Hatch cargo space left and alloys right
LX badge left and reverse camera right
Lancer: The Mainstay Mitsubishi
The Lancer name has been with us for many decades with the current shape since 2007. That means we’re heading for a new model sometime over the next few years. Mitsubishi has given the range a bit of a freshen-up with some improvements in the infotainment system, and other assorted minor updates. It’s also seen a price reduction to go with those upgraded features.
This week we had the midrange Lancer LX hatch. The Lancer range is offered in hatch and sedan in all trim levels except for the Evolution which is a sedan only. As we reported in the Evo X a few weeks ago, the interior is OK and first impressions are generally good. The seating looks comfy but I couldn’t get the driver’s electric seat adjusted so it was just right. In manual, 1st and 3rd had to be reached for but leaning forward by leaning forward slightly. Other than that the cabin was well laid out.
An added benefit of the hatch is the vast cargo space when the rear seat-backs are flat. They come forward with a 1 release handle either side. A single flick and load away. While we’re talking about the hatch I feel compelled to comment on the look of the hatch itself. In order to keep good cargo space maximised, Mitsubishi kept the length of the boot and added a hatch opening. This makes the rear look slightly awkward and fat, not helped by the odd shaped tail light clusters. Remember the ads when the hatch broke several years ago? A couple of Gen-Y’s were loading gear into the back by bouncing it all from a first floor window. The hatch was open mostly, and that’s probably for the best. The booted sedan version looks much better, even, dare I say it, a bit sexy.
The large friendly grille ad standard angled front light assembly varies little across the range and is quite handsome in its subtle aggressive stance. The LX scores a body kit which is a small air dam and side skirts. The side view of the sedan is similarly pleasing, but it is the side view where the Hatch loses a little visual appeal. The rear looks heavy and awkward even though the space created inside comes in handy. The mid-range LX at $24,450 has leather trim, alloys and a reversing camera. The 110kw 2.0L 4 cylinder is mated to a standard 5 st gearbox and gets about 6.9L/100k. It gets along quite well once you get used to it. You have to work the gears to keep up those revs, and it always feels like it could use the extra gear. 6 cogs are almost standard these days. Having said that the manual is far more satisfying than the CVT auto. Since the CVT has no actual gears, it always seems to be making the engine work so as to be screaming its head off. It constantly adjusts itself to get the most out of the engine keeping the power and torque accessible by keeping the revs up then letting the engine go down to a touch about idle when the power is no longer needed. It’s an odd sensation and not one I particularly enjoy. In light of the gorgeous conventional auto transmissions (like that in Toyota’s 86) currently available, I can’t see why one of those wouldn’t suit.
There are thoughtful touches such as the smart key which allows you to turn the ignition while leaving the key in your pocket. You also score auto headlights and wipers that work operate themselves when needed if left in Auto Mode. The steering wheel has duplicate controls for the radio and phone with extra buttons for the cruise controls. The CCVT also has Paddles to simulate manual gear changes There are various warnings that make themselves known if you do something wrong but frankly they annoy the hell out of me. I’d be trying my best to disarm them somehow. The seating is Leather in the LX and all Lancers have power driver’s seat adjustments. That’s pretty good for a 24k car. Add to that the new audio system including Bluetooth, USB and a high quality LCD screen and you have a well-equipped cabin offering as good as, if not better than, the industry average. It’s difficult for beleaguered auto makers to get ahead of the game but electronics get cheaper every year so looking back as a car made even 5 years ago and you’d be surprised at what is absent from them. Reverse cameras are becoming commonplace and so they should be. They can’t be used for any serious reversing, that is a eyes-only job. Your mirrors are still your best friend but the camera is best for the fine work. You can back so close to a wall and even normal sensors are no help there. They start a constant beep well short of the end of travel. These days I’m surprised that some cars come without either but no such problems here as sensors and cameras are standard fare in all but the base model sedan.
The middle of the road models are geared more to comfort than either speed or handling so the steering is lightish as are the brakes. Of course you have the suite of safety features such as brake force distribution, airbags, cornering control and other such electro-nannies. They stop you from making a fool of yourself in all but extreme circumstances. The ride is fairly soft given the sporty vehicles which are my preference. I don’t like suspension so hard as to rearrange organs involuntarily, but the Lancer was a trifle too soft for my liking. Perhaps it is as simple as this: I have driven a Lancer Evolution and no other Lancer is going to do it for me. Make of that what you will.
Like all Mitsubishi vehicles the 5 yr roadside assist is standard.
In conclusion, the Lancer is cheap to buy and cheap to insure. It runs on normal unleaded petrol and drives quite decently and is reasonably comfortable. If you were the sort of person who wants reliable transport that’s easy on the purse, perhaps Lancer fits the bill.
ES 2.0-litre four-door sedan: $19,990 (manual), $22,240 (CVT)
LX 2.0-litre four-door sedan: $23,990 (manual), $26,240 (CVT)
VRX 2.4-litre four-door sedan: $29,990 (manual), $32,240 (CVT)
Ralliart 2.0-litre turbo four-door sedan: $44,490 (automatic)