On a personal note, I am a loyal Mitsubishi
fan. A Mirage coupe was the first car I bought new, paid in full for. I drove it like
crazy, under heavy-duty conditions with friends in the back and sailboards on top, and
never, ever, had a tiny bit of trouble with it. Recently my daughter took over ownership
of my still cute, lovable Mirage, with my complete confidence that, even after 7 years,
the little coupe was still going strong. So, given the delightful nature of that
relationship, it was with a bit of anticipation, that I checked out the Lancer.
Though a bit larger than the Mirage, the 177.6" long, four-door
Lancer is still a very compact car. The overall exterior styling is clean and
sophisticated. However, I found it a bit on the "quiet" side, except for the
orange OZ Rally Racing Edition badge on the trunk. Unlike the Mirage, which clearly went
for the sporty, fun style, the Lancer tires hard to look upscale and sophisticated. My
tester came in a pretty silver metallic shade that resembled a brushed finish. The front
end offers a stylish, upright grille and dressy headlights to compliment the formal look.
A center roof-mounted radio antenna and front fender-mounted turn signals lend an
international theme. The optional OZ rear spoiler adds some flash to the otherwise
New to America, it seems the little Lancer is well known in some
other parts of the world. I was quite surprised that during my week with the Lancer I
received feedback on two different occasions from young Australians!
One of these guys walked up to me and told me about his cousin in
Sydney who owns a Lancer coupe, and how he followed the World Rally Championship
religiously. The other said that I was "driving one really exciting car, and he'd
love to go for a ride." My reaction was - "Way to go Mitsubishi!" Reading
up on the Lancer's history, I learned that in 1973 the Lancer won Australia's prestigious
Southern Cross Rally. Of course these cute Aussie's knew their stuff.
The Lancer is built on a 102.4" wheelbase, which allows a lot
more passenger room than the Mirage's 98" did. Of the additional 4", 3.1"
went to rear-seat legroom. With that addition, this new Mitsubishi now offers the most
front and rear legroom in its class. The Lancer also has plenty of what
I call "no-nonsense" storage - meaning there's no excess,
but what's there is totally usable. There was one little storage cubby right in the middle
of the dash under the stereo that was kind of bogus though. I had the same thing in my
Mirage, and though the concept is good, whatever you put in it, seems to slide right out.
This drove me crazy, as I'm messy enough on my own!
The 11.3 cubic foot trunk is a good functional size, and with the
Lancer's split rear seatback, it makes a very utilitarian vehicle. The cloth upholstery
features an art deco-looking pattern of blue and black, trimmed with solid black. The door
panels have another different pattern that works together nicely and adds a designer
touch. The instrument cluster is straightforward, easy-to-read and simple to use, and will
suit a non-gadget-head driver best. It worked for me.
The Lancer gives a solid, steady and peppy ride, whether zipping
through city intersections, or cruising down the highway. A 2.0-liter, 16-valve,
4-cylinder engine powers the Lancer and allows it to brag of one of
the largest engines of its class. With 120 horsepower and 130 lb ft of torque, this
"Mits" had hearty passing power. The suspension offered a cushy quiet ride and a
steady "big-car" feel in the corners. The Lancer felt very friendly to me,
perhaps because of my experience with the Mirage, and that feeling made for a comfortable
My Lancer OZ Rally edition had a 5-speed manual transmission, and is
also available with a 4-speed automatic with Mitsubishi's adaptive shift control system.
The automatic's IVECS-II controller fits the shift points to the individual driver, so an
aggressive driver gets a faster, higher-rpm shift, and a more relaxed driver gets smoother
shifts at lower rpm. The OZ Rally package is mostly a trim upgrade as all Lancers get the
same engine. I understand that the Galant's 2.4 liter engine is a future possibility for
the Lancer, and that would give the OZ an additional kick to really have some fun with.
One of Lancer's most notable features is offering a lot of
"good stuff" as standard equipment. Power windows, A/C, power door locks, cruise
control, power mirrors, 15-inch OZ alloy wheels and a strong-cranking AM/FM stereo with
single disc CD. Very impressive, since the MSRP on my tester came to only $15,847,
including one option, the rear spoiler at $360. This is a great deal, considering the
quality, performance and equipment. The fuel economy is also outstanding at 29-mpg city,
and 41-mpg highway, which makes the Lancer a winner again.
Mitsubishi calls the Lancer their antidote to driving boredom
an affordably priced compact sedan with big car features, a comfortable, spacious
interior, and a shared bloodline with the famed Lancer Evolution rally racers. Interested
parties will find three models offered in the US - Lancer ES, Lancer LS, and the Lancer OZ
Rally edition. I'd call it one of the nicest little cars in town.