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The Mitsubishi FTO, as many things from Japan, was miles ahead of the game when it was released in 1994, not to mention various successive models in the subsequent years. However I jokingly have stated that my 2.0l GR from '96 is now old enough to drive itself, so almost 2 decades down the line what has this car got to offer.
Quick basic info- 2 door coupe, front wheel drive, if you want passenger space forget it. Good boot space, poor sound insulation, great engine, poor headlights, good performance, terrible MPG, good reliability, great online member communities, fantastic fun.
I'm not going to beat around the bush, if you are reading this you either have or have had an FTO and are part of an almost exclusive cult following, in which case both you and I know that despite any trouble this distinguished car has given you that it will always hold a special place in your heart. Or you are looking at buying a used FTO, in which case you want to know what you can expect. This is where hopefully my experience may help sway you, one way or another.
At almost 20years of age any model of this car quite simply is for only two kinds of people, the car hobbyist/enthusiast, or a young driver with minimal cash looking to get something with a kick.
This is a grey import, insurance will be high, parts will be after market or second hand from spare and repairs, performance won't be fully as per original spec, unless you have modded and replaced numerous parts, and it won't come with a service manual.
And yet, these can be bought now for less than £1,000, and for around 200bhp (dependant on specific model), sleek sexy design, smooth ride, and an interior which still offers more class than many brand new cars on the market, what could possibly be the harm, right?
I have now had mine for over 5 years, with almost no reliability issues, and in that time it has passed 3 MOTs without fail. It helps that I fall into the hobbyist category. So with the exception of noisy tappets which the engine has been known to run with above and beyond 150k miles and is a common issue of the non-Mivec versions, I have only needed to change the starter motor, tyres, discs and pads. Tappets can be replaced for under £300, if inclined to do so, you would pay as much to change tyres, which considering the tappers will last 5 times as long...
This car predates the complexity of automobile electronics, and as such means there are numerous modifications which can be fitted, like my all inclusive electrical kit- remote central locking, alarm, passive key entry, remote start, and push start. After market kit bought for £120, yet adds a priceless feel. There is also a vast wealth of online guides and manuals, which can be accessed easily for free, or by subscribing to a members website, which will also give you reduced insurance premium.
If you have read this far then I have your attention, so the next thing would be to find out exactly which model is for you, in this instance you need to go personal preference for manual or automatic, although certainly the manual is a lot rarer and arguably the more reliable choice. Then look at Mivec Vs Non-Mivec, which certainly would be unevenly tilted toward Mivec. I won't go into all the details, as this is only a review after all, not a technical guide.
If perhaps your new to driving, want something thats going to impress, don't want to be just another Corsa driver, or can't afford the sports car of your dreams, then this is perhaps the answer your looking for. And if your that way inclined it'll also be a great introduction into car mechanics. Just make sure you can afford the insurance and your comfortable with the fuel costs, but nobody looks to buy a sports car to be economical!
If your a hobbyist, willing to get your hands dirty, make some mods, and just love your cars, then with the prices that you can now pick up these beautiful timeless vehicles there really is no doubt about it. This is the one for you, and in a few more years when most of these are completely off the road you may even have a classic on your hand. Pure investment in time, pleasure, and even potentially in cash.
I've been driving my FTO GPX for four months now and I have to say I am in love with this car. 1996, 98,000 (kms) and in absolute mint condition I picked it up privately for £1500.
I have driven more powerful, more expensive cars, but none have ever turned as many heads as the FTO, or had strangers approach to ask about her.
Originally imported in 2001 this one has been cared for, and it shows.
It came with over £4000 of receipts, which shows she was once an expensive hobby for its previous owner. This covered an engine rebuild, clutch, refurbished gearbox and a re-spray. All of which have given her the appearance and drive of a brand new motor.
I know I'm supposed to review and not boast, so I'll do my best for those that have never driven an FTO before. The first thing to note is that this model comes with only four forward gears. Something out of the dark ages you may think, but to be fair to the automatic, it doesn't appear to be over-revving even when you give her the shoe. This gear box can also be set in triptronic mode, meaning you can "nudge" the gears up and down, and I did this for a little while when first getting it as this was my first automatic, and I was dubious about handing gear changes over to a machine.
Admittedly I have nothing to compare the auto gearbox to, but I must say, once I got used to acceleration levels, it changes up and down the gears smoothly and with ease, and the only jumps and jolts come when you really accelerate hard and she drops two gears! Of course, at these times, this is exactly what you want her to do. Not something you want to do too often, as the combination of automatic, and lack of fifth gear results in a return of just 22mpg. Not so good these days when go-go juice is so expensive, but hey, this is my toy.
Acceleration is unbelievable in this 200bhp motor, and the engine note is sublime when revving high. Top speed in mine appears to be around 140mph, and I'm told the 112mph Japanese speed restrictor had to be removed on import.
Inside the dash is timeless and the trim still shines bright. A tribute to its owner, and Japanese quality materials. All the electrics still work perfect and are untouched from day one. I've ripped out the standard head unit and fitted a double din Sony DVD player which sits flush in the dash and looks and sounds the part, even with the original speakers!
If anyone is considering a second car with a bit of power, or just wants value for money in a performance car, search for an FTO. There's plenty of good imports about. Look for one's that have been cared for, and have a verifiable service history. No sense I thousands of pounds of repairs to a £1500 car. Ensure these have already been done. Expect to pay a premium for insurance, as the vast majority of FTOs are grey imports.
If you get a good one, like I have done, you'll do more "cruising" now than you did in your youth!
Mitsubishi FTO ((Fresh Touring Origination) is one of the good looking imported cars but not so great in performance. Launched in 1994, it was manufactured until 2000.
I bought my second hand car in 2006 mainly because of its looks. When I first went to look at the car from the previous owner, I was very impressed by its sporty looks. When I went for a test drive, I wasn't impressed with its automatic gearbox or the interiors but I couldn't resist myself from buying it for £2000.
Mine is a FTO GS Auto 1995 model with modifications like body kit, bigger rear spoiler, momo steering wheel and strut bar in the bonnet- all this in a flashy red colour-well who could resist such good looks!!!! And that too for a bargain- just £2000!!
It has fabric covered seats, air conditioning, power mirrors, electric windows and CD player. Although it is 14 years old, its AC works perfectly fine. There is slight wear and tear of seating which is expected knowing that it is so old but otherwise the car works fine. It has 4 seats but the rear seats are not very spacious- the leg room is very less compared to many other coupes. The cup holder is available only near the front seat but can say it's pretty useless- can't keep anything without spilling!
The auto gearbox is quite slow esp. when compared to some of the newer auto cars. It's pick up uphill or when starting is very slow but after it reaches around 55 miles, then it picks up faster and shows its real power. Only problem is that they have limiter at around 120 mph (usually seen in many Japanese cars). It can simply be removed with a delimiter chip- available on eBay- I have bought one but never got time to fix it. I think the car is still capable of doing a lot more than that quite comfortably. The strut bar in the bonnet makes its handling in turns and curves very easy. It doesn't lift off from the ground so easily. It might seem as if you driving at around 150 mph especially with the kilometre speedometer.
GS auto usually has a 1.8 litre engine. Its gearbox is automatic and tiptronic. But there are other models like mivec which are manual- I'm sure their performance is a lot better- haven't driven one yet but have seen one of the mivec fto overtake mine in seconds. It usually comes with 15" alloys but I have changed mine to 16" alloys. The battery is very feeble. Although I have changed my battery last year, still it gets totally drained out if unused even for a day- it might be something with the car rather than the battery but I went to garage so many times to know the reason but they still thinks its probably because of the age of the car.
The car doesn't have any tracker or any great security facilities. I got a toad immobiliser and alarm fitter on mine for insurance purposes and for central locking.
Getting insurance for fto is not the easiest- a lot of companies don't do Japanese imports. Finding an online deal is quite difficult but there are specific companies who insure such cars- sky insurance, Adrian flux etc. I got mine for around £400 which is not too bad for this car. Some insurance companies don't insure if the drivers are not 21 years old- so you might be better of checking this before buying a flashy car to show off in front of your college friends.
What car can you buy for less than £6000 that passes the ultimate in tough reviewers - that of a teenage lad in front of his mates? The FTO definitely gets the thumbs up in that department. My 14 year old son says they all think its cool, cheers Alex! Looks? It's definitely a head turner, looks like a far faster and more expensive car especially the front view. Handling? You can chuck it around roundabouts at 7500rpm until you are so dizzy you can barely see straight getting faster every revolution. Performance? It is not slow by any means, you get overtaken as you pull away from the lights by boy racers in Vauxhall Nova's- but get up to 8000rpm and watch them disappear in your rear view mirror their little faces contorted with rage underneath a Stussy baseball cap. Brings joy to the heart of a 41 year old! Practical? You can fit your golf clubs in the boot, and its a damn sight cheaper than an MX5. Its got a great tiptronic auto/manual gearbox so you can pootle in a snarl up or around town then whack it into manual, hit the loud pedal and listen to the roar of the engine as the revs build and you fly towards bends at breakneck speed and the bridgestones keep you glued to the road. Do you pull? You do get smiled at by ladies driving MGFs or Mini Coopers in traffic jams, and at the lights. Just don't attempt to park it too close to another car as the doors are long and you can look a bit foolish trying to get out if you can't open them wide enough. And forget seeing behind you to overtake or reverse it's impossible. The petrol tank is a bit small and if you rag it you need to fill it regularly but it is ordinary 95 octane. So it's cool it goes like stink point to point, pound for pound you get a lot of car and its practical enough to use everyday. Buy one and drive around with a permanent grin :-)
You don't get much of a car for under ten grand. Not unless you buy an imported Mitsubishi FTO that is. A 4 year old example, with under 30,000 miles on the clock should set you back around £10,000 and for that you get a visually dramatic motor capable of 0-60 in under 7 seconds, and a top speed of 147 miles an hour. If you look under the hood of the FTO, you'll see a superb looking twin-cam V6 engine that develops almost 200 bhp. The power is put on the floor through a 4 or 5 speed (depending on if you get a pre or post 1998 model) tiptronic gearbox, with a fully automatic mode. The front wheels are driven, though when Autocar first drove this vehicle, they spent two days in it without realising that it was not 4-wheel drive. The torque steer, scrabble and understeer usually associated with front drive cars are nowhere to be found here. The FTO is a real driver's car. Fast and un-phasable. You can throw it into almost any bend at speeds that other cars would never manage, and it comes out unflusterred. If you let off the power through the bend, you can provoke a little oversteer, but nothing unpredictable. Understeer is just not to be found unless you drive suicidally. Most of these cars have a quality aftermarket sound system installed by the original Japanese owners, and air-con and electric windows and sunroof are common. But beware, anti-lock brakes are not standard! And even without them, the standard disks often warp because they are not up to the task. Ideally choose a model with ALB, and replace the disks with vented, drilled, grooved ones and get kevlar pads. Build quality of the cars is not great, and noise suppression is virtually non existent. Fine if you like to hear the throaty roar of a fine V6 engine that red-lines at 8500 revs. But if you prefer to listen to the stereo, you might look at some aftermarket noise suppression material. Interior design is fine, the front seats are adequate, but no
t super-sporty. Lateral support is OK but not excessive. Rear accomodation though is severely limited, best for small folks over short journeys. I rarely have more than a squash raquet on the rear seat, and even then it looks full if there's a ball in the head cover. The central locking motors have a tendancy to fail, meaning that on cold mornings, I have to unlock, re-lock and unlock again before I can get into the car. And the boot lid just will not slam shut, instead you have to close it slowly and press below the spoiler to activate the latch. The boot itself is reasonably sized (for a sports coupe). Insurance is expensive, but 10 quid to join the owners club entitles you to a special policy that saved me £200 this year! Servicing is not cheap, and is best done by one of the few garages in the UK who know the car well. Fuel economy is not great, but it's not bad for a car with this performance. So all in all it's not an easy or cheap car to own. But the extra cost of ownership is made up for in the purchase price, and when you get behind the wheel none of this really matters. Possibly the best drive for the price.
You may have seen one. You probably wondered what it was. You may even have wanted one – it’s that striking! A Japanese car that defies preconceptions that they can’t look dramatic – without comprising the taken for granted build quality that Mitsubishi’s other excellent machines (Lancer EVO, Shogun, Charisma, etc.) have proven. An import that has proved so popular that Mitsubishi now sell them here themselves… The Mitsubishi FTO comes in various models GS, GX, GR, GP, GPvR – but mine is the GPX. This is the top of the range in performance and features; this means a 2.0L V6 DOHC Engine with a MIVEC system (similar to Honda’s VTEC) which provides for low-down torque response (below 5500RPM) and high-end power (over 5500RPM) and outputs 205bhp, Air Conditioning, power windows, sunroof and wing mirrors (which retract electronically too!), quality alloys and all the other normal amenities. The car is designed to be driven, the bucket seats, small chunky steering wheel and instant response from the car let you know very quickly – when I had a test drive I grinned the whole way and didn’t stop for the first couple of months when I bought it! It sounds cool too; the V6 gurgles and is nice and throaty low down, but then fairly screams when your hitting 8500RPM – on windy country roads I turn any music off just for the sounds. It’s quick but not dangerously so, think Honda Integra Type R equivalent, but it is very responsive nevertheless and many other drivers don’t know what it is and steer clear! It is a very comfortable drive (for 7 months I drove from Edinburgh-Aberdeen and back each weekend) and the seats are adjustable in most vertices. Although not my experience (average height) there are plenty of tall FTO drivers who report that it is fine for them. On the downside insurance is expensive at the moment
(all imports are apparently) and will need a Thatcham Category 1 Alarm and Immobiliser fitted. It’s not particularly efficient in the fuel stakes (well it would be if you kept it below the 5500RPM mark at all times – but why buy it then?) but only requires Unleaded. Other negatives are; that it is pretty small in the back (I wouldn’t recommend long journeys in the back) and quite difficult to get out of being a 2 door Coupe, there is little sound proofing by today’s standards and some annoying rattles from windows/car panels (although these can be silenced). Add to the car itself, a very loyal, knowledgeable and helpful bunch of current owners who can guide you from purchase tips to fixing those rattles to organising meets and events and you have an experience not just a car. Parts can be sourced via these owners and group buying discounts for imported parts are also available vastly reducing the risk and cost of buying an import. In conclusion, it is not a family car, it is not an entirely practical car but it IS a driver’s car, it IS exceptionally fun to drive, it IS superbly styled and it IS my most treasured possession… … throw caution to the wind, buy an FTO.