By on December 9, 2019

Last time on Buy/Drive/Burn, we took a look at three two-door, mid-market offerings from American brands for the 2001 model year. Most people hated such a Sophie’s Choice.

Perhaps things will be a bit better today, as we cover the same market segment with offerings from Japan.

Toyota Camry Solara

Toyota brought back a two-door Camry for the 1999 model year, though it was not in the format some buyers expected. Instead of a standard Camry with two fewer doors, Toyota presented a sporty take on the idea and added the new Solara moniker. Underneath, Solara was based on the prior-generation Camry and built in Ontario. Camry engines of 2.2 to 3.0 liters were used, with five-speed manual or (mostly) four-speed automatics on hand for shift duty. A 2001 facelift revised the grille, tail lamps, and headlamps, and brought different wood. The base engine from 2001 was upgraded to the 2.4-liter mill from the Camry. Today’s selection is a base model 2.4L with a five-speed manual.

Mitsubishi Eclipse

A new third-generation Eclipse debuted for the 2000 model year, and boy was it a big deal at the time. With sporty, plastic-clad and slab-sided styling, the Eclipse said New Millennium in a big way. Riding on the Chrysler ST-22 platform with the Sebring coupe we saw last week, the Eclipse was powered by 2.4- or 3.0-liter engines, with four-speed automatics or five-speed manual transmissions. There were seven trim levels of Eclipse, and the most basic one was the RS. Today’s choice, it came with the 2.4-liter SOHC Mitsubishi engine and the manual transmission.

Honda Accord Coupe

Nothing was particularly revolutionary or unexpected about the sixth-generation Accord, even in slightly more rakish Coupe guise. Introduced for the 1998 model year, it was nearing replacement in 2001, though the generation broke SOPs and carried on five model years. In late 2000 Honda revised North American Accords with new front fascias, side skirts, bumpers, tail lamps, and wheels. Trims in 2001 were four for the Coupe, and included two levels (four- and six-cylinder) of LX and EX. Today we’ll have an LX with the 2.3-liter inline-four and five speed manual.

Look at all these manual transmissions! Which midsize Japanese two-door gets your cash in 2001?

[Images: Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi]

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53 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Japanese Two-doors for a New Century...”

  • avatar

    Buy the very desirable Solara. My cousin is still wondering if he should have sold his which spent much of its life in South Carolina.

    Drive the Accord to see if it is nearly add nice as my 2013 V6.

    Burn the Eclipse. Use the scrap metal to fashion a new Mitsubishi.

    • 0 avatar

      I loved the 89-99 turbo talons and eclipses back in the day. If you didn’t like Ford or neutered camaros back then they were your only choice. I think it must have been year 2000 or late 1999 when I picked up a car mag in the library and saw the new eclipse. It said “sorry speed freaks, no more turbo awd”. I knew the cars golden era was over. In 2002 I picked up a black 1993 talon tsi awd 5-speed, already on its 2nd engine (91K miles) and drove it for 5 years. It broke all the time and was truly a POS, but I loved it. The reliable car I replaced it with came with a surreal feeling, you could actually drive places and not worry about being left stranded or saddled with a huge repair bill.

      Wasn’t just me either, everyone I knew with one had the same horrid reliability issues. I chalk it up to them trying to build a sports car on a shoe string budget, the parts were barely adequate in stock form and completely sh*t the bed once the boost was turned up. They did the evo right, which is why it cost twice as much.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    CamCord, as always, too boring to look at. Mitsu because it looks great and is reliable enough.

    • 0 avatar

      Never owned one eh?

    • 0 avatar

      I bet that “Cord” is as good looking or better than anything you’ve ever owned. CamCord started its name from angry Ford and Chevy owners angry that their beloved Lumina/Malibu and Taurus weren’t nearly as good as the Camry and Accord.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        One’s appreciation of a car’s appearance is purely subjective, and I speak only for myself. If you think a two door Camry looks best, great!

        As for cars I’ve owned, I think the 1968 Mustang coupe I recently sold looked pretty darn fine!

    • 0 avatar

      Really? I thought that for the era, the Accord Coupe’s NSX/alfa inspired rear end treatment was really neat, and it has aged very well.

      Solara? Okay sure kind of staid, but looking at it from the context of overstyled flame surfaced garbage we deal with now, it’s a very neat and handsome design IMO.

      If anything, the Eclipse is the one with tacky overdone Pontiac-style moldings and generally cheap/dated design.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Buy: I wanted to buy an Accord coupe in 2001 and for several years after. I thought it was really well designed though I never really liked the rear-end treatment. Fortunately I never pulled the trigger because I wanted the V6 version so I dodged the broken transmission bullet.

    Drive: The Solara was an old lady’s car. But time has favored that generation, more than the subsequent, and it would be a reliable if boring car to putter around in. I’ve actually seen a couple with tasteful modifications that look quite good.

    Burn: The Mitsubishi Eclipse officially went out of production in 1999. I’m not sure what that abomination shown above is supposed to be.

    • 0 avatar

      I was lucky. I drove my V6 Accord ’99 to 253,000 miles when it was traded. They didn’t put filters on those trans so you had to change the fluid every 30-40k miles and with Honda fluid too. How many of these cars ever saw the fluid changed or got the fluid changed at Jiffy Lube? Probably 10x thousands.

  • avatar

    Buy: The stylish Accord Coupe. There’s something that this car just does for me. Not so much in base trim, but the higher trim levels with the rear spoiler and the nice 5 spoke 16″ wheels really makes the car look nice.

    Drive: The Camry Solara because it’s a Toyota. I don’t trust Honda products anymore after two ownership experiences let me down hard (2002 Accord EX-L 4cyl and a ’12 Pilot EX-L both got prohibitively expensive and nearly terminal before 130k miles with regular dealer mainentance).

    Burn: The Eclipse. I’m a HUGE DSM fan and had very high hopes when this car debuted and man was it one confused automobile. The execution was much better pulled off in the “cloud cars” that shared this architecutre and driveline.

  • avatar

    I loathed the automatic transmission and the lackluster 3.0L V6 in my 2001 Accord coupe. I liked the “NSX inspired” taillights and the shape of the car. With the 4-pot and the manual? That gets a Buy.

    Drive? The Eclipse even though no more turbo.

    Burn – Solara, in my eyes, was one of the ugliest cars of the era.

  • avatar

    Solara: if a guy was ever behind the wheel of one of these he was probably sitting in another guy’s lap.

    Accord: never so much as sat in the two door but in my book peak Accord was one of the most overrated cars of all time. Yeah they were 300,000 mile cars but they were gutless and uncomfortable the entire way.

    Mitsubishi: the Dollar Tree association in recent times obscures everything else the brand ever did.

    Burn them all.

    • 0 avatar

      I will agree with you on the Accord in this way. My sister had a base model 1998 Accord, and it was boring, however not a bad looker. I had a 1999 Accord V6, Leather and it was very comfortable and nice. The V6 was not gutless for the time. Again are we comparing this with a Malibu or Ford equivalent? Not even same ball park.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah this guy is full of it. At the time, the Accord’s 200hp 3.0L was right up there with much pricier machinery.

        Dan also seems to think a lot about guys sitting in each others’ laps *shrug*

      • 0 avatar

        “Again are we comparing this with a Malibu or Ford equivalent? Not even same ball park.”

        “At the time, the Accord’s 200hp 3.0L was right up there with much pricier machinery.”

        Throughout the 1990s the Accord was that much pricier machinery. Honda dealers didn’t have to deal and didn’t. Those 2200cc Accords with 14″ wheels and crank windows cost as much as a V6 Taurus or W-body. And in every aspect other than the admitted elephant in the room of quality they made those cars seem like Cadillacs.

        Back when that was a good thing.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          I took one of my clients and his wife out one evening in my then 2 year old ’86 Accord sedan.

          The next week, his wife had him swap their year old, top line Taurus for an Accord. She preferred the Accord, without even driving it, that much more.

        • 0 avatar

          The domestics were so haphazardly built in those days that quality was really that important.

          When I turned 16, my first car was a used ’87 Taurus. My mom had a used carbureted ’88 Accord at the same time. The Taurus was much faster, ran better with its EEC and EFI, and was quieter at cruise. But the Accord felt ten years newer inside and broke much less often, and it ultimately outlasted the Taurus without breaking a sweat. At similar age and mileage it was worth twice as much as the Taurus, and I think that was probably a fair assessment of value.

          • 0 avatar

            “The domestics were so haphazardly built in those days that quality was really that important.”

            In 1987 that couldn’t be overstated enough. Was the quality gap still that bad in 2000? The refinement and value gap still was.

  • avatar

    Buy: Accord, but I’d pop for the EX version. I gotta have a sunroof.
    Drive: Eclipse.
    Burn: Camry. WAY too much rear overhang on that thing.

  • avatar

    Reviewing today’s projects turned in for review:

    Toyota is the geeky student who excels at maths, but his drawings are never very good.

    Honda is the popular student with great design skills, but little follow-through in the mechanicals.

    Mitsubishi is the crazed loner with serious attention deficit disorder.

    – Burn the Solara, because “I know you can do better” (the words every good student dreads hearing).

    – Drive the Accord. This was very close to Peak Coupe. [If Honda had passed their design drawings to Toyota for engineering and assembly, every other car company on the planet would now be half their current size.]

    – Puzzle over the Eclipse (strakes on the doors? okay, but let’s get some level of cohesion going) – then buy. [Because someone might be interested in them as an alliance partner one day – nudge nudge.]

  • avatar

    Helped a buddy buy an accord coupe from “trade in row” behind a honda store in about 2003. The car ran and was reliable but door handles broke, electric windows quit working, d/s door glass would fall into the door and was held up with a wedged in cassette tape (that would routinely fall in -25 on the highway). He traded it off on some low end used car place, as is, and it sat there for months – last I ever saw it. Beige/beige mid 90’s accord coupe.

    • 0 avatar

      Trade in row is where my friend’s 2008 Hyundai will end up because of the 15,000 mile oil change mistakes. You never know what you are going to get from the “Trade in row”

  • avatar

    The Galant isn’t being discussed. Copy/Paste got you again, Mr. Lewis.

    • 0 avatar

      It wouldn’t have “got me” at any point as I don’t use copy paste.

      What I DO use to complete articles are two windows, side by side. One’s for research and the other is for writing.

      What happens sometimes is I’m typing while reading on another window, and incorrect words make their way over.

      But as always, your incorrect assumptions and condescension are most appreciated. Enjoy your day.

  • avatar

    Burn the Solara and its child, the next generation was seriously the worst looking car Toyota ever made. Also, coupes based on sedans suck and are stupid.

    Buy the Eclipse because Mitsubishi was doing 0/0/0 financing at the time. What could possibly go wrong?

    Drive the Accord and realize you should have gotten the sedan.

  • avatar

    Buy: Accord/Solara This is hard for me because I owned a 99 V6 Accord and it served us well (253,000 miles), but I think the Toyota is slightly more reliable.

    Drive: Accord. I like the J30 motor over the Toyota.

    Burn: Eclipse. I still can’t get Car and Driver’s article out of my head where these were chosen to be the car of choose for pizza delivery. My local pizza delivery person drives on too!

  • avatar

    Buy the Accord. I like Hondas of that era.

    Drive the Camry. It can be the winter beater.

    Burn the ugly Eclipse.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Another one that’s too easy.
    Buy the Toyota because it’s a Toyota.
    Drive the Honda because it’s a Honda.
    Burn the Mitsu because it’s a cross-bred bastard.

  • avatar

    The very idea of a FWD coupe is still a failure, but at least these cars are less burn-worthy than the domestics were.

    Buy Honda. Has there ever been a bad Honda that had a four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission? I honestly can’t think of one.

    Drive Toyota, mostly so you can…

    Burn the Mitsubishi. This generation is where the Eclipse completely fell off the rails.

  • avatar

    Buy: Solara. I love these things, the styling has aged incredible well inside and out IMO. Solid if somewhat uninspired drivetrain. One of these days I’ll find an elusive stick shift V6 Solara with a dark cloth over light wood trim interior.

    Drive: Accord. J30 is a sweet engine, double wishbone dynamics still in full effect. If only they made these with a stick!

    Burn: Eclipse. I’ve been in the back seat of one of these under very odd circumstances. Cheap interior, this Eclipse signifies the beginning of the end of cool high quality Mitsubishis of the 90s.

    • 0 avatar

      I would echo your rankings. Buy Camry, drive Accord, burn Eclipse. Though this vehicle segment makes my insides a bit uneasy, feeling like a poser inside, I have experienced FWD coupes that are pleasant enough and slightly sporty (Ford Probe, Hyundai Tiburon, Grand Prix), so I grudgingly accept their existence.

      I do have a specific gripe with the inclusion of the Accord, which is that the Prelude was still sold in the USA in 2001, and it’s a much more desirable FWD 2-door than this Accord ever was.

      The Eclipse gets negative points for being so much less interesting than the previous generation.

      I have no specific argument with the Solara, as I won’t punish it for the styling failures of the generations that came after it.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Buy: Solara. It will last longer, and looks better now than when new.
    Drive: Accord. Near enough to ‘peak’ Honda to still be a better than average driver.
    Burn: Mitsu. Because it is the one that is left over.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. The Solara’s looks have grown on me, and the 2.4/5-speed is a solid drivetrain that’s quick enough.

      I expect the Accord drives nice enough but the looks aren’t doing it for me.

      Sorry Eclipse, I’ll allow cladding on Pontiacs but you have no excuse. Burn brightly my friend.

      • 0 avatar

        FWIW this generation still used the 5S (2.2L). A bit off the pace of the 158hp 2AZ that came in 2002, but also more reliable (early 2AZ had issues with head botls pulling out of the block).

  • avatar

    Buy the Eclipse. I like the pizzazz of the styling.

    Drive the Solara. Would be my buy if it was a convertible choice.

    Burn the Accord. I don’t like Honda.

  • avatar

    Burn the Eclipse, it is likely already bad with the typical Mitsubishi quality

    Buy the Camry, it will last.

    Drive the Accord, if its automatic transmission is still alive, otherwise burn it with the Eclipse.

  • avatar

    In the early or mid 2000s, I recall reading an article in one of the car magazines about the most-ticketed cars. The car that received the most speeding tickets? The Toyota Camry Solara. I really don’t know why. New, red, expensive cars with sporting pretentions tend to provoke the most conversations with revenuers when driven at the same speed as surrounding traffic in my experience. I’d have thought that a silver Solara would have been a worthy choice for averaging 77 mph from door to door, considering the ease with which it should have blended into traffic. Were Solara drivers actually the fastest on the road?

    Buy Accord
    Drive Solara – if only to find out how they provoked so many speeding tickets.
    Burn Eclipse.

    • 0 avatar

      One of my father’s only speeding tickets in his 25+ years in America was in a bright red rental Dodge Stratus when he was driving in a pack, same speed as surrounding traffic (at least so he claims).

  • avatar

    Buy Accord: I like this generation which I consider the last good Accord. Parents had a 4-cyl LX sedan 2002 with low miles they traded for an Outback and I regret that I was not in the position to buy it at the time. 4-cyl 5-spd coupe would be nice.

    Drive: Solara. Awkward, not exicting, but would interesting to compare I guess.

    Burn: Mitsubishi thing

  • avatar

    Wasnt the Camry/Solara/ES300 a bit of a sludge monster during that time period?

  • avatar
    randy in rocklin

    I think the second gen CL’s were pretty good looking cars. I especially like the Type S.

  • avatar

    Buy – Accord – more sporty feel than the Solara

    Drive – Solara – cushy, soft, row your own, but alas the sludge monster was an issue

    Burn – Eclipse – not in the same class

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Buy: Accord-I really like the NSX like rear profile plus its a bit roomier than the well regarded Prelude.

    Drive: Camry-Its distinctive enough compared to the previous Camry coupe plus the V6 could be had with a manual but there was the engine sludge issue.

    From the Google:

    • Camry 4 cylinder from 1997-2001,
    • Camry 6 cylinder from 1997-2002,
    • Camry Solara 4 cylinder from 1999-2001,
    • Camry Solara 6 cylinder 1999-2002,

    Burn: Eclipse-The sitting in a tub ergonomics plus the scalloped cladding is cringe worthy.

  • avatar

    Buy the Toyota. Resell it to some idiot that will overpay, because “it’s a Toyota”.

    Drive the Mitsu. I gotta know if it’s as lame as I think it is.

    Burn the Honda. It’s even more boring than the other two.

  • avatar

    Too easy.

    Buy: Solara
    Drive: Accord
    Burn: Eclipse gen 3.

  • avatar

    My friend owned that Accord with V6 bought used – he paid a lot for it because it was Honda. V6 sounded great but around 200K everything started to brake down. There were too many things went wrong including AT. So he decided to not fix it and just get rid of it – hey it still was Honda – someone bought it.

    Honestly – I would burn all of them.

  • avatar

    Solaras are plentiful, silly cheap, and tend to be in very nice condition here in God’s Waiting Room, FL. Lots of convertibles too. I will probably be buying one for my nephew. Unless my mother decides she likes it and sells him her Prius V instead. Manuals don’t exist here of course.

    Burn the other two, and I don’t want to drive any of them.

  • avatar

    Buy: Solara. It’s become interesting with time and a 5 spd seals the deal.

    Drive: Accord. I just don’t like the styling of the 6th gen coupe. My fiance had a CL 2.3 and 5 spd. It was a nice experience until the head blew at 155K. The clutch was as good as it gets.

    Burn: Eclipse. It pales in comparison with the other two.

  • avatar

    Buy the Eclipse and burn everything else. There’s something to be said for a car with a huge aftermarket support system and a passionate following

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