Mitsubishi Australia’s introduction of the keenly priced Mirage five-door hatchback has rekindled interest in the larger and more luxurious Mitsubishi Lancer range of cars. The Lancer is significantly bigger than the Mirage, and is a size down on the now defunct Mitsubishi 380 sedan.
While the Mirage is aimed at those looking for a suburban car, the Lancer can make long country trips with ease. In these times of downsizing, the Lancer has to some extent filled the slot left by the much-missed 380. Unless the kids are large teenagers Lancer owners tell us their cars are large enough suit their needs.
Mitsubishi’s Lancer which starts at from $19,990 is built to a high quality and has earned a well deserved reputation for running for year after year without missing a beat.
The semi-sporty Lancer VRX (from $29,990) that was our road test car for the last week has the convenience of Bluetooth, steering wheel controls and a smart key, so is bang up to date despite the fact that it’s been on the Australian market for over five years.
Typically the Lancer’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine will use about seven to nine litres per hundred kilometres on motorways and in gentle cruising on flattish roads. Around town this is likely to rise to nine to eleven litres per hundred. These are good numbers for a mid-sized car with good interior volume.
The manual gearbox felt a bit on the notchy side at first, but we found that we soon settled into its way of doing things and liked the semi-sporting feel it provides.
There's the option of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which is likely to be the choice of a large number of buyers. Like all CVTs it can be an acquired taste, but once you’re used to its different operation, particularly the droning sound it produces under hard acceleration, you will probably cease to notice it’s different to a conventional automatic.
Lancer’s front seats are well shaped and spacious enough for all but the largest of Aussie backsides. They provide decent support for moderately hard cornering and are easy to get in and out of.
The back seat can accept three adults, but is better suited to two and a child. Legroom is good without being outstanding and it will be necessary for those in the front to move their seats forward if there are tall people back there.
The cabin has plenty of stowage areas for the bottles, mobile phones and assorted bits and pieces we all tend to carry around these days.
The small-medium Mitsubishi’s boot can take a handy amount of luggage and it can be expanded by flipping down the split-fold rear seats. These are fitted across the complete Lancer range. As well as the sedan we tested, Mitsubishi Lancer is also offered as a stylish hatchback.
Lancer’s body styling is significantly different to its many competitors in what is one of the toughest of all vehicles classes in Australia. The stylists have given it a front that slants forwards rather than backwards in a manner we really like. A neat lower air dam and bold bonnet creases that flow into the A-pillars give it a neat and purposeful look. The squared off shape of the rear bumper and the way it tapers around visually shortens the overhang.
Inside, the double-domed instrument binnacle and deep dial cluster work well both from an aesthetic and ergonomic point of view. The dash trim has a soft touch that gives it a feeling of substance, again making it feel like a larger more upmarket car than it really is.
Stability and traction controls were specified by Mitsubishi Australia as standard in the Lancer for quite some time before they became mandatory in this country.
The Lancer sits confidently flat when you drive it around corners with a bit of verve. However, there is a less than compliant ride at times when you hit rough bush roads. The suspension is relatively firm so probably won’t please everybody. We suggest you take a Lancer for a decent test drive on suitable roads to see what you think.
Lancer’s steering is well-weighted and responsive and driving enthusiasts will enjoy the experience in what is after all a practical family sedan. Those who enjoy their driving will appreciate the control the suspension offers and, while you really wouldn't call it a sports sedan, it comes closer than you might expect.
And if you've got upwards of $56,990 to spend you can get behind the wheel of a Lancer Evo, a machine with a huge amount of performance.
The standard Mitsubishi Lancer fills the needs of many family car buyers with pre-teen children and it’s easy to see why it’s included on the short list of many buyers looking for a quality small-medium car.
Mitsubishi Lancer VR-X
Price: from $19,990 (manual) $32,240 (CVT auto)
Engine: 2.4-litre four cylinder petrol 125kW/226Nm, FWD
Transmission: five-speed manual or CVT
Mazda3 SP20 SKYACTIV
Price: from $27,490
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, 113kW/194Nm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 6.2L/100km, 145g/km CO2
Ford Focus Sport
Price: from $27,890
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, 125kW/202Nm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD
Thirst: 6.6L/100Km, CO2 154g/km