Pros: Price, standard equipment, low fuel consumption, good handling, no problems
Cons: Assembly quality, slight rattles in the cabin, no rear leg space
The 2002 Mitsubishi Galant is not all-new, but slightly restyled model that was in production as 1999, 2000 and 2001 models. I am not sure that restyling of the front fascia, grille and rear lights made it look better.
Disclaimer: I own a two-year old Galant ES with 21K miles on it, which mechanically is almost identical to 2002 model. I believe it will be important for somebody who considers 2002 model to know the issues that may arise during the cars first two years. I also test-drove a new model and can say that the slight mechanical changes made it better.
Important Mechanical Changes
The front disc brakes were increased in size to provide better braking and less fade. My Galant ES has smaller discs but certainly wasnt bad in the braking department. The problem with 4-cylinder models is the tires with only 195mm width, not the disc size.
The final drive ratio was changed to improve the performance of the 4-cylinder models. My car certainly doesnt feel slow, but it accelerates 0-60 in about 10 seconds (note: this result was achieved without revving the engine and dropping the brake pedal the way automobile magazines test, so dont compare it with other numbers from car magazines).
During my test drive I couldnt test the 0-60 time, so I cant tell if the acceleration improved substantially, but the car feels a little faster.
I decided to get Galant two years ago while also considering Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and several others. The Galant looked better than them, cost less and had more features for the money.
The Accord looked plain, had weird interior colors for the exterior color I wanted and the price was too high. The Camry the same plus wimpy 4-cylinder with no power. The Altima was too small... The Galants base 4-cylinder is 2.4-liter with 155 lb-ft of torque, which was more torque than either Accord or Camry.
With new Camry and Altima, the choice would be more difficult, but both Camry and Altima cost more... Keep in mind that Galants come with automatic transmission as standard equipment (Id love to be able to get it with manual but...) and other goodies that other manufacturers charge you extra for.
I must admit that the build quality of Galants is worse than for Accord or Camry, however this is not too critical for me. During the 2 years and 21K miles I have had only one mechanical issue with my car, which was the squeaking brake pedal. It was lubed and the squeaking went away.
The car was also a subject of 4 recalls (I believe the 6-cylinder models had a couple more recalls), which was annoying. The turn signal switch and the headlight switch were replaced, the steering gearbox checked (some nut might have been not tightened enough) and the transmission cooler hose was replaced because of the manufacturing defect.
The recalls are not fun, especially the ones that make you worry about your safety until you get them done.
The fuel filler door is made of plastic and mine broke recently for no apparent reason - one of the hinges broke off. Now I need to get a new door, get it painted and installed. Annoying.
Power And Fuel Economy
I saw a review of a 4-cylinder Galant that states that the car got extremely low fuel mileage and couldnt accelerate uphill well. I currently average 23-24 MPG with a lot of short-trip city driving. On a 450-mile trip to Vegas I averaged 27.5 MPG driving at 80-90 mph. And, although the car would at times downshift going uphill, there was no slowing down due to the lack of power.
The car requires regular gas and doesnt run any better on premium.
All Galants come with automatic transmissions, which are quite smart, kick down quickly and have positions that allow you to limit the gear selection range to first; first and second; first, second and third.
The front seats are not too bad, but comparing to my 1988 Volvo 740 GLE, the are too firm :-(
The manual calls for 7.5K mile service intervals in normal conditions or 3K mile intervals in severe conditions. I had to do more often than 7.5K miles so far because of the constant recalls and because I wasnt sure that I qualify for normal conditions. On average, Id change oil every 4K miles and never had to add any oil between oil changes.
The Galant is a front-drive car, which is good for slippery conditions, but its not a sporty car for two reasons: front wheel drive and no manual transmission. Aside from this, the car is stable in turns and, although it oversteers, the trajectory can be easily corrected.
The car has antiroll bars both front and rear and the 195mm tires have better grip than my Volvos 185mm ones, so I find the Volvo tires squealing during cornering at the speeds at which the Galant has no complaints.
The suspension of 4-cylinder models is quite soft, but you can get a 6-cylinder model with firmer suspension and larger wheels/tires. The sportier Galant GTZ has V6, firmer suspension, larger wheels and tires, white instrumentation. The V6 can also be had with ES and LS trims.
The Galant ES has following standard equipment (listed all I can remember): 4-cylinder 2.4-liter engine, 4-speed fuzzy-logic automatic transmission, cruise control, fog lights, remote keyless entry, auto delay-off headlights, 15 steel wheels with nice-looking covers, power locks, windows (drivers auto down) and mirrors, A/C, radio/CD player, remote trunk release (mechanical link), intermittent wipers, grid antenna embedded in the rear glass, stainless steel exhaust, dual airbags (side airbags optional), 5 three-point safety belts, two 12V power ports, dual vanity mirrors with light, floor mats, grocery bag hooks in the trunk.
The pass-through in the rear sears is not located centrally, so dont expect to be able to transport long objects, but the trunk has hooks for grocery bags and I could fit a file cabinet in there when I needed to transport it, although it took several minutes. The car comes with a small spare tire.
Advice On Air Filter
Check and replace the engine air filter earlier than the recommended 30K miles. At 20K mine looked like a collection of pine needles and dried leaves with lots of dust. Its easy to replace and costs $17.
After reading an article in Car And Driver I bought a pair of H4-sized PIAA super bright lights and installed them in the headlights of my car. The procedure took about 5 minutes. Even though C & D says that you need gloves to avoid oil from your skin from getting on the lamp, I managed to do it without touching the lamp surface. The lamps are claimed to provide the same light as 100/110 W lamp but consume the same as standard lamps 50/55 W.
It is definitely better to see at night now and people driving slow in the left lane on the freeway give way faster :-)
I have no complaints about Galant ES other than slight rattle in the cabin and 4 recalls. Although the build quality doesnt seem to be as good as Accords or Camrys and there is no manual transmission available, I have no regrets that I chose Galant over Camry, Altima and Accord 2 years ago.
But with new Altima and Camry (both with larger engines and better styling that they used to have), Galant becomes more of a difficult choice. However it still provides more for less.