Preview: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2012.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The new-generation Mitsubishi Lancer should help improve the fortunes of this automaker, which is still recovering from a disastrous car-buying program that left it with lots of repossessed cars several years ago.
Critics felt that Mitsubishi might never recover in America, but it's introducing a good number of new and improved vehicles—although larger Japanese rivals continue to trump it in terms of resale values.
Mitsubishi is celebrating its 25th year in America but only has one U.S. plant, which is located in Illinois. However, the new Lancer 4-door sedan is built in Japan.
Show Car Look
The new front-wheel-drive Lancer has a more road-hugging attitude. A more rigid platform allows better ride and handling and an improved feel. Compared to its predecessor, the car has a 1.3-inch longer wheelbase and is 2.7 inches wider, with 2.3-inch wider front and rear tracks. It's also a few inches higher and about a half-inch shorter.
The Lancer is especially attractive in top-line $17,490-$18,490 GTS trim. That's the raciest version, with 18-inch alloy wheels, front air dam, side skirts, rear spoiler, fog lights and a chrome tailpipe tip.
But even lower-priced Lancers are appealing. They are the entry $13,990-$14,890 DE and midrange $15,990-$16,890 ES.
All versions have a standard, slick 5-speed manual transmission that works with a light, rather long-throw clutch. My test GTS had the manual gearbox, but offered for all Lancers is an optional Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT) transmission.
The CVT has a manual-shift feature (utilizing steering-wheel paddle shifters in the GTS) and makes the new Lancer the first Mitsubishi sold in America with a CVT.
Fuel economy is an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway with the manual and 22 and 29 with the CVT. Only 87-octane fuel is needed.
The DE is moderately well-equipped. It has automatic-off halogen headlights, 16-inch steel wheels, manually adjustable front seats, rear defroster, tilt wheel, tire pressure monitoring system, CD/MP3 head unit, intermittent wipers and power mirrors and windows with a driver-side automatic-down feature.
Added to the ES are power door locks, manual air conditioning, power windows with a driver-side automatic-up function, premium fabric seating materials, 60/40 split rear seat and keyless entry.
The GTS adds a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels with wider tires, automatic climate control, leather-wrapped steering wheel and sporty fabric seating surfaces.
Along with anti-lock brakes, a DE option package contains manual air conditioning, power door locks and a driver-side power window with an automatic-up function
Optional for the ES and GTS is a Sun and Sound package. It contains a power glass sunroof with sunshade and a 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate Punch premium sound system with 9 speakers. There's also a navigation package for the GTS.
Handling is stable even when the car is driven fairly hard, with the GTS having the handling edge with its special suspension and wider tires. The brake pedal has a nice linear action, and stopping distances are short.
Visual interior appeal never has been a Lancer strong point, but the 2008 version is a big step forward in that regard. The quiet cockpit has gauges that can be quickly read and large climate controls. Audio controls are small, but are placed high on the dashboard to facilitate their use.
Roomy Rear Seat
Thick windshield pillars partially block vision when taking corners, but visibility is generally good from the driver's seat. However, the GTS's large rear spoiler is too visible when glancing in the rearview mirror.
Handsome and practical, the Lancer is competitively priced and seems worth more than it costs. The GTS trim level could be considered a bargain-priced sports sedan, although it's not in the same league as, say, an Audi or BMW.