Rental Car Review: 2012 Mitsubishi Galant – Grade: C-

A business trip found me in Des Moines, Iowa back in spring of 2014. I had meetings locally, two in Wisconsin, and one final meeting in Chicago before heading home. I booked a “compact” from Dollar Rent a Car because theirs was the lowest price among the majors at the airport.

I was handed keys to a 2012 Mitsubishi Galant. I was surprised however that Dollar included Galants, or any Mitsubishis for that matter, in its fleet. With the exception of a few rich teenagers with Evos in my southern California home town, I scarcely see Mitsubishis.

My assigned 2012 Galant in space 19 was white. I immediately noticed the rear bumper cover was pretty scratched up from luggage having been tossed in carelessly. The driver’s side body and doors had their share of wear and tear as well. Inside, the odometer read 50,240 miles. The car was no virgin. I was already regretting not requesting something different from the counter guy inside. I was going to spend three days and nearly 700 miles in this thing!

I got out my GPS device and plugged it into the accessory plug. I also needed to charge my cell phone, but there was only one accessory plug. –I guess I will wait to charge my phone at the hotel.

The engine started easily, and I was off. I counted three gear changes. This thing had a FOUR-SPEED automatic? Didn’t Kia have six-speed autos in the 2012 Optima? And the Camry a five-speed, and the Altima a CVT? Wow, this Galant was, uhm, unique….in an obsolete sort of way!

A few things became clear quickly. The steering was actually quite quick, almost too much so. The steering wheel a tad larger than I considered optimal, but it felt good in my hands. When I put my foot down, the transmission was very reluctant to downshift, but when it did, the 2.4L engine began to pull–happily. I smiled. This little engine liked to rev! Unlike some other low-end base model four-cylinder cars, this Galant was decently well insulated sound-wise—none of the typical 4 cylinder droning sound was evident during normal driving. When I put my right foot down however, it actually sang to me. I liked that!

Next day, with phone charged, I tried to pair the phone to the radio—but—ooops, no Bluetooth. Then I looked for the auxiliary input so I could connect to the sound system the old fashioned way. Nope, no aux jack either. I guess I would not be listening to my MP3s after all. AM radio anybody?

At a donut stop, I took a moment to do a walk around. The front tires were worn out—wear indictors showing on both—the originals, obviously. The rears had been replaced, but some scalloping wear on the inner shoulders was evident—that was the faint grinding sound I was hearing on the freeway. Ok, so the engine doesn’t drone, but the rear tires do. Sometimes, rentals just want to drone!

I finally got the manually adjusting seat positioned comfortably. I noticed that the upholstery looked pretty darn good, given the countless butts that had been in that seat. The carpet actually appeared decent as well.

The Mitsubishi Galant of 2012 is a very, very plain looking car. The exterior design exists. Yes, that is faint praise indeed. It is so generic, it could have a blue stripe around it with the word “Car” or “transportation appliance” written on the sides. From certain angles, one can see hints of 2003 Maxima, or from another angle, the last gen Impala. It is very, very plain.

After 650+ miles over three days, here are my conclusions:

I liked the willing, revvy engine, the steering wheel, all three rear view mirrors, sound insulation, shoulder and hip room, and rear seat leg room. I didn’t like the lack of aux jack, Bluetooth connectivity, or a second accessory outlet. The parking brake handle in the center console directly contacted my right thigh during normal driving, and the HVAC function knob markings were small and difficult to see without my glasses.

In short there is nothing really “bad” about this Mitsubishi Galant. Its failings are mostly evident only when directly compared with its competitors. Most notably, the Kia Optima, which I have rented a few times, has more infotainment features (Bluetooth, aux jack, power plugs) and a much more harmonious exterior design. Camry, is, well…Camry, which I have also rented: bland, but well laid out and executed. In the end, I suppose this car’s most direct competitor was the Dodge Avenger, the other low-end rental lot queen.

The Normal, IL-assembled Galant is a perfect view into the very, very big problems that Mitsubishi faced in the US market. The car is simply not competitive with its rivals. Hyundai/Kia has taken the lower end market that Mitsu once occupied. Ford and GM have made cars that compete fairly well with Toyota and Honda. This leaves Mitsubishi in a bbbbbaaaaaddddd place—the rental lot with small Dodge sedans.

As a used car, the Galant might make sense for buyers seeking maximum value. A quick look at used car valuation tools showed the Galant is about worth about 30% less than similarly sized competitors. That means you can pick up one like my rental for a song.

By the way, to Dollar Car Rental: this car needed new front tires or to be sold. Also, it was not clean. I don’t like seeing the last renter’s spilt Frappuccino on my steering wheel, dust on the dashboard, or crumbs in the power outlet. Scuffed paint, high mileage, and bad tires indicate you are not “playing the game” at a high enough level—just like the Galant. I say both earned a C-.

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