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."