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Second-hand: Mitsubishi Galant

Quick: can you name the three Japanese sedans assembled by United Auto Workers union members?

  • Gray modern car closeup on black background.

Quick: can you name the three Japanese sedans assembled by United Auto Workers union members?

Time’s up. They are the Toyota Corolla built in Fremont, Calif. (non-union Corollas are made in Cambridge, Ont.), the Mazda6 assembled in Flatrock, Mich., and the Mitsubishi Galant crafted in Normal, Ill.

The what?

For many Canadians the Galant may be an unknown nameplate, but this innocuous sedan has been lurking among us, intermittently, for more than 35 years.

It began as a compact sedan, selling here as the Dodge Colt starting in 1971, and evolved into a larger mid-size sedan. It was introduced to Canadians by its proper name in late 2002 when Mitsubishi finally launched its dealer network here.

The Galant meekly dipped its toe into the hotly contested mid-size sedan market – dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord – and eked out some sales.

For used-car shoppers looking for a fast-depreciating asset that’s pleasant to drive, the Galant is an appealing value proposition.

CONFIGURATION

The first year of sales in Canada – 2003 – was actually the last year of the eighth-generation Galant that harked back to 1998. The model marked the first time the sedan could be purchased with a 195-hp 3.0 L V6 engine (a 140-hp 2.4 L four was standard issue).

Sold only as a four-door sedan, antilock braking was standard on V6 models. A body-colour grille, spoiler and white-faced gauges helped the swoopy GTZ create some curbside excitement.

Unlike the Camry and Accord, which could be ordered with a five-speed manual transmission, the Galant no longer offered a stickshift – a disheartening decision by a celebrated rally-car builder. All Galants were saddled with a four-speed automatic.

An all-new Galant arrived for 2004, growing to proper mid-size dimensions with 12 cm more in the wheelbase, 10 cm in width and 6.6 cm in overall length.

Appropriately, the platform was dubbed Project America, with the new, fatter car aimed directly at America’s heartland. The beefier platform would also form the foundation for the Eclipse coupe and Endeavor SUV.

However, the chassis was so porky that the Galant outweighed the Accord and Camry by some 130 kg. On the plus side, the enlarged cabin offered a lot more space than the previous model, making it a true family hauler.

“The big thing they finally got right was the room. This car has a fantastic roomy back seat,” blogged one owner.

The dashboard’s metallic finish, silver-ringed gauges and blue-hued lighting were real crowd-pleasers and a definite step up from the rental-car interior of the outgoing model (no kidding, the Galant was a rental fleet fixture).

Unfortunately, the rear bench seatback did not fold down due to a structural X-brace that added to the car’s rigidity. But there was a pass-through behind the armrest that allowed a couple of skis or two-by-fours to poke through.

The iron-block SOHC 2.4 L four was enhanced for 2004 with a two-step variable valve timing and lift mechanism, good for 160 hp.

Upscale models got a SOHC 3.8 L V6 with 230 hp, 35 more than the previous 3.0 V6 – not a big improvement considering the displacement. At least the torque was a healthy 250 lb.-ft. V6 models got a manual shift gate on the four-speed automatic.

All 2004 Galants featured four-wheel disc brakes, keyless entry and the usual power-assisted accoutrements. Front-seat side airbags became standard in 2005.

All models got a mild restyling in 2007, while the V6 Galants received a new five-speed automatic transmission.

The Ralliart also arrived in 2007 to spice up the line with its sporty styling cues, 18-inch alloy wheels, stiff suspension and 258-hp version of the V6 coupled to the five-speed slushbox.

ON THE ROAD

Despite its hulking presence, the Galant is one of the more fun-to-drive family sedans on the market.

In the corners the sedan remains flat and predictable, and feels smaller than it is. The ride is smooth and composed, yet a surprising amount of feedback is telegraphed through the steering wheel – a good thing.

“My driving experience has been excellent: good road feel, firm, not a stiff or jarring ride,” posted the owner of an ’06 model.

The four-cylinder models are not swift – 0-to-96 km/h comes up in 9.2 seconds – but the powertrain is polished in the Japanese tradition.

The V6 models are much quicker, with the Ralliart taking the checkered cake with a 0-to-96 km/h time of just 6.1 seconds. Because of its heft, torque steer remains manageable.

Owners noted that the Galant is not a gas miser compared to the segment leaders and the V6 demands premium fuel.

WHAT OWNERS REPORTED

Galant drivers rave about their car’s excellent fit and finish, refined powertrains, unique styling and considerable comfort – all at a price that consistently undercuts the other Japanese nameplates.

And the UAW-built Galant appears to be every bit as reliable and durable as its main competitor, the “Accamry.”

The few gripes we found on the Internet revolved around frequent front brake service and a sunroof that makes noise when it’s sliding open or closed.

More senior Galants (2003 or older) had more reported problems, including faulty heater cores, leaky valve cover gaskets, short-lived suspension bits and easily dented bodywork.

Mitsubishi gave us an American sedan with the soul of a Japanese import. Best of all it depreciates like a domestic sled – and that should attract bargain shoppers.

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Lincoln Town Car, Hyundai Accent and Dodge Caravan. Email: toljagic@ca.inter.net.

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