While not quite the forgotten child of the small car segment, Mitsubishi's Lancer has been swamped by a horde of new product.

The Japanese brand is looking to put its contender back on shopping lists with a sharply-priced mid-spec model, the LX - available in manual and continuously-variable transmission (for $26,240), we are in the $23,990 manual model.

Value

The LX  is based on the entry-level ES but adds Bluetooth (which has voice activation and audio streaming), climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and phone controls (but tilt-only adjustment), as well as a new touch-screen USB-equipped (although it's well hidden) sound system that also displays the view from the reversing camera.

Also fitted to the LX are rear parking sensors, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver's seat, leather trim, 16in alloy wheels, side skirts, some chrome trim bits, keyless entry and ignition.

Technology

It's not bringing any cutting edge bits to market, but the Lancer has the brand's staple MIVEC variable intake valve lift and timing system within the 110kW/197Nm alloy two-litre engine, as well as a reversing camera, which works well enough but looks a little tacked-on.

The touchscreen sound system has Bluetooth audio and phone controls, although you appear to have to use the voice control to pair and set up a Bluetooth phone link, rather than also having the option of completing the task on the touchscreen.

Design

The familiar snout of the three-diamond brand is, like much of its range, over due - by the company's own admission - for an update, having been around since late 2008.

To some eyes it still looks sharp enough but not as pretty as some of its main opposition, the hard-charging Mazda3 sales juggernaut among the more aesthetically-pleasing small car list that also includes both Korean brands.

The cabin has enough space for the nuclear family and their gear - boot size at 400 litres is better than some bigger sedans.

Safety

One of the first small cars to gather a five-star NCAP rating, the LX has seven airbags - front, front-side, curtain and one for the driver's knee - as well as stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes and emergency brake assist.

Driving

The little manual Lancer was far from the drudgery some expect from this segment, but it is showing its age.

The two-litre engine is lively and a little more flexible than the numbers suggest, as well as being close to its ADR fuel use figure - we finished with a figure of 7.9l/100km.

The five-speed manual might be a cog short of the segment leaders (Mazda's 3 has a six-speed manual), it's a decent gearbox to use - not super-swift of shift and the clutch took some familiarisation, but my personal preference for a manual over an automatic (or in the Lancer's case a continuously-variable transmission) wasn't undermined by the Lancer's gearbox.

The cabin is a comfortable occupant space, with climate control and heated front seats keeping the temperature settled - it's not overdone in terms of design flair and won't be to all tastes, just like the exterior.

Foibles are few - the USB port is tough to find, tilt-only adjustment for the steering and the Bluetooth link can be a little fussy to complete, but it was nimble and rode well enough that the rugrats didn't complain.