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Motoring: Lancer has a lot to offer

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | February 11th, 2008

If you are in the market for an affordable, practical car for under $20,000, your choices are endless. There are more cars from more manufacturers available in this price bracket now, and this week I will tell you about the new Mitsubishi Lancer.

Ever since Mitsubishi started selling cars in Canada, the Lancer has been its bread and butter sedan.

But the old model was beginning to look dated and it was time to design a new one. The result is a huge improvement. It looks modern and European, very much like an Alfa Romeo, and that is no bad thing.

I know style is a very personal thing, but I do love the way this Lancer looks and I bet a lot of people would buy one for those looks alone.

But there is more to it. It also has a very nice interior. Sure, it is a bit too black for my taste, some multi-coloured finishes would liven it up nicely, but despite that, the interior design is attractive. It is also well equipped with features like power windows as standard, but power locks with keyless entry is an option. The leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob is also an option, which is a shame because the urethane wrapped standard items feel cheap and leaves you feeling cold. So either buy gloves or cough up extra for the leather items.

Apart from that, the interior is fine, it is even quite spacious, and the seats are comfortable.

The suspension set-up does upset the comfort a bit. The ride is quite stiff, so you will feel the bumps a bit more in this car as compared to its competition, but on the plus side, this car handles very well, so if its fun in the twisties you are after than you will enjoy this Lancer.

Sadly I did not enjoy the engine as much as I was expecting. The specs are fine, a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit, which has Mitsubishi's version of intelligent valve control system called MIVEC. Add 16-valves to the mix and you get 152 hp and 146 lb/ft of torque, driving the front wheels. You can either get a CVT automatic gearbox, or a five-speed manual like the one fitted to my test car. The manual gearbox is fine, but the soft clutch does take a little getting used to. Something I did not get used to was the harshness from the engine. It just felt a bit constipated and doesn't reflect the horsepower it says it produces.

It's not a road-legal rocket but it is economical which is perhaps more important for buyers in this segment. I averaged nine-litres/100km, which is not the best in this segment, but not the worst either.

So the new Lancer plays a level field. It won't blow your mind away (you have to wait until the Lancer Ralliart or the Lancer Evolution X for that) but it is not disappointing either.

However, there are two things really make this Lancer a very attractive buy. One is the warranty, you get five-years/100,000km bumper to bumper coverage and 10-years/160,000km powertrain warranty, which does give Mitsubishi an edge over its competition and buyers a lot of peace of mind. Then there is the price tag of $16,598, making it quite cheap for a car of this size.

So if you want to spend under $20,000 on a car, the new Lancer is something you should truly consider. Personally I would keep on saving until I can afford the Lancer Evolution X.
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