For a car with an MSRP as low as $13,990, the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer provides pretty good performance. Mitsubishi's sole engine offering keeps the buying decision simple, as the performance choice basically rests on which transmission to choose.
All 2008 Mitsubishi Lancers, whether DE, ES, or GTS trim, are motivated by the same engine. Cars.com says that the "152-hp four-cylinder engine produces plenty of power to move the Lancer at highway speeds," though Edmunds writes that the Mitsubishi Lancer "doesn't feel especially quick with the 2.0-liter engine." Car and Driver feels that while the Lancer's 2008 engine is "a bit weak on the low end, the 2.0-liter comes to life with plenty of power around 3500 rpm." Motor Trend reviewers say that the Mitsubishi Lancer's "engine is smooth enough, although not as sweet sounding as the" Honda Civic's.
Regardless of which trim level you're interested in, Mitsubishi offers either a "five-speed manual transmission or an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT)," according to Car and Driver. Reviews of both transmissions vary widely, with The Auto Channel claiming that "the standard five-speed manual gearbox has well-matched gear rations and quick, positive shift linkage," and The Detroit News adding that "CVT calibration makes this an excellent around-town racer." Moderating the enthusiasm of some reviewers when it comes to performance is ConsumerGuide, which finds that Mitsubishi's Lancers have only "adequate pickup with manual transmission, and they're borderline sluggish with the CVT." One notable difference between the trim levels in terms of transmissions is that, "when equipped with the CVT," the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer in GTS trim "features a six-step manumatic mode using steering wheel paddle shifters," according to Car and Driver.
Unfortunately, one feature of the 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer that suffers when compared to its competitors is fuel economy. For a small car with a small engine, you would probably expect higher fuel economy numbers than the EPA estimates of 22/29 mpg for the automatic and 21/29 mpg for the manual. Just for comparison's sake, the 2008 Honda Civic with a five-speed manual returns an EPA-estimated 26/34 mpg.
Theoretically, it shouldn't be hard to turn small cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer into sporty handlers. Sometimes automakers choose not to do so simply for practical reasons, but with the Lancer's 2008 edition, Mitsubishi has crafted a small sedan that boasts excellent handling. Reviewers at The Auto Channel write that the new Mitsubishi Lancer sports "precise handling and steering for a fun-to-drive character," which is especially true on the GTS trim. Car and Driver writes that steering is "good, not great, with nice off-center precision but not much feedback," but "roadholding, however, is absolutely stellar." ConsumerGuide chimes in by saying that "the DE and ES exhibit decent grip," and "the tauter GTS is more agile and fun." One benefit of the slightly reduced grip and handling on the DE and ES models is that, according to ConsumerGuide, they "are absorbent and capable" when it comes to offering smooth rides, while "the GTS rides a bit harsher due to its firmer suspension and 18-inch tires."