It’s been rough going for Mitsubishi in the US market, but back in the ’80s, its debut here was full of promise – like this Cordia.
The Cordia was part of Mitsubishi‘s first volley into the US under its own name; the company had been feeding its amiable Mirage into the Chrysler’s fleet as the Dodge Colt, and later, the Plymouth Champ.
Then came model year 1983, when Japan’s progress into the US compact-car market seemed unstoppable. The time was ripe for Mitsubishi to see what it could do for itself.
It gave compact-sedan buyers a new choice with the front-wheel drive Tredia. The Cordia sprang from that same platform, with a sleeker hatchback shape that aimed to appeal to buyers of the Honda Prelude and VW Scirocco.
Part of Japan’s inexorable progress into the hearts and minds of US buyers was its advantage in manufacturing costs; while Chevy had the Cavalier Type 10, Dodge had the Charger 2.2 and Ford had the EXP, it was hard for them to be competitive without being loaded up, Detroit-style, with a lot of expensive options.
Meanwhile, the Japanese cars came already stocked with most items buyers wanted, for less cash. Assembly quality was typically much more consistent, and their engines and transmissions were proving to be more durable as well.
This Cordia is a good example of a well-equipped and well-assembled car. While the car mags gave it middling reviews – performance didn’t measure up to the exterior’s rakishness – this Cordia demonstrates the appeal Japanese cars like these had back then.
The engine is a carburated 2.0-liter four that produced 88 horsepower. Meager by today’s standards, it was competitive back then. A fuel-injected 116-hp four was optional.
Looks like this Cordia had been repaired under an emissions recall.
This Cordia’s 88 horses were lashed to an automatic transmission, which likely drained some of their collective spirit. Under the junkyard dust, we see a solid console with tight trim fits and a cassette deck.
The cassette deck runs through this head unit, which also looks slick. It befits Mitsubishi‘s contemporary work with high-end audio equipment.
The instrument panel is maybe a bit less successful, with shaping that leans more toward lumpy than pretty.
Still, the controls were well-placed, and displays were clear. Looks like this Cordia accumulated miles at an abbreviated rate, with only about 4,000 miles per year being added.
We can see that the seats front seats have lateral support from the ample driver’s bolster being worn away from entry and exit.
You wouldn’t expect a sporty hatchback’s rear seat to have much room, and your expectation would be met by the Cordia’s rear quarters. True to being well-equipped, the seatback is split for folding, and there’s a beefy cargo cover behind.
The center shadows from the seat belt tongues show how little the rear seat was used.
Door panels are busy, with a mix of angles and curves and an inset of upholstery fabric.
The pop-up sunroof is neat in that it includes a flip-up wind deflector – another kind of touch the Japanese found a way to include. Same with the passenger grab handles.
As Mitsubishi continues to work to define its brand in a much more competitive market, where US brands have been closing the quality gap that was so wide in the ’80s, the Cordia is a reminder of a simpler time, when the company’s course was much clearer.