The Mitsubishi Lancer EVO has a strong cult following with it's rally bred heritage and amazing all-wheel-drive system. But for those who can't afford the premium of an EVO can choose from the more mainstream Lancer. But with more heavy hitters in the compact sedan segment can Mitsubishi still provide a valid reason to consider the aging Lancer?
Performance: There are four trim levels and three engines to choose from. Standard ES comes with a 2-liter four-cylinder producing 148hp. GT and SE AWC comes equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 168hp. Top of the range Ralliart comes with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 237hp. Pick of the range is the GT which makes the most sense. It has all the features you'll want and has the sporty looks that are hard to ignore.
On the road: The Lancer is very entertaining to drive as long as you stick with the GT trim or Ralliart. Both make the Lancer feel as engaging to drive as it's keen rivals the Ford Focus and Mazda3. However it isn't as sharp or poshed as both. Steering feel is decent and overall response of the 2.4 makes it well worth spending the extra cash for. While those who couldn't afford the EVO will be satisfied with the Ralliart. The CVT transmission feels like it saps the engine power leaving you cold when you need it most and overpowering when you don't need it. Thus the manual gearbox we feel is the safest way to go. Disappointingly the Ralliart does not offer a manual transmission. Wind and road noise are at acceptable levels.
Behind the wheel: There's plenty of adjustments for the driver's seat but sadly the steering wheel doesn't adjust for reach. Interior quality doesn't feel up to par with it's competition. The touch screen display feels dated and not as refined as we would like. Passenger space all round is decent and the boot offers enough space to satisfy most buyers needs.
Equipment: Standard ES trim offers keyless entry with anti-theft security system, cd-player power windows and an AUX input for your MP3 player. SE AWC offers heated front seats, digital HD radio and electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system. GT trim adds 18 inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and Bluetooth connectivity for your mobile phone. Range topping Ralliart offers a sportier exterior trim, full time all-wheel-drive system and a twin-clutch auto gearbox.
Buying & Owning: The standard Lancer seems like a good deal but we highly suggest going for the GT with the sporty looks and added features such as touch screen display and 18 inch alloy wheels. The premium isn't too much and overall impressions of it are good. The SE AWC is best avoided unless you just have to have the traction. Lancer running costs should be about average among its competition but resale value is something to consider.
Quality: Mitsubishi has good quality cars. Reliability isn't going to be much of an issue. Only real issue here is locating a Mitsubishi dealership for repairs if you do come across such a problem. Interior quality isn't great although it does feel sturdy and long lasting. There are rivals that offer the best of both worlds and you really don't have to pick between the two.
Safety: Front and side curtain airbags come standard. As well as a traction control, anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution to help reduce braking distance in the case of an emergancy braking situation. Also a host of anti-theft aids come standard to keep theft away.
The Lancer is an attractive sedan that is often over looked by competition. It does offer an compelling package and is priced right with the heavy hitters such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. However the styling inside out is dated and there's quite a few short comings with the Lancer that others seem to have mastered. If you want the Lancer for it's generous kit and reasonable price then this is the car for you. However keen rivals have all passed it by and it seems that the only logical reason to buy one is for the discounts.
Likes: Stylish exterior looks. Ralliart is just as good as the EVO but cheaper! Generous standard kit.
Dislikes: Overdue for a redesign. Not sure if the Lancer offers an compelling enough reason to consider over the already better competitors.
Devon's pick: The GT form has the looks and is just as fun to drive as the Ralliart minus the turbo engine. This isn't a bad thing because running costs will be slightly improved and you won't have to pay the premium for the Ralliart.