2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
December 10, 2009

The Mitsubishi Lancer might be positioned and priced as an economy car, but with the right equipment, it can feel like a lot more.

To bring you the most useful information on the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer, TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven sedan and Sportback versions of the Lancer, with expert opinions and firsthand observations. TheCarConnection.com has also combed reviews from a range of sources, presenting you highlights in an accompanying full review.

As Mitsubishi’s smallest and most affordable vehicle in the U.S. market, the Lancer stands out from the crowd of low-priced sedans for two main reasons: First, its resemblance to the much more expensive Lancer Evolution and Ralliart models (covered under a separate review) somehow earns it a little more street cred than, say, a Corolla. Second, the new Sportback model gives the Lancer a new, more versatile body style—and an alternative to small SUVs and crossovers.

Across the parking lot, the Lancer could be mistaken for an Evo, especially in top-of-the-line, sporty GTS trim. It’s a nicely proportioned small sedan, looking chunky but low and lean, while the new Sportback hatch model also fits perfectly with the sharklike snout. Even on base models, sporty interior themes and a mix of darker surfaces and matte-metallic trim give it a sophisticated, upscale look from a distance. Unfortunately, as we’ll explain below, up close the interior materials are a letdown.

Standard on Lancer DE and ES models is a 152-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; with it, performance is perky with the five-speed manual and acceptable with the continuously variable (CVT) automatic. Sporty GTS models step up to a 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter four, and CVT versions receive magnesium steering-wheel paddle-shifters with six simulated gears to suit high-performance driving. The GTS also gets larger wheels, a firmer suspension, and upgraded braking to put the driving experience pretty much on par with the turbocharged Ralliart—minus the extra power, of course.

Review continues below

Cabin design is a highlight in the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer. Front seats provide a nice, upright driving position with good outward visibility and long-distance comfort; the sport seats in the GTS are even better. Backseats are tight for legroom, but there’s just enough headroom for adults (just two, ideally). Available only in GTS trim is the new Sportback body style, which brings a little bit more cargo space and versatility—especially if you fold the backseats forward. Otherwise, backseat space is identical between the two. Noise and ride comfort could be deal-breakers. Especially in GTS form, the Lancer rides quite hard, however, with plenty of road noise to match the engine noise. The roar of the engine is more of an issue in CVT models, where the engine gets raucous and buzzy on acceleration. DE and ES models come with a slightly softer suspension and more forgiving tires that comfort-oriented buyers will probably prefer. Also bringing a downmarket feel to the Lancer is the collection of decidedly basic materials used in the cabin—including lots of hard plastic.

The Lancer is one of the safer small cars, considering its confidence-inspiring handling, plus safety features including front side airbags, side-curtain bags, and a driver's knee airbag. The Lancer also 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. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are newly standard for 2010 across the entire model line.

The base DE model is a price leader and, thus, doesn’t come with a long list of features. Power windows and a CD sound system are included, but expect steel wheels with cheap-looking wheel covers and rear drum brakes with optional anti-lock. Most people will be happy with the mid-grade ES, adding stabilizer bars, ventilated disc brakes, a split-folding backseat, steering-wheel audio controls, keyless entry, and air conditioning. The sporty GTS lives up to its Evo look, with a sport suspension, fog lamps, rear spoiler, and air dams, plus automatic climate control, high-contrast gauges, sport seats, and a Bluetooth calling interface. Bluetooth is optional on the ES but not for the DE. As part of an optional Sun and Sound Package, available for both the GTS and ES, a FAST Key entry system permits keyless entry and ignition. Other top options on the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer include a navigation system that includes a 30GB hard-drive music server, plus a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system and a sunroof.

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2010 Mitsubishi Lancer

Styling

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer makes a strong statement on the outside, though the interior isn't nearly as exciting.

Exterior styling is one of the biggest draws for the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer—whether you’re referring to the sedan or Ralliart body styles. Across the parking lot, the Lancer sedan could be mistaken for an Evo, especially in top-of-the-line, sporty GTS trim. Nearly all the reviews that TheCarConnection.com read referred to the Lancer as a nicely proportioned small sedan. It looks chunky but low and lean, while the new Sportback hatch model also fits perfectly with the sharklike snout.

Cars.com muses that it rarely tests "a sub-$20,000 car that gets stares, but the Lancer GTS" does just that and has "plenty of heads turning in its direction." The Auto Channel also likes the "huge upside-down trapezoid grille, bisected by the bumper" that dominates the 2010 Lancer’s front end, with "faux brake ducts for a scowlingly aggressive look."

In addition to the aggressive front-end styling, the "wedge-shaped body" and "raised beltline add to its speedy character," according to the Detroit News, while "even the spoiler doesn't look out of place, appearing more tasteful than gaudy." That spoiler is available only on the "top-level GTS," notes Kelley Blue Book, specifying that the styling differences among the three available trim levels (DE, ES, and GTS) include "black door handles, black mirrors and 16-inch covered wheels" on the "base Lancer DE." Kelley Blue Book thinks that the ES looks more polished, pointing to the “16-inch alloy wheels, color-keyed door handles and mirrors and a chrome grille surround."

TheCarConnection.com’s editors think that even on base models, sporty interior themes and a mix of darker surfaces and matte-metallic trim give it a sophisticated, upscale look from a distance. Car and Driver agrees, saying that the interior "features clean, stylish aesthetics" and even describing it as "chic." The Lancer’s interior doesn't fare well with all reviewers, though. ConsumerGuide thinks that some controls are "an uncomfortable reach and its dashboard screen hard to read in sunny conditions." Edmunds adds that the "dashboard is not nearly as exciting as the Lancer's sporty, shark-nosed exterior," though they praise the "clean, straightforward design." Kelley Blue Book feels that, despite the "contemporary, minimalist styling" inside the cabin of the new Mitsubishi Lancer, it "falls short of the category's best in terms of richness and refinement," especially on the DE and ES. Reviewers at The Detroit News summarize the interior, noting that "when you sit inside, you don't feel inspired to take on the highway, you feel like taking a nap."

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2010 Mitsubishi Lancer

Performance

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer feels sportier than most other small, economical cars, though fuel economy is disappointing.

When assessing the 2010 Lancer, it's important to note that while the Lancer might look like the more expensive Lancer Ralliart and Evolution, it's first and foremost an on-a-budget vehicle for those who want inexpensive and practical transportation with a little extra style. Reviewers who look at the Lancer from that angle don't seem disappointed, while others seem stuck comparing it to those performance models.

On Lancer DE and ES models is a 152-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine; with it, performance is perky with the five-speed manual and acceptable with the continuously variable (CVT) automatic. Sporty GTS models step up to a 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter four, and CVT versions receive magnesium steering-wheel paddle-shifters with six simulated gears to suit high-performance driving.

Car and Driver thinks though the Lancer's engine is "a bit weak on the low end, the 2.0-liter comes to life with plenty of power around 3500 rpm." Cars.com attests that the "152-hp four-cylinder engine produces plenty of power to move the Lancer at highway speeds," but Edmunds warns that the Mitsubishi Lancer "doesn't feel especially quick with the 2.0-liter engine." Motor Trend decides that overall, the Lancer's "engine is smooth enough, although not as sweet sounding" as that of the Honda Civic.

Between the manual transmission and CVT automatic that's offered on the Lancer line, most reviewers voice a clear preference for the manual. ConsumerGuide finds that Mitsubishi Lancers have only "adequate pickup with manual transmission, and they're borderline sluggish with the CVT." The Auto Channel claims that "the standard five-speed manual gearbox has well-matched gear rations and quick, positive shift linkage." GTS models with the CVT get paddle-shifters with six simulated gears that make this model a little more entertaining. The Detroit News is the only outlet to comment positively about it, assessing that the "CVT calibration makes this an excellent around-town racer."

Fuel economy is worse than most shoppers for economical small sedans might expect. EPA estimates are 22 mpg city, 29 highway for the automatic and 21/29 mpg for the manual. Automobile Magazine is thoroughly unimpressed with the 21/27 mpg rating of the GTS, saying, "Its 21/27 EPA rating loses out to a great many small cars, including the notoriously thirsty five-cylinder (automatic) Volkswagen Jetta."

While DE and ES models are configured to be economy cars above performance machines, they're not completely boring. ConsumerGuide says that "the DE and ES exhibit decent grip," and mentions one benefit of the slightly softer settings: They're "are absorbent and capable," but "the tauter GTS is more agile and fun."

The GTS gets larger wheels, a firmer suspension, and upgraded braking to put the driving experience pretty much on par with the turbocharged Ralliart—minus the extra power, of course. The Auto Channel compliments the "precise handling and steering for a fun-to-drive character," especially for the GTS trim. Car and Driver states that steering is "good, not great, with nice off-center precision but not much feedback"; they note "roadholding, however, is absolutely stellar."

7

2010 Mitsubishi Lancer

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer's interior is spacious and well designed, but lacking in the details.

Whether you opt for the four-door sedan or five-door Sportback, the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer is roomy for passengers and cargo but lacks some of the finer points inside—especially the look and feel of materials and trims, as well as interior noise.

Cabin design is a highlight in the 2010 Lancer. Front seats provide a nice, upright driving position with good outward visibility and long-distance comfort; the sport seats in the GTS are even better. In front, ConsumerGuide finds that "leg space is sufficient for six-footers, but taller folks are likely to want more head clearance." Reviewers at Cars.com feel that the front seats "are comfortable and keep occupants firmly in place," though ConsumerGuide warns that the standard seats on the DE and ES trims "are unexceptional for shape and support."

Backseats are tight for legroom, but there’s just enough headroom for adults (just two, ideally). The Auto Channel reports that "rear space is good for the car's size," a sentiment affirmed by Edmunds, which says, "the Lancer's interior is spacious, particularly in the rear seating area."

Available only in GTS trim is the new Sportback body style, which brings a bit more cargo space and versatility—especially if you fold the backseats forward. The efficient interior design of the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer also provides ample room for cargo and storage space. Reviewers at The Auto Channel cite "useful storage spaces in the doors, console, and glove box"; they do warn that for the Lancer, 2009 brings an optional subwoofer that can "take up some trunk space," though the "trunk is large enough so that will not present any major compromise." ConsumerGuide is slightly more critical, claiming the trunk "lack[s] height for taller cargo, as does the trunk opening," although they approve of the "useful cabin storage" that "includes large front-door map pockets with bottle holders." Otherwise, backseat space is identical between the two.

Noise and ride comfort could be deal-breakers. Especially in GTS form, the Lancer rides quite hard, however, with plenty of road noise to match the engine noise. Sounds from the engine are more of an issue in CVT models, where the engine gets raucous and buzzy on acceleration. DE and ES models come with a slightly softer suspension and more forgiving tires than comfort-oriented buyers will probably prefer. In regard to road noise, the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer is unremarkable. ConsumerGuide feels "wind noise is well-checked, but coarse-surface tire thrum is fairly high in all models" and the "crude engine note is a sore point." Kelley Blue Book adds that the ES model and its base setup offer a "less noisy—but still not quiet—ride." ConsumerGuide adds that, compared to the sporty GTS, which "rides a bit harsher due to its firmer suspension and 18-inch tires." Automobile Magazine says that "while the Lancer's overall ride quality and suspension damping is quite good at normal speeds, rough pavement tends to upset things, sending unwelcome kickback through the steering wheel." Automobile Magazine also can't get past the engine noise, remarking that it was "too coarse and buzzy for our liking, a fact not helped by the optional CVT fitted to our test car."

Also, bringing a downmarket feel to the Lancer is the collection of decidedly basic materials used in the cabin—including lots of hard plastic. When reviewers focus their attention on the quality of interior materials, some side with Motor Trend, which points out that the cabin "appears well assembled, and is trimmed in plastics and surfaces of appropriate quality," making the Mitsubishi Lancer "at least competitive" with its rivals. Kelley Blue Book reviewers feel that the "otherwise attractive passenger cabin falls short" of the Mitsubishi Lancer's main competitors. Other reviewers, such as those from Cars.com, lament the interior materials and some of the "cheap elements, like the grab handles on the doors and the trip computer button beside the gauges." Coming down particularly harshly on the Mitsubishi Lancer is The Detroit News, which remarks that the knobs and switches feel "like they might snap off" if "pushed or twisted too hard."

8

2010 Mitsubishi Lancer

Safety

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer gets improved safety features to complement its very respectable crash-test ratings.

The Lancer is one of the safer small cars, considering its confidence-inspiring handling, plus safety features, including front side airbags, side-curtain bags, and a driver's knee airbag. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control are newly standard for 2010, across the entire model line.

Crash-test results for the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer are very good. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Lancer top "good" scores for frontal offset and side impact tests, as well as their seat-based rear impact test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards it a mix of four- and five-star ratings for frontal and side impact protection.

The Lancer uses "Mitsubishi's Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) unibody construction to disperse impact energy," notes The Auto Channel.

With anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, a proven lifesaver, now standard on the 2010 Lancer, this model now includes more safety features than you'll find on some other budget-priced small sedans. Edmunds observes that the Lancer features a "solid array of airbags, including front-seat side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag."

When test-driving the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer, you might note how well you can see out. ConsumerGuide finds that "outward visibility aft and to the right-rear isn't great, and it's made worse by the available rear spoiler" on the GTS trim.

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2010 Mitsubishi Lancer

Features

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer comes with everything you'd expect in a budget-priced small sedan or hatchback, with some unexpected tech options to make it all the more interesting.

In all but the base DE model, the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer comes with a generous list of standard features and some high-tech options that aren't widely offered in this affordable class of vehicle.

The base DE model is a price leader and, thus, doesn’t come with a long list of features. Power windows and a CD sound system are included, but expect steel wheels with cheap-looking wheel covers, as well as rear drum brakes with optional anti-lock. Most people will be happy with the mid-grade ES, adding stabilizer bars, ventilated disc brakes, a split-folding backseat, steering-wheel audio controls, keyless entry, and air conditioning. The sporty GTS lives up to its Evo look, with a sport suspension, fog lamps, rear spoiler, and air dams, plus automatic climate control, high-contrast gauges, sport seats, and a Bluetooth calling interface.

The Auto Channel reports that "the standard equipment level is high—even the DE has an AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3CD capability, and power windows." ConsumerGuide adds that moving up to the Mitsubishi Lancer ES brings standard "air conditioning," along with "cruise control, split folding rear seat, power door locks, remote keyless entry, [and] steering wheel radio controls." The top-end Mitsubishi Lancer "GTS interior upgrades the audio system and the front seats," according to The Auto Channel.

A Bluetooth hands-free calling interface is optional on the ES but not for the DE. As part of an optional Sun and Sound Package, available for both the GTS and ES, a FAST Key entry system permits keyless entry and ignition. Other top options on the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer include a navigation system that includes a 30GB hard-drive music server, plus a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system and a sunroof.

Edmunds notes that the hard-drive system is "capable of storing MP3 music files," while Motor Trend says that the Rockford-Fosgate audio system is "not to be missed" and "may be best in class."

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