THE 1986 Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo is blue jeans and pullovers, Saturday at the shopping center, popcorn at the movies.
There is something so ordinary about this car, so dependable, it's almost as if it were designed by employees of Sears & Roebuck working out of a suite at a Holiday Inn.
That is not a put-down.
After driving image-conscious, heavy runners like the Corvette, Porsche 911 and Toyota Supra, it's refreshing to climb into something like the Cordia Turbo -- a reliable, responsible, good and decent little car that also knows how to have fun.
Outstanding complaints: The five-speed manual test model weighs 2,337 pounds, too little, it seems, to keep the car stable in blustery highway winds. There is more than a little front-end wavering in this one when the wind picks up. It's nothing dangerous. You just have to work harder to keep the Cordia rolling straight when Mother Nature gets puffy.
Highway, wind and engine noises are more noticeable in this one than they are in more expensive, sporty compact models. But the noises are minor irritants, eventually easy to live with and certainly worth the savings in purchase price.
Outstanding praise: Despite its relatively light weight, the Cordia Turbo is put together well. I particularly like the tweed and buckskin-knit front bucket seats, which are as comfortable as seats found in pricier cars.
Also, there is nothing phony about the Cordia Turbo's rear seating. Two adults actually can sit back there without disassembling their arms and legs. By comparison, the rear seating in some competitors' sporty models is a cruel and expensive joke.
Let's applaud the Cordia's brakes, too. The system is a seemingly commonplace arrangement of power-assisted front disc brakes and standard drum brakes in the rear. Ordinary, they may be. But because of the particular application in this car, or the quality of materials used in brake construction, or both, the Cordia's braking system works exceptionally well on dry and wet roads.
Ride, acceleration, handling: Good ride. Competent acceleration. The Cordia Turbo is powered by a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged gasoline engine. Handling is excellent, even at higher highway speeds, as long as the wind is behaving itself.
Head-turning-quotient: Friendly appeal. Both drag racers and traffic officers leave you alone in this one; and adults can drive it without giving off vibes that they're going through a midlife crisis.
Sound System: AM/FM stereo radio and cassette by Mitsubishi. Excellent.
Mileage: Easily 30 miles to the gallon (12.8-gallon tank), combined city-highway, running driver only and with windows down.
Price-as-tested: $12,271, including $1,472 in options such as air conditioning, stereo with graphic equalizer, sun roof and rear windshield wiper.