- Smooth transmission action
- Handling is sharp, responsive
- GTS styling is eye-catching
- Cabin plastic
- Excessive road and engine noise
Mitsubishi refers to the 2009 Lancer not as an economy car but as a "compact sport sedan," and its appearance and equipment—especially for the top GTS model—support this designation.
The Mitsubishi Lancer is a basic but sporty sedan with some tech features not often offered in this class. It's Mitsubishi's smallest sedan and lowest-priced car in the U.S. lineup. The high-performance Evolution model is based on the Lancer, but it's covered in a separate review.
The Lancer’s exterior styling is very similar to that of the Evolution, including sporty interior themes and a mix of darker surfaces and matte-metallic trim that looks sporty and attractive from a few feet away but somewhat dull and cheap up close.
A 152-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on Lancer DE and ES models; it delivers acceptable performance with either the standard five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic. For 2009, the sporty Lancer GTS model, known for its crisp steering response, good handling, and firm braking, receives a new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 168 horsepower. The GTS can be equipped with the optional "gearless" continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT includes a so-called Sportronic mode, with six simulated gears and magnesium steering wheel paddle shifters.
While DE and ES models have a suspension that's tuned for a good mix of ride quality and responsiveness, the GTS has much firmer settings that some might find to be too harsh over potholes. Also, across the lineup, engine noise is greater than in most rivals, especially in the CVT models, which rev to a raucous drone on hard acceleration.
The interior of the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer is well designed, with generous space in front for the driver and passenger, as well as a very nice, upright driving position—made even better by the sport seats added in the GTS. Space in back is tight, but not as bad as some other vehicles its size. The Lancer rides quite hard, however, with plenty of road noise to match the engine noise.
Standard safety features in the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer include front side airbags, side-curtain bags, and a driver's knee airbag. Anti-lock brakes are standard on the ES and GTS but not offered on the DE, and electronic stability is not available on the Lancer. The Lancer does quite well in crash tests, with four- and five-star ratings in the federal tests for frontal and side impact, and Good ratings for both frontal impact and rear impact from the IIHS.
The 2009 GTS is now also equipped with standard high-contrast gauges and a Bluetooth interface system with voice recognition for hands-free calling (available for the ES). A new component of the optional Sun and Sound Package, available for both the GTS and ES, is the Freehand Advanced Security Transmitter. The FAST Key entry system allows the driver to unlock the Lancer via an in-pocket remote and by simply grasping the handle on either of the front doors.
Equipped modestly, the 2009 base DE model is very inexpensive. Steel wheels are standard, and there are only drum rear brakes with optional anti-lock, but power windows and a CD sound system are among the standard features. Mid-level ES models add stabilizer bars, ventilated disc brakes, a split-folding backseat, steering-wheel audio controls, keyless entry, and air conditioning. At the top of the range, the GTS brings a gamut of features that reaches toward the Evo, including sport suspension, fog lamps, rear spoiler, air dams, sport seats, a Bluetooth calling interface, and automatic climate control.
Top options on the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer include a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system, a sunroof, and a navigation system that includes a 30GB hard-drive music server.