2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 11, 2014

Driving enthusiasts will find that the Ralliart and Evo deliver thrilling performance; but a drab interior and general lack of refinement limit the appeal of other models in the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer lineup.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer and Lancer Evolution are each throwbacks to an earlier era of car, although the reasons vary considerably. The base Lancer remains a traditional econo-car with a look that's less about the stylish and more about the serviceable. That sets it apart from other compact sedans, which today are far more focused on design details, well-appointed cabins that surprise and delight, and features only found on high-end luxury cars not so many years ago. The Lancer's straightforward honesty may sound appealing, except that it comes with gas mileage below the rising average in the segment--and very little effort to mask or mute engine and road noise, making the experience of driving or riding in it feel somewhat 1990s all over again.

It gets better with the the Lancer Evolution, which serves as a reminder of the kind of tech-forward performance for which Mitsubishi used to be known. The finely honed Lancer Evolution is an all-wheel-drive track star, while the Ralliart is satisfying and sporty. Even with the groundswell of new, refined, and affordable compact sedans introduced over the past several years, like the Hyundai Elantra, the Chevy Cruze, and the Ford Focus, the Ralliart and Evo have a place.

The overarching design of the Lancer attractive, bold, and practical, and it still manages to stand out in a good way, seven years after its introduction. Packaging and interior space are impressive, too, and this is one vehicle that makes smart use of its cabin dimensions. At issue, really are the interior details; from a distance, the instrument panel might be described as elegantly simple, yet up close the materials are disappointing, and there's too much hard, hollow plastic. 

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Although there the Lancer is lacking inspiration inside, it tends to make up for that with a neat, responsive driving experience. Steering is also nice and direct throughout the lineup, while handling is reassuring and a bit communicative for all but the more basic models. The Lancer ES has a 152-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's perky at lower speeds with the five-speed manual but barely gutsy enough with the continuously variable (CVT) automatic. If you move up to the 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter four that comes in the Lancer GT (or all-wheel-drive SE), you get plenty of power and torque to move this small sedan or hatchback with more confidence. With the CVT, on GT models, you get magnesium steering-wheel paddle shifters with six simulated gears, too.

The driving-enthusiast draws of the lineup are the Evolution and Ralliart. With the Ralliart, you essentially get a Lancer GT, fitted with a 237-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four, With a few more borrowed components from the high-end Evolution, like its quicker-ratio steering, you get a car that's a lot more engaging to drive. Yet those craving track time will want to head straight to the Evo; its much stronger 291-hp engine and sophisticated all-wheel drive system are complemented by serious performance upgrades all around--even a strengthened body structure and aluminum panels--to deliver awesome performance and grip. If drivability is important, though, you might prefer the Ralliart for its better drivability and broader torque curve.

Those willing to pay up to $45k for an Evo will have to get past a few hurdles--like how, awesome Recaro seats aside, the interior appointments aren't all that much different than in a $17k base Lancer. The Lancer GT and Ralliart are still the best bets in the lineup if you want that look, at a much lower price. With them, you get a sport suspension, big 18-inch alloys (a fresh design this year), fog lamps, rear spoiler, and air dams, plus automatic climate control, high-contrast gauges, and sport seats. 

For 2014, Mitsubishi has added a new 6.1-inch touchscreen display audio system to SE all-wheel drive, GT, and Ralliart models; it features HD Radio and a rearview camera system. Also available is a new navigation system with seven-inch touch screen, voice command, 3D mapping, and real-time traffic information. The base DE model has been dropped from the lineup. 

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2014 Mitsubishi Lancer

Styling

The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer family is quite drab and simple on the inside, but it's still a standout on the outside.

The design of the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer is now seven years old; yet its overarching design remains attractive, bold, and practical--whether you go with the four-door sedan or five-door hatchback body style.

From the front, that aggressive, sharklike snout still looks a bit daring and different. For standard Lancer models, it calls out 'Evo,' while even on the Evo and Ralliart models it simply fits right in with the rest of the chunky proportions, low-and-lean stance, and high beltline--which altogether give both the sedan and Sportback their nice sense of proportion. You'll need to step up to sportier GT models, as well as the Ralliart or Evo, to get the larger alloys that especially serve to fill out the wheel wells and help the design pop.

The sedan especially manages to stand out in as stylistically different from both models that try to emulate larger mid-size sedans (like the Chevrolet Cruze and the Volkswagen Jetta) as well as those that are taking a sleeker, creased, and rakish look (such as the Hyundai Elantra or Ford Focus).

Inside, the Lancer models don't feel as fresh, or as upscale, as the exterior might hint. They lack enough differentiation from the sub-$17k Lancer DE all the way up to a loaded $45k Evo MR. The look barely fits the bill for the simple Lancer ES models, as the competition has upgraded its materials and detailing to such a degree. Provided you don't become obsessed over the details (which will get you down), the sporty layout, with a mix of darker surfaces and matte-metallic trims tends to look quite good.

At issue, really are the interior details; from a distance, the instrument panel might be described as elegantly simple, yet up close the materials are disappointing, and there's too much hard, hollow plastic.

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2014 Mitsubishi Lancer

Performance

Ralliart and Evo models provide turbocharged engines and all-wheel drive to make the whole driving experience a hoot; but even the lower-priced Lancers have responsive handling.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer might show some inattention to detail in its cabin, but its driving experience is for the most part neat and responsive. Steering is nice and direct throughout the lineup, while handling is reassuring and a bit communicative for all but the more basic models.

While these cars can look closely related from the outside, what's under the hood, and the driving experience, is very different. The Lancer ES is the keep-it-simple model in the lineup; it has a 152-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that's perky at lower speeds with the five-speed manual but barely gutsy enough with the continuously variable (CVT) automatic. If you move up to the 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter four that comes in the Lancer GT (or all-wheel-drive SE), you get plenty of power and torque to move this small sedan or hatchback with more confidence. With the CVT, on GT models, you get magnesium steering-wheel paddle shifters with six simulated gears, too.

A new SE model was introduced last year and essentially fits all-wheel drive (not the Evo's Super All Wheel Control system, but the more ordinary AWD system also used in the Outlander Sport) and the 2.4-liter. It builds onto the ES rather than the GT, and clearly aspires to snowy driveways, not the rally stage.

The Evolution is of course the performance star of the lineup. It packs a 291-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder that's very peaky by today's standards, with quite a bit of turbo lag and the need to be revved high into its range to extract its power. When it arrives, it's phenomenal, and delivered confidently with an Active Center Differential, helical-gear front differential, and Active Yaw Control, altogether giving this plebeian sedan the agility, tractability, and poise to match much more expensive sport machines. You can get a notchy five-speed manual gearbox, but our pick would actually be the six-speed 'Twin Clutch SST' gearbox--a dual-clutch automatic that actually serves to help keep you in the turbo boost. If drivability is important, though, you might prefer the Ralliart for its better drivability and broader torque curve.

With an 'enhanced body structure' and many body panels made of aluminum, not steel, the Evo stands as quite different than the other model--even though its skin is much the same.

The Ralliart is what fills the huge performance gap from those other models up to the Evo. With a lower-boost, 237-hp version of the turbo four, all the body and suspension improvements of the GT, plus the quicker-ratio steering and some other hardware borrowed from the Evo, the Ralliart is the best sweet spot between performance and daily-driver usability for most. While you're missing the high-end AWD system, its engine is much more flexible, and feels just as strong as the Evo's in everyday driving.

In either of these models it's worth keeping in mind that ride harshness does play a part in the driving experience--you feel everything, to the delight of some and to the dismay of others.

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2014 Mitsubishi Lancer

Comfort & Quality

A space-efficient interior and comfortable seats make these models appealing in the showroom, but road noise and ride quality make them less appealing out on the test drive.

On one level, the 2014 Lancer is a strong contender: Packaging and interior space are impressive, and this is one vehicle that makes smart use of its cabin dimensions.

But on the other hand, the interior details leave a lot to be desired. The upholstery on the less-expensive models reminds us of what was used in many Japanese cars a decade ago, and the instrument panel, while it might be described as elegantly simple, has too much hard, hollow plastic and is lacking a level of detail, even for this price class.

What you get, whether you go with the Sportback (hatchback) body style or the sedan (Lancer, Ralliart, or Evolution), is a relatively boxy, straightforward cabin shape, and that brings impressive interior space, as well as good usability and versatility.

On the flip side, the interior noise and lack of ride comfort could be deal-breakers. DE and ES models (and SE) come with a slightly softer suspension and more forgiving tires that comfort-oriented buyers will probably prefer. But especially in GT form, the Lancer rides quite hard, and with plenty of road noise to match the engine noise. And in CVT models the engine gets raucous and buzzy on acceleration.

You might hope that Evolution or Ralliart models would be a step up in refinement, but they're really not, and those with back issues shouldn't even think about it. In the Evo, the better sport seats do help some, but its structure pounds and rings as its ride is downright jarring on pothole-ridden Rust Belt roads.

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2014 Mitsubishi Lancer

Safety

The 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer family gets respectable safety ratings, and its good handling and solid safety-feature list are added reassurance.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer family includes a list of safety equipment that's typical for this class, but its crisp, responsive handling may prove an asset in avoiding an accident.

With front side airbags, side-curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control. and a driver's knee airbag all included throughout the Lancer line, there's nothing sorely missing--at least not in a car with the price point of the base Lancer ES.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the Lancer top 'good' ratings in frontal offset, side impact, and rear impact tests, along with the roof strength test. And in federal tests, the Lancer sedan and Sportback both earned four stars in both frontal and side crash categories, for an overall rating of four (out of five) stars.

Neither agency extends these results to Evolution and Ralliart models. The Evolution has its own exclusive, stronger and performance-focused body structure.

Because of the Lancer's rather tall beltline and thick rear pillars, it could be tough for some to see out when changing lanes or backing up (taller drivers won't have issue), so check that on the test drive.

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2014 Mitsubishi Lancer

Features

The 2014 Evo feels pricey for what you get; but the rest of the Lancer and Ralliart models are well-equipped for the money.

Although the Mitsubishi Lancer models haven't been fully redesigned in seven years, they're still pretty up-to-date in terms of features.

The ES, GT, and SE models include a good list of standard features, plus some high-tech options that aren't widely offered in this affordable class of vehicle. 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.

With the ES you add the larger 2.4-liter engine plus all-weather all-wheel drive, to appeal to those in Northern climates wanting AWD but not the performance ability of the Ralliart or Evolution. Meanwhile, the sporty GT 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.

The GT 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; separately, there's a navigation package that includes a rearview camera system.

For 2014, Mitsubishi has added a new 6.1-inch touchscreen display audio system to SE all-wheel drive, GT, and Ralliart models; it features HD Radio and a rearview camera system. Also available is a new navigation system with seven-inch touch screen, voice command, 3D mapping, and real-time traffic information.

Step up to the Evo and its track-tuned performance, and you'll already be past the $35k mark with the GSR model, the more basic take on the Evo that includes a slightly more compliant suspension, better wheels, and HID headlamps, plus other extras like remote start and the FAST hands-free entry system. Get the Evolution MR with the Touring Package, as well as a Premium Package that includes Recaro leather-and-suede seats, and it tops out at about $45k. 

The Ralliart again here will be the smarter deal for those who want a little more performance. In addition to its turbo engine, the Ralliart includes most of the GT's equipment, plus standard leather trim and aluminum pedals, as well as a hands-free entry system.

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2014 Mitsubishi Lancer

Fuel Economy

Whether you're considering the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer, Ralliart, or Evo, none of these models are particularly 'green.'

If you're noticing the fuel economy ratings of the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer for the first time, it might be a little hard to hide your disappointment. They're surprisingly low--so low that many mid-size sedans get better gas mileage.

The performance models in the lineup are of course at the back of the pack. The Ralliart only manages 18 mpg city, 25 highway, and the Evo is rated as low as 17/22.

Opt for the base 2.0-liter engine and mileage is reasonably good, at 25 or 26 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway; but that's 3-6 mpg lower on the highway than most other cars in this class. GT models rate 2 or 3 mpg lower all around at 22/31 or 23/30 mpg, respectively,

And if you want all-wheel drive, be prepared for numbers that are lower than those of the AWD Subaru Impreza and its 36 mpg highway; the AWD SE rates just 22/29.

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September 9, 2015
2014 Mitsubishi Lancer 4-Door Sedan CVT GT FWD

aweful car

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