This article was first published in 1998.
The Mitsubishi Cordia turbo hit Australia in the early-'80s wave of first generation turbo-cars. The Cordia's performance competitors were the Nissan EXA/ET turbos, the little Daihatsu Charade turbo and also Mitsubishi's own more expensive RWD Starion. In the last of the leaded fuel days (pre-1986), the Cordia Turbo represented a performance bargain which could pull 16.0 quarters in a time when 17 and 18 second quarter miles were the norm from fours.
The first model was released in late-1983, an update (with a different grille and minor changes) was released in 1984 and lastly, the unleaded version came out in late-1985. Production ceased in 1988. These variations were labelled AA, AB and AC models respectively.
Using a front-wheel-drive layout, the design of the Cordia is very similar to the Colt (Mirage) but it has a wider track for increased stability. This means it sports MacPherson front struts and a beam rear axle. Over the naturally aspirated Cordias, the turbo model received higher-rate springs and dampers front and rear plus fatter sway bars.
Early (leaded) models can be picked by their 13 inch alloys which came factory clad with 185/60 series tyres. Unleaded cars came fitted with shiny 14 inch wheels. Braking performance is adequate but not stunning. Vented discs are under the nose while drums are used at the rear - one of the ways Mitsubishi kept costs down in comparison to the Starion. The car's early power steering technology is evident at the first tug of the wheel - it's very light and offers little feedback. Maybe 7 out of 10 in this department.
Punting the car hard, understeer is dominant, but anyone from a FWD background will quickly overcome this and change driving style accordingly. This understeer can be easily neutralised by lifting off the throttle or by left foot braking. Despite common rumour, torque steer is minimal, but in wet road conditions it does become more apparent.
The body has a co-efficient of drag of just 0.33, which undoubtedly helps it reach its 200km/h top speed. The gently angled rear glass also has the ability to maintain good visibility even when it's raining, because airflow over the body washes any water off the rear glass.
Inside the car is well appointed with bolstered seats, air, electric mirrors and good instrumentation. One way of telling if a car genuinely has low-kms is to look at the condition of the seats and how doggy the gear shifter boot is. If the latter is flaking away, be suspicious! Not too heavy - not too light, the car weighs 1030kg in leaded form while the AC is around 1050kg.
A 2 valves per cylinder G62B Sirius engine displacing 1.8 litres was used for both the unleaded and leaded models, however, the power output varied a lot between them. The smoggy engine produced a creditable 110kW (147hp) at 6000rpm and 210Nm of torque at 4000revs. Cat converter equipped cars had figures that dwindled to 90kW at 5500rpm and 172Nm at 3 grand. Both engines used the same throttle-body injection system, two injectors and knock sensing. The difference was the unleaded car ran less boost and got away with using a smaller TC05 turbo instead of the leaded's TC06.
On the road, our testing revealed a soft rev limiter at around 7100rpm together with a good spread of usable torque. Boost could be reached as early as 2000rpm, but the leaded model's big turbo means the car takes some effort to get off the line briskly. In second gear and above, the car's high torque and light weight can really be felt.
Straight-line go is where the leaded Cordia leaves its real impression. An average 0-100 time of 8.5 seconds, a quarter mile dash in 16-zero and a 200km/h top end were all Brock Commodore rivaling numbers in the early-'80s. The bite of the yellow fuel sapped 20kW of power and lengthened the 0-100 time by nearly a second and a half, with the quarter mile growing to 16.9 seconds. Strangely enough, top speed still hovered around the 200km/h mark. Fuel usage was reasonable given the car's power - an average of around 11litres per 100km.
A free flowing exhaust is the first step towards making a Cordia Turbo haul. Go 3-inch when your budget permits, but make sure you fit only straight-through mufflers. Remember, a high-flow cat converter is a legal requirement for the unleaded model.
The turbo intake can then be freed up by slapping in an aftermarket filter while ensuring air entering the airbox is being sucked from a cool, heat-insulated area. An intercooler is needed before you can safely increase boost, and ex-wrecking yard air-to-air intercoolers are able to do the trick for low $$. But note that fitting an intercooler and getting plumbing to and from the core often necessitates some cutting of bodywork.
With an intercooler fitted, the next step is to fit a boost control system (pneumatic or electronic) to bring boost up to around 14psi - or until the factory fuel-cut is reached. These are the most common mods to the Cordia, but with a full rebuild, multi-point aftermarket injection and the works, around 270hp can be attained.
One other option is the 2-litre capacity Dash engine which came fitted to Japanese models. When the standard engine finally gives up and a replacement is needed, this engine gives a small bonus in power. The engines cost around $1,200 but Japanese import Sirius engines are few and far between these days.
Australia was spoilt by the introduction of the Cordia turbo in late 1983. Initially costing only A$13,500, these cars were real bargains and therefore quite a few were sold - many more than Starions at least! Today these rockets are cheap enough to be bought as first cars - although insurance costs mean that only Third Party Property is financially feasible for many. For a high kilometre Cordia with a dodgy engine/turbo etc, expect to have to pay around only A$3,000 - possibly less with strong negotiation. On the other hand, a later model example in prime condition with books might be sold for A$8,000.
Despite people's perception of the Cordia as being smokey and unreliable, the car can be very hassle-free when properly serviced and driven with some sympathy. Some problems to look out for though are noisy 'silent shaft' bearings (ironically!) and a worn out turbo. This can be picked by smoke puffs from the exhaust, an rpm-dependant whining noise or lack of performance. Thrashed cars often have slipping clutches and warped front brake discs, but bear in mind all Cordia Turbos are getting a bit long in the tooth so these problems are to be expected.
Performance of Intended Role
Mitsubishi always marketed the Cordia just below the Starion in the 'performance car' market - which was a good move, because it does have more every-day user appeal. We've no doubt a really good driver in a Starion could pull away from a Cordia - but the Cordia also won't move into big oversteer and bite the inexperienced punter! It is well suited for commuter traffic with occasional highway blasts (where it is quite strong) and has quite good rear seat spaciousness and storage, making it an impressively versatile package for a 2 door.
The Cordia turbo is a top-value performance buy. It's a good all-round practical sports car with great traffic light abilities and a comfortable interior. For buyers, it's probably safest to go for an immaculate example, since new and quality used parts are becoming scarce. Big bang on a budget.