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2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS: Driven

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2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS Sportback

The Lancer GTS is often overlooked by small-car shoppers on a tight budget—and they're missing out on a good thing. For the same money as less-inspiring drives that fully feel like budget transportation, there's a lot more to the Lancer, and its surprisingly able handling and refreshingly direct driving experience might just charm you.

It did charm us. Unlike Mitsubishi's turbocharged Lancer Ralliart and Lancer Evolution models, the GTS is one that you can drive for satisfying bursts with the engine at full boil and not be in danger of losing your license.

The Lancer GTS provides the same kind of seductively simple tactile enjoyment that you could find in a host of four-cylinder 'pocket rockets' in the '90s: Cars like the Honda Civic Si, Nissan Sentra SE-R, or even the Dodge Neon R/T all had a depth of chassis tuning that felt capable of handling a far more powerful engine, and the same is true here.

Of course, you can get a Lancer GTS with a more powerful turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive; it's called the Ralliart. But the front-wheel-drive GTS costs thousands less.

The Lancer GTS comes with an engine that churns out the torque, so there's not much need to rev, even if you'll enjoy doing it. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine makes 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque and comes hooked up to a five-speed manual gearbox that's among the sweetest in any new car, slightly notchy but with smooth and precise gates and a satisfying feel (really, this would be a great setup to teach a teen to drive stick). With the excellent shifter, revving the engine past its 6,000-rpm power peak is loud but rewarding.

Mitsubishi appears to have chosen ratios for the five-speed that are a nice compromise between acceleration and fuel economy. Fifth gear keeps the engine spinning near the 3,000 mark at 70 mph—lower than other sporty small cars—and while also taller, the lower gears are closely spaced. In a week and about 100 miles of enthusiastic driving, with a mix of conditions ranging from cold-weather stop-and-go to a short cruise on the Interstate, we averaged a decent 24 mpg—which feels about in line with the EPA rating of 22 mpg city, 31 highway.


 
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Comments (9)
  1. Twenty grand to start plus another $1K for an automatic then no wonder it's overlooked. Add a few options and you're over $25K MSRP for a compact. No person looking for a small car can afford it (or waste time trying to locate a dealership.)
     
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  2. Wrong again, kimo-slobby. I ponied up the $24,200 in Mar. of 2007 for a 2008 Lancer GTS with the CVT automatic tranny and Rally Red paint. Great small car, tracks like a dream and stays steady on the freeway as is reported here. One feature I went for is the 650-watt Rockford Fosgate stereo with 6-CD changer. 10" subwoofer in the trunk and 9-speaker sound in the cabin, foglights, spoiler, sunroof and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob. I love the car and one test-driver/carwriter in 2007 noted that the car drives much like a European sportscar costing twice as much. Mitsubishi is spot-on with this car and I have never regretted my decision to buy this car.
     
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  3. Wrong about what? That you paid 24K for a compact four years ago? Is that affordable for a second tier carmaker with no value in the used car market? People on the budget just can't afford it - I just don't understand how anyone can call it affordable if even a larger Jetta (yes, very crappy but more "european" than a Mitsubishi) starts at $15K these days.
     
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  4. For the record, the lancer's base msrp is valued at under 16k so its not that bad you can look it up on tCC. However, if you can dish out over 23k there are much better sport cars to chose from like the camaro or mustang, both of whom eat the lancer's lunch anyday of the week in performance and looks.
     
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  5. No, Larry... "The Lancer GTS is often overlooked by small-car shoppers on a tight budget..." Lancer GTS starts at $20,655 - your and my point exactly...
     
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  6. For the money you get a new 2011 Optima or Sonata with 200HP, 6 speed stick, nicer interior, big back seat, 100k/10 year warranty and nicer interior.
     
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  7. I apologize for the incorrect info, I looked up standard lancer sedan, not the CTS.
     
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  8. That someone would compare a Lancer GTS to a Sonata or an Optima shows that he doesn't get what the Lancer GTS is all about.
    It's like pointing out that a Buick LeSabre is cheaper than an Acura TSX.
    PS, I paid under $19K for my nicely loaded 2011 GTS -- a true driver's car.
     
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  9. The '08 Lancer GTS is my favorite body design on any car from any flavor or generation. It is a car made by car afficianado's. These people love their EVO and it pours over in to the rest of their cars. The '08 Lancer GTS has been called a "baby" EVO-and one that drives like European sports cars costing twice as much.
     
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