These cars are pretty much extinct in the UK these days. Probably less than 1000 were sold between 1991 and 1996. List prices of between £21,000 and £32,000 did not help.
The Sigma saloon was Japanese-built and is better known as the Diamante in Japan and the US. With a 24 valve 3-litre V6 engine and all the electronic equipment known to man, Autocar magazine said: "This is the most technically-advanced car on sale, not that you'd know from driving it".
The estate was a different matter - much more simplistic in terms of engineering, and imported from Mitsubishi Australia where it was known as the Magna or Verada.
I purchased this car whilst waiting for my company car to be delivered. At £200 with 5 months' MOT and a full service history, the outright purchase price was half the monthly lease rental of a company vehicle similar to my own for the interim. So I was not expecting much, but the car was a cracker.
Firstly, the size - nearly 16ft by 6ft, designed to compete with the Granada, Carlton and Volvo 740/760 wagons, there was plenty of room for passengers and cargo alike. The rear seats not only folded, but had a semi-variable recline mechanism built in. The car worked for it's keep by transporting various items of rubbish to the tip, fence panels, a flat-packed shed, engine parts, you name it.
Performance was better than expected, too. The estate featured a simpler 12-valve V6, still of 3-litre capacity, rated at 168bhp. It was super-smooth and surprisingly economical - 28mpg on a run. The auto gearbox had overdrive, power and economy modes. Rather than mess about, I left it in economy/overdrive most of the time and let it do it's own thing.
Being such a large and heavy vehicle, handling was obviously not a top priority for the designers. While certainly not a sports car, the ride/handling compromise was fine, although the steering was a little over-assisted and feel-less.
Getting comfortable in the driver's seat was not straightforward. Despite separate adjustment to tilt both the front and the rear of the seat cushion, I still felt like I was sitting on the floor. Ergonomically, the car lagged behind the contemporary Europeans. I had to once again re-acquaint myself with an indicator stalk on the right hand side of the steering column.
The equipment level of this car was pretty good for the time - electric windows all round, electric sunroof, cruise control, central locking, a decent Philips stereo, heated mirrors, and an 'interesting' ventilation system. I say 'interesting' because to all intents and purposes it is like climate control, but without a/c. You can set the temperature and the fan will automatically attempt to keep the interior of the car at that level. It tends to lead to a full-power fan blast all the time in summer, so thankfully you can override it.
As a testament to the Tonsley Park manufacturing team, all the electrical items (with the exception of the aerial) are still working, 13 years and 107,000 miles later. Exterior has proven to be rust-resistant, with some minor surface blemishes from stone chips at the bottom of the doors.
Once my company car arrives shortly, I will probably keep hold of the 'Blue Whale' until the MOT falls due, as it is so useful for moving things around. If it goes through another MOT without too much expense, I expect to keep it!