|ES||2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas, 2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||5-Speed Manual, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive, Four Wheel Drive||$17,202||$17,795|
|LE||2.0-liter Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Front Wheel Drive||$19,135||$19,795|
|SE||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Four Wheel Drive||$20,392||$21,095|
|SEL||2.4-liter Inline-4 Gas||Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)||Four Wheel Drive||$21,359||$22,095|
by James Allen
There are some appealing aspects, but the Mitsubishi Lancer is far from being a class leader.
Once upon a time, the Mitsubishi Lancer was quite a good all-round compact sedan. For sure, it wasn’t a perfect vehicle back then, but there was enough that this humble four-door did rather well for it to be considered as one of the better compact cars in this particular market. However, the years haven’t been kind to the Mitsubishi Lancer. As probably expected, considering it was launched as a new vehicle for the 2007 model year, the Mitsubishi Lancer now feels incredibly dated and out of place in a market that’s long since left for more upmarket pastures. That’s not to say the Mitsubishi Lancer doesn’t have any major attributes. But, no matter how hard we try, it’s not possible to honestly declare the Mitsubishi Lancer to be a car that most compact sedan buyers should wholeheartedly consider.
As with the interior in general, the touchscreen is a prime indicator that the Mitsubishi Lancer isn’t at the cutting edge of the market anymore.
Perhaps the most obvious indicator that the Mitsubishi Lancer is an old car is the overall build quality of the interior. Though we admittedly don’t have too many complaints regarding the overall fit and finish, the quality of the hard, scratchy plastics does betray the Mitsubishi Lancer’s age – and especially when you compare these materials with the soft touch trim pieces on similarly-priced vehicles like the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra and Mazda3 sedan. Likewise, the controls aren’t 100% easy to operate. For sure, the conventional buttons are simple enough to use, but the 6.1-inch touchscreen interface lets the side down by being incredibly slow to respond to inputs. As with the interior in general, the touchscreen is a prime indicator that the Mitsubishi Lancer isn’t at the cutting edge of the market anymore. That said, the Mitusbishi Lancer does fare better when it comes to overall practicality. Whilst not exactly class-leading (if you want the most space from a compact sedan, a Honda Civic will be more to your liking), the Mitsubishi Lancer does offer for the most part decent amounts of head and legroom all round. The only real anomaly in this regard involves the middle seat in the rear row: on top of not being that broad, there’s also a large transmission tunnel that eats into the space in the rear foot well.
Overall, the trunk capacity is reasonable.
Overall, the trunk capacity is reasonable, if nothing particularly special. At 12.3 cubic feet in capacity, it’s about average by compact sedan standards, and roughly on par with what vehicles like the Toyota Corolla sedan (13 cubic feet) and Ford Focus sedan (13.2 cubic feet), though you can extend the load bay even further by folding down the 60:40 split-folding rear seats. The proportions are fine: bar the intrusive wheel arches, the trunk space itself is of a decent shape, and is broad enough to accommodate a couple of small suitcases side-by-side. However, despite the shallow-by-sedan-standards trunk load lip, the opening isn’t particularly broad, and – if you’ll need to frequently carry larger items – a Nissan Sentra will be more suited to your needs. Cabin-based storage capabilities are roughly on par with the trunk, in that they’re okay if not amazing by class standards. The glove box is of a useful depth and the cubby under the front center armrest is of an equally handy size, but we would have preferred the door bins to have been a little bit broader and longer than they currently are.
The Mitsubishi Lancer is perhaps unsurprisingly a vehicle that leans a bit more to the sporty side of the compact sedan spectrum.
Being a car on which the now-discontinued Lancer Evolution performance model was based on, the Mitsubishi Lancer is perhaps unsurprisingly a vehicle that leans a bit more to the sporty side of the compact sedan spectrum. Though we wouldn’t go as far to say it’s as fun or as engaging to drive as a Mazda 3, a Ford Focus or a Chevrolet Cruze, there is enough here to keep the more enthusiastic driver satisfied for the most part. For instance, there is a slight firmness to the ride, which does translate into admirably-controlled body lean when cornering, and there’s surprisingly good amounts of grip for such a dated car. Having standard-fit all-wheel drive on Mitsubishi Lancers with the 2.4-liter engine (2.0-liter models only come with front-wheel drive) also means there’s good amounts of traction on slippery road surfaces and in snowy conditions – on top of being a relative novelty at this price point (the only all-wheel drive alternative, the Subaru Impreza, is nearly $2,000 more expensive to buy than a like-for-like Mitsubishi Lancer). Visibility is also good all-round, which in conjunction with the precise steering responses means you can confidently place the Mitsubishi Lancer where you want it on the road.
We wouldn’t go as far to say the Mitsubishi Lancer is particularly refined.
However, we wouldn’t go as far to say the Mitsubishi Lancer is particularly refined. That firm ride we mentioned earlier also means the car isn’t quite as composed over rougher road surfaces than its substantially newer competitors, and overall wind and road noise is quite substantial by class standards. Such refinement issues are further amplified on Mitsubishi Lancers fitted with the automatic transmission, which transmits a noticeable droning sound into the cabin.
The larger 2.4-liter engine is the one we’re more inclined to recommend.
Normally, we’d recommend the smaller engine in a car like a compact sedan, purely because any slight deficiencies in power outputs and performance are countered by gains in fuel consumption. However, that isn’t a trend to associate with the Mitsubishi Lancer: in this case, the larger 2.4-liter engine is the one we’re more inclined to recommend. That’s not because the fuel economy figures between the 2.0-liter and the 2.4-liter gasoline units are particularly close. On the contrary, the larger engine’s claimed figures of 23mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway are someway short of the 24mpg city/33mpg highway that the 2.0-liter can manage in its least efficient guise – which can be improved to 27mpg city/34mpg highway if you swap out the 2.0-liter’s standard-fit five-speed manual transmission with the automatic.
As with the 2.4-liter, the 2.0-liter sounds rather coarse and strained under hard acceleration.
What holds the smaller engine back is the fact it’s not a particularly powerful unit. Outputs of 148-hp and 145 lb-ft of torque aren’t particularly impressive, and the fact they’re only accessible at higher revs means you will need to work the engine hard in order to use all the oomph on offer. It’s also worth highlighting that, as with the 2.4-liter, the 2.0-liter sounds rather coarse and strained under hard acceleration. The larger engine is a little bit better when it comes to the output sweepstakes, with its more-agreeable-if-not-exactly-brilliant 168-hp and 167 lb-ft. Again, those outputs are only available at higher revs, so you will need to keep your foot on the gas pedal if you’re in a particular hurry, but they help make this engine a noticeably more flexible unit than the smaller 2.0-liter. So, as a result, we feel you should definitely consider the larger option if you can afford the $2,500 premium it has over the less powerful alternative. Perhaps the big downside to opting for the larger engine, though, is the fact it’s only available with the continuously variable transmission, or CVT. Though it does a decent enough job at being an automatic transmission, the CVT isn’t especially refined. Likewise, the five-speed manual transmission that comes on standard on the 2.0-liter engine isn’t anything to really write home about, and it’s worth pointing out that the short top gear means the engine doesn’t operate at especially low revs at highway cruising speeds, so do be prepared for that if you do end up going with the manual transmission.
Modern convenience features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility aren’t present.
Though Mitsubishi has updated the spec levels of the Lancer sedan over the years, there are areas that clearly demonstrate it’s a fairly old car. Modern convenience features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility aren’t present, parking sensors are only available as a $430 optional extra, and there isn’t any reach adjustment for the manually-adjustable steering wheel. Still, there are some handy amenities on even the most basic $17,795/20,295 (depending on whether you go for the 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter engine) Mitsubishi Lancer you can buy. No matter which version you go for, you’ll have access to climate control, a reversing camera, cruise control, keyless entry, heated side mirrors and alloy wheels – and upgrading from the entry-level ‘ES’ spec to the mid-range ‘SE’ trim adds heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels and HD radio to the mix. However, we wouldn’t advise you to go beyond the SE spec if you’re serious about buying a Mitsubishi Lancer. With a base price of $21,095, the Mitsubishi Lancer is positioned right on the cusp of what more upmarket alternatives like premium-feeling rivals like the Mazda 3, Honda Civic and Subaru Impreza sedans retail for – not to mention well-specified mainstream alternatives like the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze. Plus, some of the options only increase the price further by a considerable amount of money: tick the box for built-in satellite navigation, for instance, and your MSRP will rocket up by another $1,800.
Five-years/60,000-miles new vehicle bumper-to-bumper and 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain warranties to fall back on.
No prizes, then, for correctly guessing that the range-topping SEL trim isn’t worth getting. For sure, luxuries like leather seats and automatic windshield wipers are nice, but the $22,095 puts the Mitsubishi Lancer in the pricing realms of sedans from the class above that are objectively superior in practically every meaningful way. If you do go for a Mitsubishi Lancer, you won’t be getting an unsafe vehicle. For sure, it doesn’t boast quite the same level of protection as a newer compact sedan, and items like autonomous emergency braking and blind spot monitoring aren’t available on even fully loaded models, but the Mitsubishi Lancer does come with a good complement of stability systems and an array of front, side and curtain airbags. Plus, the Mitsubishi Lancer was able to score four stars out of five in its most recent NHSTA crash test, which isn’t too bad considering how old the vehicle is. Also worth pointing out is the fact the Mitsubishi Lancer has had a pretty good reliability record, which – on top of the fact most of the technology has been featured on numerous Mitsubishi models – should in theory reduce the chance of something major happening during your ownership period. If the worst does happen, though, there are a very-good-by-class-standards five-years/60,000-miles new vehicle bumper-to-bumper and 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain warranties to fall back on.
If you came to us five years ago if the Mitsubishi Lancer was worth buying, we’re likely be of the mind that it was worth at least trying out. For sure, it was starting to feel a little dated back then, but the Mitsubishi Lancer was still a compact sedan that overall did enough to justify being on the shortlists of some buyers. Nowadays, though, we wouldn’t even consider recommending the Mitsubishi Lancer above a vast majority of the cars in this incredibly congested segment. The game has moved on immensely over the last few years, and the gains that have been made have only gone to highlight just how outdated the Mitsubishi Lancer has become. Of course, there is some appeal in the package it’s offering. However, in a compact sedan class that consists of a broad range of vehicles (some of which being extremely likeable and well-rounded family-oriented cars), we just can’t recommend you consider the Mitsubishi Lancer over a vast majority of its chief rivals.