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Mitsubishi Magna ES
road test

Just how relevant is Magna today?

What do you think about the Magna?

Perception plays it's part when you start thinking about cars. No doubt you see the Magna as an honest car which sits in the background, overshadowed by it's slightly bigger competitors.

But Mitsubishi, to it's credit, has built the Magna into a formidable challenger. Over the years the car's plentiful qualities have been refined and the model line-up expanded. Today there's a choice of sedans and wagons, including a selection of sporty sedans plus the upmarket Verada. Occasionally, a limited edition model comes along, too. Last year, the highly desirable all-wheel drive version was added to the range. All things considered, it's easy to see why Magna has firmly established itself in the Australian market.

The choice of front-wheel drive Magna sedans includes the ES as the starting point, then the line-up progresses to LS, then onto two sporty versions, the VR and the VR-X. For this test, we're looking at the base model, the Magna ES sedan.

Standard equipment for the ES includes a 3.5 litre 24 valve SOHC V6 engine which has a power rating of 155 kW. Manual transmission is standard, although the test car had the optional 4-speed 'smart logic' automatic transmission fitted. Other standard items include 4 wheel disc brakes, anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), power steering and all-round independent suspension. Wheels covers are standard with the ES, although optional alloy wheels were fitted to the test car.

The interior is a light and airy environment, with multi-tones which makes the interior quite attractive. In this department, the Magna is equal to Falcon and ahead of Commodore. The seats themselves are quite comfortable. There's the traditional endless variety of adjustments, which ensures comfort is provided to front seat occupants.

How do you see the Magna's styling? I see it as a very pleasing design. The smooth styling and the frameless side windows add up to a timeless and classic shape. That's why it still looks good today! That's despite it's origins going back some years. Even though the new headlight treatment may take some getting used too, the shape endures because of the stylish origins of the design. You will notice the Magna does not have the fussiness of the BA Falcon rear door/C pillar/roof line design. Nor does it have the confused styling of the VY Commodore which has contrasting straight lines in it's lights and body but then mixes it with curves at the C pillar and mudguards. Accordingly, it's full marks to the Mitsubishi designers for getting the style and the shape right! The standard wheel covers don't add much to the style, so go for alloy wheels if your budget will permit it.

Mitsubishi Magna ES 
 by Newcastle harbour

On the road, the Magna impresses you immediately, with it's smooth and comfortable riding qualities. It's quiet and cosseting. The performance is brisk enough, with abundant power just a short depression away! That previously mentioned smoothness will satisfy any critic.

If there is a fault with the Magna, it's the lack of a lock-out function for the overdrive transmission. Holden offers a lock-out with the Commodore, although Ford does not offer it with the Falcon. It's easy to accept the transmission as it is, but it would be better for some driving experiences if there was an ability to block overdrive on the automatic transmission. Examples of such occasions would be steady driving at 55 km/h or towing under certain circumstances or decelerating downhill from a high speed.

The cruise control works well with the Magna. In fact, Mitsubishi's cruise control system is amongst the best.

Price? ..... the ES auto sedan, without options, is currently $34,610 plus the traditional on-road costs.

So how does the Magna ES compare with it's two closest rivals, the Commodore Executive and the Falcon XT. Let's look and see. Holden have had the VT/VX/VY shape for so long and have sold so many of these models, it now looks stale. The colour choice is unattractive and the interior is plain. Whilst the Commodore is good on the road, it has lost the glamour it once possessed. Meanwhile, the Falcon with it's attractive colour choices has an pleasing presence, but the attention to detail let's the BA down. The Falcon is a pleasant car to drive, but that's not enough to excuse the use of some cheap components. This puts the Magna out in front!

But perception still plays a part when you choose a car. So let's take a look from a different angle.

How would you design a car which had to compete against the Commodore and Falcon?

I suspect if you were competing against Commodore and Falcon you'd probably want to make your car just a little bit better. And that's what Mitsubishi have done!

Stephen Walker
15th April, 2004
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  • Very good ride quality
  • Comfortable and quiet
  • Roominess
  • Light and airy interior
  • Neat and stylish appearance
  • No overdrive lock-out on the automatic transmission

Other Mitsubishi news: here.

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