2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 9, 2011

From true economy car to sophisticated junior sport sedan or sporty hatchback, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer has it covered—albeit with a few flaws.

The Lancer is Mitsubishi's most affordable model for sale in the U.S., and it stands out in a sea of low-priced sedans—first for its resemblance to the much more expensive Lancer Evolution and Ralliart models (covered under a separate review), and also for its rather unusual Sportback (five-door hatchback) body style, which stands as an alternative to crossover vehicles. For 2011, Mitsubishi has expanded the five-door hatchback body style, so that it's now also offered in ES trim, in addition to the GTS and Ralliart models offered last year.

While you might peg the sharklike snout of the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer as belonging to an Evo at first glance, the Lancer costs much less, and it's nearly as good-looking. The Lancer is chunky but low and lean, with a high beltline, a nicely proportioned small sedan or Sportback hatch. The mid-level Lancer ES gets color-keyed door handles and mirrors, but it's the larger wheels of GTS models that especially serve to fill out those proportions and help the design pop.

A 152-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine provides power for Lancer DE and ES models; with it, performance is perky with the five-speed manual and just 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. While DE and ES models are strictly cheap wheels—and they handle reasonably well though not with much verve—the GTS has slightly higher aspirations. It 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 result is a car that's considerably more entertaining to drive. Unfortunately, it also results in more road noise and a somewhat stiff, jiggly ride.

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Either as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback (Sportback), the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer has a fundamentally good, roomy package for passengers and cargo, but it falls short with respect to interior noise and refinement, as well as the look and feel of the materials and trims. The five-door Sportback body style is offered now in ES and GTS trims and brings a little more cargo space and versatility—especially if you fold the backseats forward. Otherwise, backseat space is identical between the two.

On any of these models, noise and ride comfort could be deal-breakers. DE and ES models come with a slightly softer suspension and more forgiving tires that comfort-oriented buyers will probably prefer. But 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 mostly an issue in CVT models, where the engine gets raucous and buzzy on acceleration. Also bringing a downmarket feel to the Lancer is the collection of decidedly basic materials used in the cabin; there's lots of hard, hollow-sounding plastic.

The sporty GTS lives up to its Evo look, with a sport suspension, big 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, rear spoiler, and air dams, plus automatic climate control, high-contrast gauges, and sport seats. For 2011, the basic Bluetooth interface previously on offer in the GTS has been replaced with FUSE, a hands-free system that allows voice-command access to phones and media players. A USB port is now also included in GTS models.

Options on the Lancer are limited to alloy wheels and a Deluxe Package on the ES (including the FUSE system, a USB port, sunroof, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The GTS can be further loaded up with a Touring Package adding a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch premium sound system, ten-inch subwoofer, a CD changer, leather seats, heated front seats, bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and a sunroof.

9

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer

Styling

The Lancer is eye-catching on the outside. Across the parking lot, in sporty GTS trim, it could be mistaken for the iconic Evo, or at the very least a higher-performance Ralliart.

While you might peg the sharklike snout of the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer as belonging to an Evo at first glance, the Lancer costs much less, and it's nearly as good-looking. The Lancer is chunky but low and lean, with a high beltline, a nicely proportioned small sedan or Sportback hatch. The mid-level Lancer ES gets color-keyed door handles and mirrors, but it's the larger wheels of GTS models that especially serve to fill out those proportions and help the design pop.

Even on base models, sporty interior themes and a mix of darker surfaces and matte-metallic trims give it a sophisticated, upscale look from a distance from a few paces away. Unfortunately, up close the materials are rather drab.

8

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer

Performance

Especially in GTS guise, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer feels sportier than most other inexpensive small sedans.

A 152-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine provides power for Lancer DE and ES models; with it, performance is perky with the five-speed manual and just 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.

While DE and ES models are strictly cheap wheels—and they handle reasonably well though not with much verve—the GTS has slightly higher aspirations. It 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 result is a car that's considerably more entertaining to drive. Unfortunately, it also results in more road noise and a somewhat stiff, jiggly ride.

6

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer

Comfort & Quality

Seating is comfortable in the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer, but refinement, ride, and perceived quality are sorely lacking.

Either as a four-door sedan or a five-door hatchback (Sportback), the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer has a fundamentally good, roomy package for passengers and cargo, but it falls short with respect to interior noise and refinement, as well as the look and feel of the materials and trims.

The 2011 Lancer has remarkably well-designed seating. In front, the front seats are a little larger and better bolstered than most small-car perches, and they give a nice, upright driving position and decent long-distance comfort; the sport seats in the GTS are even better. In back, legroom is right, but there's just enough headroom for adults (just two, ideally).

The five-door Sportback body style is offered now in ES and GTS trims and brings a little more cargo space and versatility—especially if you fold the backseats forward. Otherwise, backseat space is identical between the two.

On any of these models, noise and ride comfort could be deal-breakers. DE and ES models come with a slightly softer suspension and more forgiving tires that comfort-oriented buyers will probably prefer. But 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 mostly an issue in CVT models, where the engine gets raucous and buzzy on acceleration. Also bringing a downmarket feel to the Lancer is the collection of decidedly basic materials used in the cabin; there's lots of hard, hollow-sounding plastic.

8

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer

Safety

With great ratings for occupant protection and all the expected safety features, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer is a very secure small-car pick.

Considering the Lancer's excellent handling, good list of safety features, and top-tier safety ratings, it can truly be called one of the safest small-car models.

Front side airbags, side-curtain bags, and a driver's knee airbag are included in all 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer models, along with anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.

Crash-test results for the 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. It's also scored a 'good' rating in the new roof strength test and earned Top Safety Pick status for 2011. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't tested it in its revised, more stringent NCAP testing program for 2011, but in the previous tests it earned a mix of four- and five-star ratings for frontal and side impact protection.

The only issue in the Lancer is visibility. Due to the rather high beltline—and the rear spoiler in GTS models—shorter drivers might find outward visibility a little more challenging compared to other small sedans.

8

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer

Features

The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer ranges from one of the cheapest basic small sedans to an Evo lookalike with top-tier connectivity technology and sound systems.

The 2011 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 only exception is the base DE model, a price leader that could classify under the old definition of 'economy car.'

Power windows and a CD sound system are included in the Lancer DE, but expect steel wheels with cheap-looking wheel covers, as well as rear drum brakes (though anti-lock brakes and stability control are now included). Most people will be happy with the mid-grade ES, adding stabilizer bars, ventilated disc brakes (rear discs with the available alloy wheels), 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, big 18-inch alloys, fog lamps, rear spoiler, and air dams, plus automatic climate control, high-contrast gauges, and sport seats.

For 2011, the basic Bluetooth interface previously on offer in the GTS has been replaced with FUSE, a hands-free system that allows voice-command access to phones and media players. A USB port is now also included in GTS models.

Options on the Lancer are limited to alloy wheels and a Deluxe Package on the ES (including the FUSE system, a USB port, sunroof, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. The GTS can be further loaded up with a Touring Package adding a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Punch premium sound system, ten-inch subwoofer, a CD changer, leather seats, heated front seats, bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and a sunroof.

The top GTS is something of a deal next to its Ralliart and Evo lookalikes, if you can do without the turbocharged engine. Even with that Touring Package, plus a few additional port-installed accessories, a fully loaded GTS still rings in at well under $25k.

7

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer is a relatively green choice in general, yet most small sedans can beat its fuel economy numbers.

Fuel-efficiency for Lancer SE and ES models has increased for 2011, thanks to the adoption of electric power steering. They're now at an EPA-rated 24 mpg city, 33 highway with the standard five-speed manual gearbox or 25/33 with the available CVT. GTS models rate 2 or 3 mpg lower all around at 22/31 or 23/30 respectively.

Those figures are quite green, but they aren't class-leading, or anywhere close. In fact, the Hyundai Sonata, which is a size (or two) larger manages 35 highway.

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May 7, 2016
2011 Mitsubishi Lancer 4-Door Sedan Manual ES FWD

Nice ride!

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My first Mitsubishi. I have always owned Toyota's, Hyundai and a few Fords. So far I love it! Rides nice, seats are comfortable,lots of room in side,Bluetooth hook up for music and phone. Don't know how it... + More »
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December 19, 2015
2011 Mitsubishi Lancer 4-Door Sedan CVT ES FWD

It is great when driving in the city's narrow streets.

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It has some understeering problems from time to time mostly on high speeds.
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