Great steering and handling; lackluster interior
The steering also deserves to be singled out; despite the rather tall-sidewall tires fitted to the SE, the rather quick-ratio steering feels light but naturally weighted and has some feedback. As with the rest of the Lancer lineup, it's a joy zooming around tight corners.
But there’s still lots to be desired inside the Lancer—not because the interior isn’t well-designed, as it is, but mainly because the interior appointments feel so darn cheap; and it’s sorely lacking noise insulation. Once underway, when you don't hear the engine you're listening to a drone of pavement noise; you literally hear everything that's going on with the road surface. There's hard plastic everywhere that looks like it might be easily scratched, and the upholstery, whether for the seats or center-console cover, is the proverbial mouse fur, attracting lint and showing what already looked like stressed seams.
One additional point: The doors and trunk slam with a sort of secondary reverberation that we thought Japanese automakers lost in the 1990s; and a very loose, felt-like mat kept sliding out of place with whatever parcel we carried in the trunk, revealing bare metal underneath.
Against Subaru, can this Mitsubishi measure up?
The Lancer SE starts at $20,195, but with the navigation system—packaged with music-server media storage and real-time traffic—our test car had a bottom-line price of $23,285. To compare, a Subaru Impreza Premium with navigation, a moonroof, and the alloy wheel package adds up to about $700 less.
So is the Lancer SE any threat to Subaru? And would we even seriously think of getting this instead of an Impreza? Let there be no doubt: Absolutely not. Feature-wise it adds up, but the low mileage, the shoddy interior, remarkably bad CVT drivability, and all the noise bring a clear answer.
Meanwhile, Subaru continues to make bank from, in part, its all-wheel-drive primacy. For the sake of a free market, may a competitor please step up.