New & Used Mitsubishi Lancer: In Depth
2015 Mitsubishi LancerEnlarge Photo
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The Mitsubishi Lancer is a line of compact cars that includes four-door sedans and five-door hatchbacks. Handling, sporty styling, and affordability have been the strong selling points for the current generation of the Lancer, which serves as the basis for the performance-oriented Ralliart and Evolution models.
For more information, including specs, pictures, and features, see our full review of the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer.
The competitive set for the Lancer is extensive, and it currently includes the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Dodge Dart, Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra, and Nissan Sentra, among others. Meanwhile, the Subaru WRX, the Mazdaspeed3, the Volkswagen GTI—and now the Ford Focus ST—all go up against the Lancer Ralliart and Evolution.The Mitsubishi Lancer name dates back to the 1970s in Mitsubishi's home Japan market, and had established a good performance reputation in other markets, but even as recently as through the 1990s—when Mitsubishi was taking top stage in WRC rally racing—the automaker sold a homely, more stripped-down version of the Lancer, called the Mirage in the U.S.
Beginning in 2002, Mitsubishi finally brought the last-generation version over with the name Lancer, and from the beginning gave it more of a performance emphasis—in look if not specs—with a sporty O-Z Rally edition. These Lancer models ride and handle quite well and have a reasonably roomy interior compared to other cars its size, but their handicap is the boomy 120-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which struggles with the automatic transmission and is only adequate with the five-speed manual. The 162-hp, 2.4-liter four that was introduced in 2004 with the Ralliart edition gave the Lancer more satisfying performance, thanks to a specially tuned suspension and other upgrades. In 2004 only, a boxy Sportback wagon version was offered.
For 2008, Mitsubishi rolled out the current Lancer, which from its sharklike front end to the more aggressive stance and powertrain upgrades looks and feels a lot more exciting than its predecessor. Base SE and ES models are powered by a 152-hp, 2.0-liter four, but the GTS gets a 168-hp, 2.4-liter version. The top-of-the-line, sporty GTS emulates the Ralliart and Evolution in all but actual performance; while it's perky, it doesn't accelerate like a performance car. Lancer models come with either a five-speed manual transmission or a CVT automatic; we'd recommend the manual as the CVT causes the base model especially to be more noisy and sluggish. GTS models with the CVT get steering-wheel paddle-shifters and six simulated gears, redeem it somewhat.
A new Lancer Sportback model was introduced in 2010. Offering all the same features as the Lancer GTS sedan but instead a convenient five-door hatchback body style, the Sportback has a slightly lower cargo floor than the sedan, and of course the seats fold flat. Going into 2011, availability of the hatchback was expanded to ES trims, then the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer lineup gained a sporty GT model replacing the GTS. An SE model also introduced all-wheel drive but with the 2.4-liter non-turbo engine. In 2012 we drove the all-wheel-drive Lancer SE and found it a worthy, albeit uninspired, rival to the Subaru Impreza.
Both the Lancer Evolution and Lancer Ralliart models have been covered in previous years by a separate model review. While the Ralliart, which has a 237-hp, turbocharged engine, has a lot in common with the Lancer GTS, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is significantly different structurally, among other ways.
A significantly refreshed Lancer model line is due for 2016. And while Mitsubishi pondered a high-performance hybrid powertrain for the next-generation Lancer Evolution, at last check it's instead planning to drop that model from the lineup after 2015.