It seems the Lancer has been around forever, much like the Toyota Corolla, but unlike the small Toyota it has never commanded a lot of attention from buyers.

Those who know recognise it as a solid, well-built, reliable small car that makes sense, but it's a car that has blended into the background rather than stand out from the crowd.

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The CJ model that arrived in 2007 was a big step forward for the Lancer with a longer wheelbase and wider track, more room inside and more equipment.

Ignoring the hero sports model, the Evo, the models that were aimed at the mainstream were the ES entry level, the VR mid-ranger, and the sporty VR-X. Fresh styling was clean and attractive, although the cabin was still a touch bland.

There was enough room inside to accommodate five adults in comfort, the seating was comfortable, and the layout was neat and easy to navigate. Initially the only body style available was a sedan, but a hatch was added a year later.

A 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine was the main power source, and it put out 113 kW and 198 Nm and made it a solid performer in the class. The transmission options available with the 2.0-litre were a five-speed manual and a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) as the automatic choice.

A six-speed sports mode had the CVT feeling more like a manual, which made it crisper and less soggy as CVTs can be.

A larger, 2.4-litre four was added to the range in 2008, and was the engine that powered the VR-X. At its peak it produced 125 kW and 226 Nm to give the sporty Lancer the performance it needed.

On the road the larger footprint from the longer wheelbase and wider track gave the Lancer a reassuring stability and balance. Compared to the outgoing model the CJ was quieter, more comfortable, and smoother.

On the safety front, the CJ boasted electronic stability control in its five-star safety package.

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The Lancer follows a well-proven formula, there's nothing that should be cause for alarm by anyone contemplating buying one as a used car.

Owners report it is as well built and reliable

Almost all owners sing its praise. All report it as well built and reliable. The only complaints that crop up are about tyre noise, which some rate as high, and the cheap and cheerful interior.

Without major concerns focus instead on the general wear and tear items that come with age no matter the make or model. Inspect for oil or coolant leaks around the engine, listen for noises that seem out of place, and check for the all-important service record.

Mitsubishi recommends intervals of one-year or 15,000 km between services, and while that makes it easier on the hip pocket, some would say it's too long between oil changes.

Sludge is the enemy of all engines, but modern engines more so with their tight tolerances and tiny oil galleries. Old time mechanics would say it would better to change oil at around 10,000 km intervals.

When driving a Lancer equipped with the CVT transmission observe for any shuddering or hesitation on take-of that might suggest an issue. If in doubt have an experienced mechanic drive the car for you.