Galant, it was one of two models offered by this Japanese manufacturer for the maker’s entry into the British market. Successive models followed every few years, and like most other long running nameplates, each generation got progressively bigger. By the time of the first front wheel drive car, launched in 1984, the Galant was widely regarded as one of the better cars in its class, and in the mid 1990s, the regular V6 cars were particularly well thought of. Sales in America were reasonably buoyant, too, especially once production of the car for this market started at the Normal, Illinois plant in 1994. Somehow, though it all then went wrong. Having offered the same basic Galant, albeit with local modifications and in some cases a different name, in many markets of the world, when the ninth generation car made its debut at the 2003 New York Auto Show, as a 2004 model, it was intended solely for a few regional markets, most notably America, Canada, Mexico, Russia and the Ukraine. Eight and half years later and the same car is still on sale in America. Does anyone even know? or care?
Despite the very long production run of this car, I had never sourced one to test, as most of the Mitsubishi vehicles were phased out of the Hertz US fleet at about the time that the Galant was a new model. I had spotted a few Galants over the past couple of years, though, and note that a large fleet of Endeavor SUVs arrived chez Hertz late in Autumn 2010, so clearly the (?desperate) quest for sales means that Mitsubishi has once again “done a deal”. When I got to the car allocated to me, I found that the test car was in fact a 2009 model spec car, having been registered in October of that year. There have not been many changes since then, though I note that the latest Galants sport a rather garish new grille, which looks more like an after-market customiser’s offering than something that the manufacturer would specify. The range has been simplified, though, with the previous Ralliart and Sport trims, and the option of the 3.8 litre V6 engine having been discontinued. For 2011, you are limited to either ES or SE trim, in both cases, with a 2.4 litre 4 cylinder engine. My test car was the lesser of the two trim specs, and would. in 2011 retail for $21,599.
The 2.4 litre engine develops 160 bhp, which is a little bit less than in almost all of the Galant’s competitors, and it is coupled to a 4 speed transmission. To an extent, both of these are legacy of the Mitsubishi’s age, as when the design was new, these would have been competitive and standard, respectively. In fact, neither is as limiting as you might imagine. The Galant is not fast, but then you do not expect mid-sized cars of this category to be in the ball of fire brigade, but nor is it unduly slow. The engine is refined, and it does the job in hand with no drama, and no fuss, and nothing memorable about its execution. There is a 4 speed automatic, laid out in the old style way, where you have to move the lever to the right and then back if you want manually to select a gear lower than Drive. Left to its own devices, the gears change pretty smoothly. Fuel economy proved to be a good point about the car, as it averaged 29.1 mpg (US) . If the performance proved to be unremarkable, so was the steering and handling. You should not get into trouble with the Galant, as the steering has decent feel to it, and the handling seem to hold no surprises, pleasant or otherwise. The ride is good, as are the brakes and noise levels are relatively subdued. With the steeply raked rear screen, and high boot lid, you would expect that judging the back end when reversing could be a challenge, but the door mirrors did well at alleviating this challenge, and they also were better than most cars I have experienced on this trip at avoiding a blind spot problem for the driver.
Look inside the Galant and you get a reminder of what interiors used to look like about 6 or 7 years ago. Indeed, by the standards of 2003/4, this would probably have been praised as quite good. though by the standards of 2011, it is not really up to par. The dashboard moulding is largely formed from quite hard black plastic, with the central part of the dash covered in plasti-minium, and some inlays of rather dubious pretend wood veneer provide some additional visual variety to the dash and door casings. The main dials, each surrounded by a thin chrome ring, are clear and easy to read. The centre console comprises the audio unit, which also looks like a harkback to the mid noughties, and the controls for it and the air conditioning controls are a series of rather unpleasant rotary knobs in that plastic would-be-aluminium stuff. Column stalks do the rest. The steering wheel is a plastic moulding, and a reminder of what you used to find all the time, before leather clad wheels became more commonplace. There are no buttons on the wheel itself, which is also becoming quite unusual these days.
There is ample space in the back of the Galant. My head did clear the roof lining with a couple of inches to spare, and with the front seats set for my driving position, legroom is in copious supply. Even with the seats set further back, there is more room in this car than in something like a Sebring. The boot is a reasonable size, though it is not that deep from back to front. The seat backrests do not fold, though there is a flap hidden behind the centre armrest which allows for a small number of long items to be poked through into the passenger cabin. For those odds and ends, the front seat occupants have access to a reasonable glove box, door pockets, and a cubby under the central armrest. Rear seat passengers have no explicit stowage places at all, just a net on the back of the driver’s seat.
The ES model that I sampled always was the base car in the range, and came with modest equipment levels. In 2009, there were a number of additional variants available. The Sport Edition gave you a sun roof and rear spoiler, and if you went to the Sport V6, as well as the 3.8 litre V6 and a 5 speed automatic transmission, you got automated climate control, heated seats and mirrors, power operated seats, and an upgraded audio unit including a satellite radio, as well as 17″ wheels on alloys. The top spec Ralliart added 18″ alloys and leather trim. The spec of the ES model for 2011 has not changed, but the SE now gives you most of the things that were on the other versions before, along with a navigation system and rearview camera. The extra $2400 for the SE looks to be pretty good value.
To some extent, the Galant exemplifies the problems that Mitsubishi are facing right now. Once a reasonably decent car, it is now simply too long in the tooth to get much attention from anyone, and so sells in correspondingly small volumes. If this were the only car in the range about which that could be said, it might not be too much of an issue. After all, many manufacturers end up with one product that somehow lives way beyond its natural or intended shelf life (look at the VW Sharan, which lasted 15 years, for instance, or the first model Ford Ka, which lasted 12). Sadly for Mitsubishi, it applies to just about all their cars. Only the ASX/Outlander Sport is a new product, everything else varies from a few years to a few more years old. Rumours suggest that for the US market, Mitsubishi will simply delete the Galant, and the Eclipse and Endeavor which are based on the same platform, and not replace them, and in Europe they will not replace the once image-making Evo, and will follow the same path as Nissan’s Micra and replace the Colt with a “global” car, made in Thailand. It does not sound like a strategy for growth, or maybe even survival, to me. Meanwhile, in the unlikely event that you come across a Galant, it is perfectly acceptable to drive. Not class leading for sure, but given the choice between a Sebring or a Galant, I’d pick the Mitsubishi.