Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rental Bliss: 2010 Mitsubishi Galant FE

Unless your daily driver is a new car itself, most new cars will impress with their fit, finish, and comfort. The industry as a whole has done a remarkable job of upping the refinement ante, even in vehicles at the shallow end of the range. Unfortunately, nobody told the Galant.

The exterior styling of the 2010 Mistubishi is conservative, but inoffensive. The compound headlights suggest modern touch and by themselves exceed most expectations one would have of a low-rate rental. The flush mesh grille could even remind you of a Cadillac from the right angles. The rest of the body is pure vanilla, but there are no surprises there. The trunk capably handles two real-world suitcases and is as easy as any to load.

Getting into the Galant, one is instantly transported to the early 2000's. Hard, shiny, textured plastic is almost everywhere, with only massive seams between the molded pieces breaking up the proceedings. Getting comfortable in the car is admittedly easy, and the mirrors ably manage any potential blindspots. This particular example had been generously ArmorAll'd, which made for a steering wheel that was both slippery and sticky at the same time.

The gauges were easy to read, but sported the now-vintage orange backlighting that seemed to be the trademark of midsize Asian sedans of the 90s. The center console is attractive to look at, but rather difficult to actually use by current standards. The console is topped by an old LCD clock which dominates the display, leaving only a small band at the bottom for the sound system display. The buttons are large but feel cheap, and inputs were registered only intermittently. Not even the shift lever was immune to mediocrity, as the screw holding the lever in place came loose twice during the week and would have rendered the car unable to shift from park had a multitool not been nearby.

Driving the Galant smoothly was something of a challenge. Releasing the exceptionally touchy brakes resulted in an authoritative surge forward, and balancing the two required practice and focus. The steering was incredibly light making straight-line highway driving easy, but response to steering inputs was lethargic. The skinny tires gave up their grip without much protest, and the touchy brakes turned spongy without much prompting.

Piloting the car around for a week brought back years-old memories of rental clunkers. It would be impossible to recommend to anyone, and one would be ill-advised to choose it over something else for the same price. This is unfortunately very much a car you get stuck with.