sponsored by Cadillac
Selecting the "right" import mid-size sedan these days is a lot like ordering the "right" wine at a snooty French restaurant. It's almost easier to go with something familiar than risk trying something new.
To begin with the Diamante comes equipped with a standard and nicely punchy 210-hp twin cam 3.5 liter V-6 engine — whereas both Camry and Accord are underpowered four-cylinder chuffers in their as-is form. If you want a V-6 (and decent acceleration) in either car, you'll have to pay extra to get it — and even then, neither the V-6 equipped Camry nor the Accord is more powerful than the Diamante, with 192 hp and 200 hp, respectively. The frumpy-looking Toyota Avalon, meanwhile – once aptly described as the "best Japanese Buick money can buy," — does offer a standard V-6 engine, but it's rated at exactly the same 210 hp as the Diamante's six, so it's a dead heat on the question of power for your dollar.
2002 Mitsubishi Diamante
The Diamante is also a tick bigger than either the Camry or the Accord, and almost exactly the same size as the Avalon, a car that's as close to being full-size among under-$30k Japanese sedans as it's possible to get without getting into a high-priced luxury ride. So looked at another way, the Diamante gets you close to the dimensions and overall size of a premium full-size sedan for mid-size sedan money.
The all-new Nissan Altima is, it's true, of longer wheelbase and overall length (and much more powerful when equipped with the 240-hp 3.5 liter V-6), but the muscular Nissan is clearly oriented toward the sport-enthusiast driver, whereas the Diamante offers a nice middle ground between the Accord and Camry and hard-edged sport sedans such as the Altima (and its big brother, the Maxima).
Getting back to the issue of standard equipment, price -- and value: The '02 Diamante, even the "base" ES, comes through with the aforesaid 3.5-liter V-6, an overdrive automatic transmission, a 10-way power driver's seat, 100-watt CD-playing audio system, climate control, 16-inch alloy rims with VR-rated performance-type tires (with a full-size spare), plus all the "givens" that one expects to find in a car of this type and price, such as power windows (with one-touch operation) and locks, intermittent wipers, tilt wheel, and an electric defroster. If you move up to the more expensive LS, you'll get leather seats and woodgrain trim, electric sunroof, secondary audio controls built into the steering wheel, a HomeLink universal transmitter for your garage door, and things like that. Heated seats plus traction control are available as extra cost options.
Some reviewers have criticized the Diamante for not having or offering side impact airbags or side curtain airbags and for not including traction control as a standard feature. But this is arguably a question of priorities more so than an objective liability. Many buyers are likely to place a higher value on a standard V-6, for example, than on those side impact airbags. And while traction control is certainly a nice feature to have, the front-drive Diamante has plenty of grip under most conditions — and besides, traction control is offered as an extra cost option for those who feel they must have it.
Another criticism has been the fact that Mitsubishi doesn't as yet offer a GPS-based navigation system on the Diamante. But once again, it's a question of priorities. Some may insist on having a navigation system — and may not object to the $2000 that this typically adds to the price of the car. Others may prefer to save their dough or use it to purchase other options that give them different functionality, such as an open-air sunroof.
What you think of the 2002 Diamante will hinge on where your priorities lie. But don't dismiss this car before you take a look -- or better yet, a test drive.
2002 Mitsubishi Diamante
Base price range: $25,687-$28,447
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 210-hp
Transmission: four speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
Wheelbase: 107.1 in
Length: 194.4 in
Width: 70.3 in
Height: 53.9 in
Curb Weight: 3,461 lb.
EPA (cty/hwy): 18/25
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes
Major standard features: V-6 engine, automatic transmission, air conditioning, 100-watt audio system with CD player, power windows (one-touch), locks and mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels w/full-size spare, intermittent wipers, cruise control, electric rear defroster
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles