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Used car review Mitsubishi Magna 1999-2000

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    When the Magna TH update model (pictured) arrived early in 1999 it boasted a more aggressive grille, revised rear, updated interiors, and new wheel covers and alloy wheels.

Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Mitsubishi Magna 99-00: its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when buying it.

Despite being condemned over the years as being boring and bland the Mitsubishi Magna stands out as one that can deliver cheap, reliable motoring.  If they had their critics, they also had their fans, and those who bought Magnas, like the TH, generally became hooked on them.  The Magna is no longer on the market, but there are plenty of them still out there on the used car market, and they can make good buying.

MODEL WATCH

The TH Magna was the third makeover of the third generation Magna first released in 1996.  By the time the all-new Gen 3 model was launched the Magna had acquired a reputation for being a steady and sure choice, the sort of car appreciated by people nearing their dotage. But the new Magna was an attempt to rid itself of this baggage and broaden its appeal to younger buyers.

Where previous models had been chunky with generously rounded curves the new model had sweeping lines and more athletic proportions.  So sleek was its shape that it was the most aerodynamic car made in this country.

It was wider and longer than the outgoing model with increased front and rear legroom and more boot space, but the sweeping roofline attracted quite a deal of criticism for its negative impact on headroom.

The new Magna also featured frameless windows and slim B-pillars in an effort to create a more airy feeling inside, but it wasn't enough to quell the critics who slammed the grey trim and high waistline for making the cabin seem dull and generally depressing.

When the TH update model arrived early in 1999 it boasted a more aggressive grille, revised rear, updated interiors, and new wheel covers and alloy wheels.  Gone by then was the four-cylinder engine that had been offered in previous models and Magna buyers could only buy a V6.

A 140 kW 3.0-litre single overhead camshaft V6 was available in the entry level Executive model, but the rest of the range boasted a 3.5- litre V6 that had performance peaks of 147 kW and 300 Nm.

Buyers could choose between a five-speed manual and a four-speed auto, with most choosing the auto. As with previous models the final drive was through the front wheels.

The TH also introduced a number of innovations to the local market.  It was the first Australian-made car with ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce distribution (EBD), and the first to offer Traction Control.

It also had air-conditioning as standard, a trip computer and an integrated anti-theft alarm.  The model line-up kicked off with the Executive, followed by the Advance, Altera LS and Sports.

ON THE LOT

It's now more than 10 years since the TH Magna was released and that means it's getting towards the end of its useable life.  Shop around as there are lots of them out there and it's important with such an old car that you find the gem that's been molly-coddled   all its life, and more importantly, has plenty of life left in it.

Pay $2000-$5000.

IN THE SHOP

There are few reports of troubles with the TH Magna, which backs up the claims that it's pretty well bulletproof.  Most reported problems can be traced back to a lack of maintenance so   check the service history of any car on sale. This can be neglected in cars as old as the TH as they can pass into the hands of owners who are sometimes unable to afford proper servicing.

Remove the dipstick and take a look at the oil, if it's black and dirty take a closer look at the service record.  You're likely to find oil leaks around the engine and these could require fixing for a roadworthy, so take them into consideration.

Take note of the way the transmission shifts, particularly note any hesitation or reluctance to shift gears, and rule out any car that shows a problem in this area.  Inspect the front driveshafts for damage to the rubber boots. Walk away if any damage is found.  Not all engines in the TH range were LPG compatible, so make sure the engine in your chosen car is if you plan to convert it.

IN A CRASH

The base Executive model didn't have airbags, but all other models in the TH range had dual front airbags.  All boasted ABS anti-lock braking with the new feature of Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD).

AT THE PUMP

Mitsubishi claimed the 3.0-litre V6 models with do 6.6 L/100 km on   the highway and 9.0 L/100 km around town; it also said those with the 3.5-litre V6 would do 11.0 L/100 km around town and 6.8 L/100 km on   the open road.  Road testers reported the 3.5-litre V6 would average 10-13 L/100 km.

OWNER'S SAY

Of all the cars Damien Hamilton and his wife have owned, and they   include an HSV3800, a Nissan 200SX, a Toyota Corolla, three Toyota Camrys and two Toyota Aurions, the 1999 TH Mitsubishi Magna Advance   they recently sold stood out for reliability. In the eight years they owned it they had it serviced by the book and didn't have to spend a   cent on anything else. Everything from door seals to buttons to fuel economy was as good as new! The wear and tear was minimal on things   like brakes and tyres, the tyres easily lasted over 100,000 km each   time!! Admittedly, they say, the car was plain to look at but that   was the only negative, in all other respects it was exceptional and   it's a shame they are no longer made. In Damie
n's view Toyota's   "bulletproof" reputation is unjustified, particularly when compared   to Mitsubishi and the Magna.

LOOK FOR

. Sweeping looks
. Bland interior
. Good-sized boot
. Smooth V6 engines
. Good driver
. Well-built and reliable

ALSO CHECK THESE

AU FALCON - 1998-2002: Unloved for its awkward looks the AU Falcon is still worth a look if   you want a full-sized six-cylinder car that's solidly built and can   be quite reliable. It is a good candidate for gas conversion to save   on running costs. Build quality was variable so be careful when   choosing a car. Pay $4000-$10,000.

VT COMMODORE -1997-2000: The VT was a popular model when new and sill is with young kids   looking for a first car. Is solid, quite well-built and reasonably   reliable. Pay $4000-$9000.

A32 NISSAN MAXIMA - 1995-1999: Smooth driving, well-built and reliable six-cylinder sedan that's   often over-looked. Pay $5000-$8000.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Get past the name and find a strong, well-built, reliable and   affordable car.

RATING

85/100

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 11 comments

  • Very reliable car. I have a 1999 Altera. However just like the Sigma it leaks and burns oil so make sure you carry 4 litres of oil in the boot for long trips. The oil issue seems to be a common one for Mitsubishi despite servicing every 10,000km.

    Robert Picone of Sydney Posted on 24 April 2014 12:09am
  • I love my magna TH it's good value for money, even better than a 1997 E class Mercedes I had. But, it go's through petrol like no tomorrow, you can actually see the needle go down in a eye blink.

    Andrew Bell of Sydney Posted on 22 April 2014 9:58pm
  • Used to work for a hire car company, and we had 5 of these in our fleet, and am currently hiring one out. Im far more accustomed to a bigger car (such as the Ford Falcon S/Wagons) for my regular use, but they are damned reliable, and very economical. My only gripes with them, and this is purely nit-picky, is cause im 6'1, i feel very large in a medium car like the 99 Magna Exec. The other issue I take with them, again, a nit-pick, is the older models lacked cruise Control. The magnas that had it, you could more or less do an entire days driving just using the tiny cruise control lever, but without it, can become unfortable during long drives. overall, good car, but not my sort of 'every day' car.

    J.D of bundaberg Posted on 08 December 2012 3:23pm
  • I purchased an unreg 1999 exec wagon 3.0 ltr for 650 bucks that looked like it had been parked in a cow paddock for 5 years. I spent a day cleaning it up and degreasing the engine and the car looked like new, It had a leaking rocker cover gasket and a split drive shaft boot, which was all that was needed for a rwc. It drives great and never miss's a beat. Heaps of power in the v6 smooth auto however a bit of wind noise from back windows that dont seat properly for some reason, great car and a bargain,

    graham of melbourne Posted on 17 November 2012 9:16pm
  • I've got a TH 2000 Magna Exec 3.5. Picked it up in 2009 after the old Camry got written off after being rear ended. I've serviced it myself every few thousand KMs and has not missed a beat. Picked it up when it had 97,000ks on the clock and now sitting at about 150,000. Best car I ever bought for $5,000

    Kamran Channa of Melbourne Posted on 30 July 2012 11:16pm
  • I've had a 2001 magna advance for 4 years now. It was my first car and never had a single thing go wrong with it. If driven carefully I can achieve 6.7;/100km on the highway and a little over 9 in a suburban enviroment.It has plenty of power when needed and for a supposedly sloppy handling car as commodore owners say it hangs in a corner a lot faster than a impreza I had for a few weeks. Mine oddly enough came with AUX input as standard and the stereo is amazing. Only issue I can report is the wind noise from the rear right window because it doesnt sit right when up. I blame people for closing the door with force on a framless window though. Other than that i'll have this car until it dies then i will surely look at a 380 or another Mitsubishi.

    Jayden Henson of Perth Posted on 13 July 2012 4:38am
  • Recently bought a 2000 verada xi with the lot. Iv'e owned many cars, including a few different Mitsubishi's, but generally been a Holden man. I can't believe how good these cars are for the money, and kicking myself for not realising earlier! I bought this one a little run down, but with little effort, brought it back to it's original glory. Easy to work on, parts and service items are all readily available, and reasonably cheap. Maybe we should keep this secret before everybody wants one and prices go up! Highly recomend any model in the series, but especially the Verada for good cheap luxury.

    Doug C of Ballarat. Victoria Posted on 02 February 2012 11:04pm
  • I own a TH wagon - 3.5 auto - service it regularly - needs valve stem seals doing but had since new and only had new struts and rear shocks replaced - runs smooth and quiet and keeping it until it dies as all other current cars on market do not match this ones features and reliability - Great car and cheap to run and a pleasure to own.

    Tony Wickham of Gold coast Posted on 25 April 2011 3:38pm
  • I had a 1997 Magna altera LS ( 3ltr V6 auto) until 2008. Best all-round car I have ever owned in 35yrs (ie 15 cars, european,japanese & australian) . Quiet, comfortable, super reliable , silky smooth engine/transmission combo, great performance/ economy mix, elegant timeless styling, a great long distance interstate cruiser, and a surprisingly snarly exhaust note in the upper rev region...!. Would buy another if the need arose. Today a good one is bargain motoring ! Those that deride the Magna as bland etc need to drive one for a few hours, over a variety of roads to appreciate the qualities that make the Magna, in my humble opinion one of the great mid size sedans in ANY price bracket !

    Marc Cobham of tasmania Posted on 03 January 2011 4:19pm
  • I owned a 2000 TH Advance. Sold it with 186,000 km on clock. Buyer couldn't give me money quick enough. Had all services while I did 5000 km oil changes myself. Car never used a drop of oil and was extremely reliable. Got 8.5 l/100km on trips and 9.5-10 around town. What a most underestimated car! Bought a 380 but not as good. Can't understand why people think it doesn't look good on the road. The real test - boot fits two sets of golf clubs and two electric buggies.

    Allan Sharpe of Wadalba Posted on 11 November 2010 6:09pm
  • I have owned 6 Mitsubish's - a 1982 Gallant, 1980 Sigma, 1988 TN Magna GLX, 1992 KR Verada EI, 1999 TH Magna Altera LS and present car 2000 KJ Verada XI and have hardly had any problems except some rust in the early Gallant. I've only ever been let down by batteries, tyres wear quickly (front) only on latest car. Allround very reliable cars.

    Graham de Longchamp of Woonona 2517 Posted on 18 August 2010 4:52pm
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