I got it as a 3 year old used car with full Rallliart body kit, rims and accessories. The previous owner obviously gave the car some TLC and kept it near stock, except he had a open pod air filter, which I restored back to stock. It's almost 5 years old now and the build quality is still sound. Some friends remarked disbelief that the car is 5 years old, especially the clock was commented as a nice touch. To me the dashboard is rather simplistic in design, therefore it won't look too dated, though the hard plastics abound, showed material of the previous generation, though very hard wearing material they are.
The performance, handling and road holding is very good, as it is after all a detuned Evolution VII GT-A in SUV guise. It inherited 70% of Evo VII GT-A's ability, and traded 30% for space and practicality, an Evo for family men then. The steering feels a little dead compared to my previous Forester 2.0 XT though, otherwise the overall driving experience is a lot more sportier. Without the Forester STI officially imported here, it has no rival in this market then at the time of launch back in 2003, and was very expensive buying new, which was why I walked away from committing myself a new purchase.
With moderation I managed to achieve 9.5-10.5 km/l. Horsepower is rather irrelevant for driving in a city state with maximum speed limit of 90km/h. Staying below the speed limit, helps in optimizing the fuel consumption for daily commuting. Still great fun on occasions by exploring the rich torque that's available rather early at 2500RPM as the turbo charger seriously kicks in. The rally bred AWD give superior road holding especially in the wet, brings a smile to me whenever a wide empty corner and clear vision ahead comes into sight, as I power out each corner, leaving lesser cars behind diminishing into specks on the rear view mirror.
I personally like the INVECS-II transmission, which is based on Porsche's Tiptronic semi-automatic transmission technology. It provides me the flexibility to laze around in fully automatic mode during a traffic jam, and to engage in sport (i.e. manual) mode when I'm in the mood for a more exciting drive. The gear change is very smooth in both modes, though recent technology has move up another scale with the introduction of DSG.
Headroom and legroom are excellent. Five can sit in comfort. Boot space is small though compared to the Forester 2.0 XT of the same era, but Forester has lesser rear legroom consequently. While both cars are labeled as SUV, Airtrek Turbo-R is more a hatch back, to Forester 2.0 XT is a station wagon sitting higher with a more angular carbody design. Airtrek came with a sunroof and a moonroof, so that's a nice touch though not much of practical use. One thing I lamented is the lack of a cruise control, which I had in the Forester, but I got over that over time.
There's a cult following for Airtrek since some years with owners clubs around the region Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore for Airtrek, even there weren't too many of the turbo version in distribution. The model Airtrek was a Mitsubishi one-off until today, adding to a limited edition image of the car, though the model Outlander shared the same ancestry and continue to have the second generation in Mitsubishi's line up. So by now not many recognize the car as there aren't too many on the road, giving it a stealth image, and frequently surprised other road users by its unusual look and hot hatch performance.
For the same combination of performance, handling, practicality and reliability, as a used car, few cars beat Airtrek Turbo-R for value. It is slightly more costly to maintain than a typical Japanese family sedan, but it gives a whole lot more in technologies and performance. There are many shared components with Lancer, so aftermarket parts are readily available to help to keep the cost down. It's not exactly a handsome car, some may even call it ungainly, but it has tons of character, and still has one of the meanest stares of any car on the road here today.
Ironically, as the car shared so much design with Lancer Evolution, to have a stock used Airtrek Turbo-R would be challenging. Many in the used car market are a lot more enhanced in power and handling, which can be nice, but it won't suit my needs to frequently ferry kids and old folks around.
I'm very happy with the all round capability of the Airtrek Turbo-R, and I intend to keep mine as long as I can.