Mitsubishi's Eclipse And FTO: Two Similar Cars But One Will Serve You Better As A Used Buy – HotCars

They are similar in design and purpose, but differ in a few critical ways – we see which one is the better car.
As soon as you mention ‘90s JDM cars’, you probably already have an image of one of the big three manufacturers’ models from either Nissan, Mazda, or Toyota. Still, there’s an equal chance you are thinking of a Mitsubishi.
Although nowadays Mitsubishi has left the sports car building it produced two successful and sought-after cars; the rally-friendly Lancer Evolution and the high-performance sports car called the 3000GT.
There is also another choice though in the shape of Mitsubishi’s own FTO and Eclipse – two cars on sale at the same time which both offered front-wheel drive and around 200 hp in a svelte coupe body.
We look at which makes more sense as a used buy today and if these cars really are that similar at all under the skin.
Born in 1994 and continuing for a short 6 years thereafter, the FTO was Mitsubishi’s compact sports car below the 3000GT which was also produced while the other cars were on sale.
It was relatively small, with well-executed styling and a front-wheel-drive platform powered by a 1.8-liter or 2-liter engine, the latter of which was a V6 engine.
Over its life the FTO impressed, generally, with its design and handling, it offered features like air conditioning and more options to make it feel like a junior GT car.
Under the hood, a 4-cylinder 1.8-liter making 123hp was standard for the GS model, but further up the range you could have a comparably tiny 2-liter V6 which would make around 170 hp; cars could come with a 5-speed manual or 4-5 speed automatic although the manual is much more appealing in a car like this one.
With 197 hp, the variable valve timing 2-liter V6 MIVEC car was at the top of the lineup, and today this car makes a great alternative to the pricier Honda Integra Type R.
At the same time, the Eclipse – another front-wheel-drive compact sports car – was produced by Mitsubishi under the auspices of an arrangement with Chrysler to design and produce such a car in the US and sell it under three brands including Mercury, Eagle, and Mitsubishi.
The first cars were all nearly identical when they emerged from Diamond Star Cars, but the design was objectively handsome, engines ranged from a 1.8-liter with 90 hp to a 2-liter with 135 hp and a turbocharged version with up to 195 hp including four-wheel drive in the top model.
This was a real mini JDM supercar with its turbo power and all-wheel drive, but it would receive an extensive refresh around 1994 to coincide with the arrival of the brand’s FTO.
Unlike the FTO, it didn’t have a V6 under the hood, but it did have either a 2-liter or 2.4-liter motor depending on the market with 140 hp; plus a 210 hp turbocharged version of the 2-liter naturally-aspirated engine.
Another arm in its arsenal was the continuing option of four-wheel drive on the top model which made this more of a real performance car compared to the FTO even if it lacked the drama of the design of its sibling.
RELATED: 10 Reasons Why The Mitsubishi FTO Is Awesome
In 1997 both of these compact machines received a facelift and improved equipment, but today the list of features obviously looks more spartan than luxurious because times have moved on.
Back then, items like central locking, air conditioning, and leather-wrapped accouterments were valuable additions, but now these cars are about style, speed, and simplicity.
Pitting the 2-liter V6 MIVEC FTO against the 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder Eclipse means that you’re comparing an 8-second 0-60 mph time against a 7-second 0-60 mph time, although figures differ greatly depending on where you look.
As they have similar acceleration times, the cabin differences and general preference is key until you reach the buying stage.
At this point, both the FTO and the second-generation Eclipse are not ubiquitous but rather rare, on eBay there were only 3 Eclipses for sale, two for $10,000 or under and another one in showroom condition for $20,000; Autotrader.com only has 7 examples ranging from $5000 to $25,000.
The FTO on the other hand wasn’t up on Autotrader or eBay, but one was sold for $5600 at an auction on Cars and Bids.com.
RELATED: A Detailed Look Back At The Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
So the cars aren’t particularly expensive to buy, but you need to find one, and therein lies the challenge; later Eclipse MK3 or MK4 cars from 1999 onwards are much more prevalent though.
Time works in mysterious ways and a lot of these cars may have been modified, crashed, or otherwise, not to mention that the FTO wasn’t officially importable into the US until around 2019.
Alternatively, the bigger brother or sister in the form of the 3000GT remains a compelling choice even today.
With similar classic Japanese 90s JDM looks, and real performance potential locked away underneath, it’s an affordable sports car today that will still provide thrills and spills and a view back at a different age.
This car is pretty prevalent on classifieds sites like the later Eclipse, but it offers up to a twin-turbo 3-liter V6 with around 300 hp in certain models and enough torque to propel its not-inconsiderable mass to 60 mph in as low as 5 seconds.
If you had to pick between the FTO and second-generation Eclipse though, the sweet, naturally-aspirated V6 under that sleek hood and the more delicate, compact dimensions today make for a rare, yet exotic and desirable little sports car.
Hailing from Britain, the home of both MG and Aston Martin, Dave is no stranger to sports cars. Or a little rain. When he’s not busy working his day-job or writing songs and pretending to be a musician; Dave indulges his obsession with cars by writing and researching diligently, so that he can inform and convert other people to the dark side.

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