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1996 Mitsubishi FTO GPX - 7th March 2008


Quick Drive


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Mitsubishi FTO GPX Mitsubishi FTO GPX Mitsubishi FTO GPX Mitsubishi FTO GPX

This particular model has a 2.0L 16v V6 MIVEC engine under the sleek black bonnet. A powerful, smooth engine said to develop 200bhp, a top speed of 142mph and 0-60 in 6.5sec (all untested by me!). It is a 1996 model, bought in 2005 for £3,000 – a front engined, front wheel drive, grown-up, fast sports car for £3,000...why hasn't everyone got one?

The car I drove came into the country via importers Bonsai Cars in Southampton (www.bonsaicars.com) but a search on Google quickly brings up a choice of imports and pre-owned models available for sale in the UK. It is a visually appealing design with a low stance and is fitted with much of the electronic wizardry one would expect from its home-land. In this case we even discovered a live, after market alarm system had been fitted just as a back-up to the main one.

It boasts 4 seats and cocoons both driver and front passenger in comfortable, low, sports seats which provide plenty of support through the twists and turns of the road. The boot swallows more luggage than is reasonable for a party of 4 but this comes in compensation for having to cut the legs off the rear passengers to get them in.

First turn of the key and there is no mistaking the balance and tone of a V-shaped engine, even if this one is 2 cylinders short. I was surprised by the low noise level transmitted to the cockpit at idle and normal urban driving. The ride was very even and the engine smooth and quiet. There was no doubt that the suspension was ready for harder work but the ride didn't suffer as a result.

As I passed the de-restricted signs and out onto the open road I pushed a little harder. I can quite understand the insurance group 20 rating (put your Dad on the insurance to cut a few £100's off) because the sweet, smooth engine can roar up to 9,000 revs without breaking into a sweat. A very easy car to lose your license in and I am grateful to the owner for giving me a chance to lose mine.

Being front wheel drive brings its own set of rules and reactions on the road and this might count towards this special car being slightly off-radar for many of us and our dream garages. But the FTO performs just like a sports car should and I was delighted by the handling. The grip was excellent (partial wet tarmac) and the feedback through the steering wheel balanced just right, with enough warning for loss of grip to prevent me from looking foolish. The brakes were too soft though and would benefit from an upgrade.

It took no time at all to settle in to the rhythm and pace and feel comfortable and in control. Even the pedals are ideally positioned for a bit of heel and toe. As a recidivist 4x4 driver I am used to lots of visibility so my only complaint of not being able to see enough road for an over-take might be over blown.

I have also helped with minor maintenance issues on this car and a Japanese manual plus Japanese labelling on parts makes for an exciting exercise. The owner warns too of expensive parts and servicing because of the relative rarity of the vehicle – the wheel bearings for example are magnetic and he paid £400 for one set. So if you are to own an FTO he recommends finding a local specialist such as the London based Japanese Imports specialists www.jemservice.co.uk for servicing and www.japarts.co.uk for parts.

The Mitsubishi FTO GPX, for the short time I drove it, endeared itself to me. It seems to offer almost everything in one package – fun, reliability, character and good value...why hasn't everyone got one?

Mike.

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