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Mitsubishi Eclipse scores with young buyers

November 07, 2003|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

Few new cars have earned the loyal following of a generation of young buyers bent on style, image and speed.

Over the past decade, however, the Mitsubishi Eclipse coupe/convertible has become an icon for young car cultists weaned on import-based sport-compact platforms.

Looking good and going fast doing it - courtesy of willing aftermarket suppliers - is all part of the package. For people who treasure these attributes, there is no better place to begin than the Eclipse.

As many automakers have already discovered, the youth market is a discerning-yet-fickle audience and finding just the right product to sell is a major challenge. Some vehicles aimed squarely at a younger demographic have missed the mark, while others, sometimes inadvertently, have nailed it right on the head. The Eclipse has managed to make friends with the under-30 set since first arriving back in 1990. It has undergone a couple of major revisions since then - the last in 2000 - but has never failed to retain its loyal supporters.

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It makes perfect sense that the hip and trendy Eclipse gets the nod from younger drivers in search of the right ride. It's cool, competent and not too costly.

The car's sensuous, yet aggressive combination of curves and creases is certainly appealing and a lowered stance suggests an eagerness to show its stuff on the street. The highly defined wheel openings are a signature design that shows up on other Mitsubishi products.

The cabin provides plenty of space for the driver and a co-pilot (the rear seat is recommended only for occasional use) and the high door ledges help to create a cosy environment while cruising. Although the fixed-roof coupe attracts the hard-core "tuner" fanatics because of its lower weight and more rigid structure, the Spyder convertible makes the grade with buyers of all ages and performance persuasions. With the power-operated top stowed, the Spyder's fun-to-drive quotient is off the scale, as is its ability to turn heads and boost the images of all on board.

All models begin with a 2.4-liter SOHC four-cylinder engine rated at 147 horsepower. But for a more exhilarating experience, you'll want to step up to the optional 200-horsepower SOHC 3.0-liter V-6.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard while a four-speed automatic is an option. On all but the base coupe, the automatic allows for manual shifting.

Adding to the Eclipse's luster is the abundance of standard equipment. The base RS coupe and GS Spyder include air conditioning, tilt steering, auto-off headlights, alloy wheels, CD-equipped radio and power windows and door locks. As you ascend each succeeding rung - GS, GT and GTS coupe, and GT Spyder - the content approaches full-load status. For example, the GTS includes highly sought-after features such as anti-lock brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather interior, power-adjustable driver's seat, side-impact air bags and traction control on automatic transmission-equipped models.

For many buyers, the Eclipse's stock equipment is just the beginning. A wide array of speed and dress-up items from literally thousands of specialty companies can turn these cars into highly personalized fashion/performance statements.

Stacked up against a batch of no-holds-barred competitors - Acura RSX, Hyundai Tiburon, Toyota Celica and Honda Accord coupe - this sporty Mitsubishi fares well from a size, power and price perspective. And, of course, it's also the only one in the bunch that offers a convertible model.

For many younger buyers who place high value on fun as well as peer-group approval, the Eclipse, with its winning personality and willing performance, continues to get the nod.




© 2003, Wheelbase Communications

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