The FTO is a fun, practical and quick sports coupe. It has distinctive and bold styling, and in the MIVEC form it has performance to match. These cars won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (in fact, in NZ they are often looked down upon as a car for certain ethnic groups) but if you have fallen in love with the looks, then know there’s a real car to back them up.
Firstly, I took my girlfriend camping, with all our gear in this car. And it was great – it all fit in the cavernous boot! It’s a surprisingly practical car! There’s even OK real legroom for a short trip, though the headroom is a little cramped. However, my mate endured 7 hours on a roadtrip once, and didn’t really complain!
Right, you want to know about performance? Mine was the GPX Manual version, and the performance was great! The GPX version has MIVEC, which effectively makes the engine like a town cruiser low in the rev-range, but a race car when pushed. It’s like Honda’s VTEC, in that it varies the profile of the valves to achieve this feat. Not only does this add 30 more horsepower to the little six cylinder, but it also gives the car its best feature, which is:
THE BEST ENGINE GROWL EVER. When the MIVEC kicks in at 5,500, it puts out serious induction noise (air rushing in to the engine). Some say it’s an animal snarl, but whatever it is, it’s so seductive. My car was running with the HKS ‘green hairnet’ air filter, which would have made this louder, I believe (highly recommended for this car, it also adds another 9 horsepower). The great thing about this growl is it’s ONLY when the MIVEC kicks in, so you can have a nice quiet car when cruising, but makes all hell break loose when you’re going hard.
And hard it does go! With default gearing, you can hit 100ks in second gear, nearing its attainable 8,000 RPM redline. This makes sprints to the limit quick and satisfying, I’d say just a hair under 7 seconds in my car (which also had modified exhaust).
I have a few car enthusiast mates, and the realised the car is a lot faster than it’s given credit for. (Note that the tiptronic semi-auto cars are much slower – go for a manual!).
And handling? Accurate and enjoyable! It’s certainly a nicely build chassis, and at around 1,200 kgs, it’s nimble too.
Personally I love the looks of this car. Mine had 17” wheels and a full veilside kit, which make it look quite evil. If I bought another one, I’d probably go for the post 96 model with the revised front spoiler – it’s a nice update which adds a touch of class.
The engine itself seems bulletproof. Just remember to service it regularly (every 5,000ks for oil), and let the car warm up a little before using it. I really like how the heat gauge sits in the middle when it’s warmed up so you know it’s time to unleash MIVEC! And the gauge NEVER wavered on me, no overheating problems at all.
The only mechanical cautions I’d have is with the 5 speed gearbox. The syncro was worn a bit in second, so wasn’t as forgiving using that gear as I’d like. It’s indicative of a car that’s been pushed hard. Even with new gearbox oil, it wasn’t a great as I’d like. However, I’ve driven other FTOs with 80,000 on the clock and the gearbox has been fine.
So in summary – two thumbs up! If you’re looking at buying one, here are my top tips:
-Get the MIVEC version (GPX version). It’s faster and the sound is intoxicating
-Buy an aftermarket air filter. Don’t bother about doing the exhaust
-If you’re performance inclined, get the manual. There’s over a second difference in the 0-100k sprint
-Buy good rubber for the car and REPLACE ALL FOUR TYRES AT ONCE!