By KBB.com Editors
The 2009 Mitsubishi Eclipse Coupe, now entering its fourth year of production, continues to have a steady rise in sales. One reason for this is obvious: The Eclipse's curvaceous good looks, reasonable price tag and impressive performance and handling make it a highly desirable choice. A bit less obvious, but still a factor, is that, currently, the only other front-wheel-drive, two-door hatchbacks offering similar performance and value are the Volkswagen GTI, Hyundai Tiburon and MINI Cooper S, none of which can come close to matching the Eclipse's 265 horsepower. Among those without a hatchback, the Chevrolet Cobalt SS nearly matches the Eclipse's horsepower, while the less-powerful Honda Civic Si and Ford Mustang V6 might also be worth a look.You'll Like This Car If...
You'll like the Eclipse Coupe if you are looking for an affordable, sporty-styled, modern-looking two-door that offers a substantial level of fun-to-drive performance in a moderately-priced front-wheel-drive vehicle.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you are a dyed-in-the-wool performance enthusiast who demands 300-plus horsepower and the most precise handling possible, this car may not deliver on your dreams. And, the rear-seat headroom is very limited.What's New for 2009
New front and rear fascias mark the major changes for 2009, with the GT trim receiving an aggressive two-tone front bumper treatment. Also new to the GT is a larger rear spoiler, Active Stability Control and tuned dual exhaust for better sound and more horsepower.Driving It Driving Impressions
The Eclipse Coupe is no longer the boy-racer it once was. Today's Eclipse has matured, engineered for the middle-of-the-road sporty driver. This is not to say the Eclipse is without some very sporty driving characteristics. Both engines provide plenty of low-end torque – a plus when the light turns green and you've got to get across the intersection and then into another lane, for example. With the Eclipse GT, Mitsubishi has managed to strike a satisfying balance between steering responsiveness and low-speed control, both of which seem nearly effortless. Twisty back roads are welcome when driving the Eclipse and, although the V6 has enough power to generate some torque steer (a tendency for the steering of a front-drive car to pull to one side or the other during hard acceleration), it's not unmanageable by any means.Favorite Features
Rockford Fosgate Audio
Available in the Sun & Sound Package, along with a sunroof, for around $1,800, this nine-speaker 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system features a six-disc in-dash CD changer that also plays MP3 files (but, alas, has no iPod connection).
Mitsubishi's 10-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain is pretty hard to ignore when you're considering the pros and cons of a new-car purchase. It buys you a lot of peace of mind.
As has been the case in past Eclipse designs, the interior of the current coupe delivers on the promises made by its sporty exterior. An abundance of glass, coupled with more interior space, goes a long way toward alleviating feelings of claustrophobia. Still, the curved dash is designed with such a slant that it almost seems to give off a sensation of movement. Interior fit and finish is tight, and there is hardly a trace of cheap plastic. The well-bolstered sport bucket front seats work well for enthusiastic driving, but are still comfy enough for long road trips. The side airbag on the passenger's seat has a weight sensor that prevents the bag from deploying when the seat is occupied by a child. Available on many competitors and missing from the Eclipse's option list are Bluetooth hands-free communication and an on-board navigation system.Exterior
The fourth-generation Eclipse could be characterized as more "muscular" than its previous incarnations, with little-to-no defining breaks interrupting the surfaces flowing between fenders and integrated bumpers. The headlights seem to wear shades – each has a blue-tinted "monocle" lens extending out before it – and the lights benefit from a multi-parabola design, which maximizes the bulbs' projections. The rear lamps look clear, but shine red with the use of LED technology. The large rear hatch opens to allow easy placement of large items, an uncommon benefit not offered by many coupesNotable Standard Equipment
The Eclipse GS standard equipment includes a 162-horsepower four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission, 17-inch five-spoke aluminum alloy wheels with all-season tires, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with MP3-compatible CD player, cruise control, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, tire-pressure monitoring system, tilt steering wheel and keyless entry. Both the GS and GT models have well-bolstered sport seats, with the driver's side having adjustable lumbar support. Standard safety gear on all models includes driver's and front-passenger's front airbags, with a passenger-side occupant-sensing system, seat-belt pretensioners and front-seat side and side-curtain airbags. The GT adds a 265-horsepower V6 engine, six-speed manual transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, Active Stability Control, rear spoiler, dual exhaust, integrated fog lamps, larger rear brakes and traction control.Notable Optional Equipment
One of the Eclipse's most notable options is the 650-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system featuring nine speakers and a 10-inch long-throw subwoofer. It accommodates six CDs or MP3 discs in its in-dash changer. Other options of note are arranged in packages. The Sun & Sound Package includes power sunroof, steering-wheel audio controls, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, center display with outside temperature and compass and the Rockford Fosgate stereo. The GT Premium Sport Package has everything the Sun & Sound Package offers plus heated leather seats, a power driver's seat and automatic climate control.Under the Hood
Both Eclipse engines feature Mitsubishi Innovative Valve Electronic Control (MIVEC), which spreads the output over a wider engine speed range and optimizes power, emissions and fuel economy. The more desirable of the two engines, particularly for performance, is definitely the V6, although the tradeoff for the additional power is an expected reduction in fuel economy. With either engine, the automatic transmission has the Sportronic feature, which allows the driver to shift manually by moving the shift lever into the sports-mode gate.
162 horsepower at 6000 rpm
162 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (manual), 19/26 (automatic)
265 horsepower at 5750 rpm
262 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/25 (manual), 16/24 (automatic)
The Eclipse GS with a five-speed manual transmission has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $21,000. The GT version equipped with the V6 engine and automatic Sportronic transmission starts around $25,500 and tops out around $31,000 with all the options. To ensure you make your best deal be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price, which represents what consumers are actually paying in your area. As for resale, the Eclipse holds slightly better than average residual values, on par with the Hyundai Tiburon and Ford Mustang V6 and higher than the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, yet well below the five-year residuals expected for the Volkswagen GTI and MINI Cooper S.