Used 2002 Mitsubishi Diamante Review

Edmunds expert review

A diamond best left in the rough.

What's new for 2002

A sporty new trim level, the VR-X, debuts in an attempt to put some life into the Diamante's sales charts. Otherwise, only minor changes are in store for the Diamante this year. Slight styling tweaks have been applied to the front and rear, and the interior features redesigned audio controls and an emergency inside-trunk release. One mechanical change has been made this year -- Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) has been added to all trim levels.

Vehicle overview

We recently conducted a comparison of eight entry-level luxury sedans. The Mitsubishi Diamante was not among them. Why? Our rules for comparisons say that competing vehicles must have either won the previous test, or be all-new or significantly revised. The Diamante hasn't been redesigned or significantly revised since 1998, and it didn't win our 1999 entry-level luxury sedan test. Actually, it came in last.

This wasn't due to styling. We generally approve of this car's shape, and Mitsubishi has further updated the look this year with a restyled grille, hood and decklid; new combination lamps; and new wheels.

The last-place finish wasn't due to a poor value equation, either. The base ES model comes with a CD player, a 10-way-adjustable power seat and an anti-theft engine immobilizer. Stepping up to the LS nets leather seats, 16-inch alloy wheels, driver seat memory, a power sunroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, woodgrain accents, color-keyed body-side molding and a HomeLink transmitter. You also get steering wheel audio controls, but the All Weather Package is required to get heated seats, heated exterior mirrors and traction control. The new VR-X, slotted between the ES and LS, is designed to appeal to those who prefer more sporting features and driving dynamics, and as such comes with a performance-tuned suspension and exhaust (the latter worth a five-horsepower increase), mesh grille inserts, rear deck spoiler, white-faced instruments and the now-obligatory metallic interior accents.

Even an LS with the All Weather Package and additional accessories costs little more than $30,000. But many features found on competing vehicles aren't available on the Diamante, such as a navigation system, stability control, side (or side curtain) airbags, high-intensity discharge headlamps or an automanual transmission.

The only transmission offered is a four-speed automatic. It's not a particularly bright unit, despite Mitsu's claims of "Adaptive Shift Control." Downshifts are lumbering, which is unfortunate, as the Diamante's 210-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is a torquey and smooth unit. The Diamante has some strengths as a driver's car that include capable and confident brakes; a quiet, well-insulated interior; and sticky tires that remain silent at highway speeds. But these attributes are more than offset by the somewhat mushy suspension (on the ES and LS) and numb steering.

In the past, we've criticized the design of the climate and audio controls, saying they were overly fussy. Mitsubishi has at least upgraded the audio system interface this year, but the interior still has other problems. The interior materials aren't up to $30,000-sedan standards, and there's a rampant lack of nighttime control illumination. Seating is comfortable, but the rear seat does not fold down, and no center pass-through is offered.

There's not much that's positive to say about Mitsubishi's slow-selling sedan. It has the basic ingredients -- elegant shape, long list of luxury features, a seemingly sumptuous interior (as long as you don't look too closely). It even has a strong engine and comfy ride. But if you dig a little deeper, you find a host of negative traits. If you're shopping for an entry-level luxury sedan, we suggest something other than the Diamante.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.