Is The Mitsubishi FTO A Good Car? Should You Buy One?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you will have noticed that prices of “classic” Japanese performance cars like the Toyota Supra Mk4, Mazda RX-7 and Nissan Skyline GT-R have gone crazy.

What were all once somewhat attainable cars are now fast becoming the preserve of the rich – or at least those who had enough foresight to get into Bitcoin early.

What this now means is that for many of us mere “financial mortals”, we have to look at the next tier down of Japanese performance classics to find anything that remotely resembles good value for money.

I’m talking about cars that were well-received in their time, but never achieved the same level of stardom, recognition and demand as the Tier One JDM cars like the Supra, RX-7 or Skyline.

One such car is the Mitsubishi FTO.

Long story short, the FTO was built to be the younger brother of the GTO (known to our American readers as the 3000GT – you can read our Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO buyer’s guide here for more info if this interests you).

Launched in 1994, the FTO was received well, with critics praising its blend of competent handling, attractive looks and decent power.

In fact, the FTO was considered to be so good in its day that it was the first sports car in some time to win the coveted Japanese Car of the Year award.

I won’t repeat everything that has been written already in our Mitsubishi FTO buyer’s guide and model history. In that article you can find all the information you’d ever want to know about the origins and history of the car, the different variants and revisions etc, so if you’re considering buying an FTO make sure you go and check this out.

What is important for the purpose of this article is to know that people, back in the day, liked the FTO. In fact, despite originally having been intended as a Japanese domestic market-only car (learn more here about what JDM means) it proved sufficiently popular as a used export out of Japan, that Mitsubishi eventually relented and sold the car in some Western markets like the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

But is the Mitsubishi FTO a good car today?

Should you buy one if you have the chance?

In this edition of Car Facts, I’m going to give my take on whether or not the Mitsubishi FTO is a good car in 2022, and whether it is a worthy purchase if you are on the market for an interesting piece of Japanese motoring history.

What’s Good About The FTO

  • Attractive styling – When I was first getting into cars, I fell in love with the styling of the facelifted GTO/3000GT. At the time I remember thinking that the FTO looked rubbish in comparison to its older sibling. However, time has been kind to the FTO and now I think it is one of the best looking compact sports cars of the era. It looks purposeful and athletic, and isn’t too “flashy”. The small footprint of the car is also ideal if you’re after a weekend warrior that you can store in your garage.
  • Surprisingly good performance – The FTO never set the world on fire in terms of performance. However, in higher-spec models that came fitted with the 2.0 V6 (and especially the GPX trim with the MIVEC-equipped engine) the FTO had more than enough punch to be fun to drive. Here’s a clip from an old episode of Best Motoring, showing the FTO GP-R, which was the top-spec variant, staying within a whisker of a DC2 Integra Type R in a quarter mile dash:

  • Examples equipped with the 1.8 four-cylinder engine definitely aren’t as strong performance-wise, but are adequate for everyday use. If you are on a tight budget and just fancy the look of an FTO, then there’s nothing wrong with a four banger. However, I would strongly recommend buying a V6 model though, ideally with the manual gearbox if you can find it as the tiptronic is okay but not brilliant – sapping some of the driving enjoyment and also introducing potential reliability issues. The FTO also had good handling, and thanks to its reasonably low weight (by today’s standards) and strong and free-revving V6 engine you can hustle these cars hard. Some cars were specced or came standard with a limited slip differential, further improving handling characteristics.
  • Value for money – Although prices have definitely risen (see specific comments below about this) outside of examples of “I know what it’s worth” sellers trying to get too much money for their cars, the FTO is still decent value for money by today’s standards. It is an attainable, interesting, good-to-drive Japanese modern classic that won’t break the bank.
  • Decent reliability – From our research – which is chronicled in our FTO buyer’s guide – these cars are generally quite reliable provided they are maintained properly. Despite the age of the FTO, parts availability isn’t terrible either. Long story short, if you are on the market for a Japanese classic that is unlikely to break the bank with huge repair bills, then the FTO could be a solid buy. They aren’t onerously difficult to work on either.

What’s Not So Good

  • Prices have still been rising and some people want silly money – Unfortunately, the rising tide lifts all boats. As anyone who has tried recently to buy any car will tell you, car prices are getting a bit silly at the moment. While FTO prices have not risen anything like we’ve seen on cars like the Supra or RX-7, they are still more expensive than they were. While the FTO still represents relative value, the truth is that in the current market you are probably still overpaying. Another issue is that some owners want to sell their cars but have unrealistic expectations about what their particular FTO is worth, especially if they have one of the rarer GPX or Version R models. There is one particular FTO that is for sale here in New Zealand (at the time of writing) where the seller has been trying for months to get the best part of $50,000 NZD for their car. Admittedly, it looks in nice condition and is the most desirable spec you can get from the final year of production – but you could have a brand new Ford Fiesta ST or Polo GTI for less money. In my view, the only reason you’d pay that much for an FTO is because you hope the next owner might pay even more for it … but even with today’s crazy car market that figure seems very “fully priced”.  I guess the seller is hoping that someone with that mindset comes along and slaps down the cash.
  • Getting long in the tooth – The earliest FTOs are nearly 30 years old. Even later models lack many of the modern conveniences we have come to expect from cars, and the FTO was never as luxurious or well-appointed as the GTO/3000GT. Not such an issue if you aren’t looking to daily drive your FTO, but certainly you might want to think twice if you intend on using one of these cars on a daily basis. FTOs are definitely lacking in the safety department as well, which is an important consideration if you’re thinking of using the car as a daily driver.
  • The FTO’s cheapness has been the downfall of many examples – At one point, the FTO was dirt cheap. Up until JDM car prices started climbing a few years ago (and when there were more of these cars on the roads) you could pick up a decent FTO for not much more than you’d pay for a top-spec iPhone these days. Even the more desirable GPX and GP-R models weren’t particularly pricey. I can remember back around 2008/9 when I had passed my provisional/restricted driver licence test and was looking at upgrading to a better car, that the FTO was one of the cheapest “fun” Japanese cars. This former cheapness is the FTO’s Achilles’ Heel. Because these cars got so cheap, many were purchased by people of more modest means who simply needed a decent car to get from A to B. Here in NZ, when you see an FTO it is most commonly in terrible condition, with dreadful bodywork/paint and usually a space-saver tire permanently affixed to one wheel. Lack of maintenance and poor treatment by owners who just needed cheap transport and didn’t care or know that they had one of Japan’s great cars of the 1990s have meant that many examples died an early death or are simply in such poor condition that they aren’t worth saving. Rust has also been a killer in the UK market and other countries with rust-inducing conditions.
  • Limited availability – There were less than 40,000 FTOs ever produced. Age, mileage and lack of maintenance have taken their toll on the fleet, meaning that the FTO is no long as common of a sight as it once was. Finding a decent FTO is becoming increasingly challenging, and availability (rather than price) may be your biggest hindrance. You can learn more about this in my article on the rarity of the FTO.

Conclusion – Is Mitsubishi FTO A Good Car

Yes, the Mitsubishi FTO is a good car – especially if you can find the right one.

It isn’t as desirable as its big brother, the 3000GT/GTO, nor will it ever be.

It is definitely a ‘Sports Car Junior’, and by today’s standards it isn’t spectacularly quick … even if you get one of the top spec models with the interesting and punchy 2 litre V6. As a side note, in some respects I would argue that a good FTO is worth buying just for that engine, because small displacement V6 engines are becoming rarer and rarer.

From my perspective, the FTO is one of those cars that I would definitely consider buying if I came across a sound example at reasonable money.

I wouldn’t overpay for one (to the extent that you can avoid overpaying in the current market) and I wouldn’t say that the FTO is a true “dream” JDM classic, but they are good cars with a solid reputation for being enjoyable to drive. The FTO oozes mid-90s Japanese cool, and you can drive around pretending you are living inside of the world of Gran Turismo 1.

If you already have your heart set on an FTO and you just wanted confirmation that your choice is a good one, then go and read our FTO buyer’s guide first and then use that advice to help you source the best possible example for your budget. You know what you want, and the choice is a sound one.

On the other hand, if you’re just looking for another potential buy (i.e. you’ve got a few cars on a list and you’ll buy the first/best one that comes up) then the Mitsubishi FTO is a worthy contender.

What do you think of the FTO? Leave a comment below, we would love to hear from you!

Author

    by
  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

4 thoughts on “Is The Mitsubishi FTO A Good Car? Should You Buy One?”

  1. Enjoyed your article, thank you. I’m in the UK with a 1995 GPX manual FTO. I’ve had it since 05 and used it as my only car until 09 when I laid it up. It had a brief return to service between 15 and 17 and then laid up again. Last week I started it up and today it failed the MOT on ineffective windscreen washers! Should be OK tomorrow. Great little car and apparently, bombproof!

    Reply
    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Sounds like a great car you’ve got there, and well worth keeping it on the road. The FTO is a bit of a “hidden gem” (particularly in GPX guise) and if you’ve got the means to keep it and look after it, then you’d be crazy not to.

      All the best! Point any future FTO owners our way too as we have a comprehensive buyer’s guide for the car.

      Reply
  2. Thanks for the article, very interesting.
    I have a gps Mivec v6 manual with a higher compression engine fitted. I bought it in Cyprus where it spent most of its life. Due to the climate and the undersealing, it has almost no corrosion. It has been in the uk for 3 years and is great to drive. I have no idea of its value, the prices vary so much. Parts are easily obtainable.

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting Alan – sounds like a great car and I’d be hanging on to it 100%. Finding a good FTO is increasingly challenging, and prices have been rising accordingly.

      Reply

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