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Mitsubishi Lancer 2011 Review

Mitsubishi Lancer VRX

A top 10 sales finisher in 2010, the three-year-old CJ series Lancer continues to it for those who want four cylinders, but must have four doors just like a "real" family car. There's a slash-backed Lancer hatch too, but the sedan's the one you tend to see on the street.

This makes some kind of sense, especially if you're a Mitsu man for whom the brand's locally made V6 family car is a lamented casualty of the times. The so-called Aspire, which sits atop the naturally aspirated Lancer range (then there's the turbo charged Ralliarts, and, ultimately, the Evolution series), is a sort of downsized Verada to the lesser Lancer's mini Magna.

But with its barmy boy racer bits, the VRX, which is priced fractionally beneath the Aspire, is a sort of faux Evo for half the dough and a fraction of the ability.


A large helping of fruit and a smart sticker price sees the VRX right among the top echelons of its, mainly Japanese, small-to-medium sized rivals. Buyers of lesser variants are encouraged to stretch that bit further financially.

For this model year, Mitsubishi says it has fitted an improved sound insulation system. There's a USB port, colour LCD display and welcome lights on all variants. Bluetooth is standard with the VR, VRX and Ralliart. i-Pod cables are offered on all variants when coupled with the option of Mitsu's rather good multi-media system.

Could I make my i-pod work? No. Let's ascribe that to ineptitude.

A warranty of five years/130,000km approaches the Koreans and makes you wonder why the rivals won't offer the same. A half-decade of manufacturer protection is of itself a compelling reason to purchase. The drivetrain is covered for 10 years/160,00km.Yes, you'd think about it alright.


VRX variants get the 2.4-litre atmo petrol engine, good for 125kW at 6,000rpm and 226 Nm at just over 4000 revs. Useful, but not inspiring, at least not when coupled with an automatic that takes the form of a continuously variable setup, augmented with six manual presets best accessed by paddle shifters.


An amiable spell can be passed identifying the other makes from which the Lancer's myriad design cues were borrowed. A bit of Volvo here. A dash of Alfa Romeo there. Whatever. It sort of works. And the punters love it.

Which must explain the affront that is the rear spoiler. On an Evo it might be acceptable. Less so on a Ralliart. On a front-wheel-drive trundler with sporting pretensions, never. When driving, it makes you feel like a word we can't use but which rhymes with and is nearly spelt "clock". And if it doesn't, it ought to.

Against that the 10-spoke alloys, around which are wrapped grippy 18-inch rubber, look especially handsome set off against the dark metallic paint.

The bogan bling thing continues within. The Lancer's cabin is pretty grim. The cod-carbon fibre accents, silver shifting paddles and leather wrapped wheel only emphasize the very ordinary black plastics. It's decidedly inferior to an equivalent Mazda3, conspicuously so to, say, the Mark VI Golf.

And why, given the trouble taken to tart up the cabin, hasn't the VRX been given steering wheel reach adjustment?


No complaints here, with Mitsu's version of electronic stability backed up actively by anti-skid brakes with brake force distribution and brake assist. Most of the Lancer's rivals can't match its seven airbags (including driver's knee), which ensures five-star ANCAP safety rating.


Only the helplessly naïve could imagine those tacked on go fast bits could equate to superior dynamics. Actually, the big wheels almost get in the way, ensuring an all-to frequently unsettled ride, if decent grip.

It isn't quite a case of the looks writing cheques the drive can't deliver. If not so sharp as a Mazda3 the VRX is a decent enough device through sweeping bends, if not tighter corners. The stability program takes the slightest provocation to flare.

 At least part of its initial feeling of inadequacy is overcome once you get used to ignoring the whining CVT and plant the accelerator to overcome the lack of lowdown torque.

Less easily overcome is a driving position that, for taller pilots, is fairly wretched. Hard to drive fluently when your arms are outstretched and your lower body is concertinaed.


Needs less show and more go.  


Price: $32,490
Engine: 125kW/226NM
Transmission: continuously variable automatic; front wheel drive
Thirst: 7L/100km (tested)

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Range and Specs

Activ Sportback 2.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,100 – 6,710 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer 2011 Activ Sportback Pricing and Specs
ES Sportback 2.0L, ULP, CVT AUTO $3,900 – 6,380 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer 2011 ES Sportback Pricing and Specs
Ralliart Sportback 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP $8,200 – 12,650 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer 2011 Ralliart Sportback Pricing and Specs
SX Sportback 2.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,100 – 6,600 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer 2011 SX Sportback Pricing and Specs
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