New Sport­back in town

Mit­subishi has re­grouped in the wake of 2011’s tsunami — and it doesn’t dis­ap­point, PETER BARN­WELL writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE -

THE dis­as­trous tsunami in Ja­pan a few years ago re­ally im­pacted sec­tions of the coun­try’s mo­tor in­dus­try. A knock-on ef­fect years later is in ev­i­dence through the lack of new mod­els and not enough re­search and devel­op­ment.

It couldn’t have been easy to make cars back then and for some time af­ter.

A new model Mit­subishi’s Lancer should have sur­faced a while back as the cur­rent car is prob­a­bly the old­est new small car on the mar­ket.

It’s been around for yonks but Mit­subishi is keep­ing Lancer on the menu with a “bet­ter of­fer.’’

You are get­ting more car for your money and a good case in point is the “new” Sport­back GSR – the only Sport­back model avail­able as of now.

It gets a 2.4-litre petrol four­cylin­der en­gine that ap­peared quite a few years ago in a high end model that sold for about $33,000 or more. The Sport­back GSR we drove last week goes for a much sharper $22,990 in five-speed man­ual form, $2300 more for the CVT auto.

The en­gine has vari­able valve tim­ing called MIVEC that helps achieve 125kW/226Nm out­put.

But it isn’t the most fru­gal small car record­ing a com­bined av­er­age of 8.8 litres/100km. We got close to that fig­ure.

The GSR’s looks are en­hanced with a Ral­liart style grille and body aero kit to the front, rear and sides.

It has cloth-up­hol­stered sports seats and, in the case of the test CVT car, proper pad­dle shift fit­ted to the steer­ing col­umn rather than on the ac­tual wheel. And they’re in alu­minium, not plas­tic.

Throw in a re­verse cam­era, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, voice con­trol of many func­tions, cli­mate con­trol pri­vacy glass, smart-key ac­cess, rain-sens­ing wipers, auto head­lights and a 6.1-inch info screen and you are talk­ing a lot of kit for the money.

The car’s safety rat­ing is five stars.

The ve­hi­cle’s ride and han­dling pack­age has a sporty flavour, which means bet­ter driver en­gage­ment and a slightly firmer-than-nor­mal ride.

A sport mode is pro­vided for the CVT trans­mis­sion, which makes it func­tion like a sixspeed auto spin­ning right out through the gears.

The in­te­rior is show­ing its age and is mostly hard plas­tic sur­faces. The ac­tual style is OK and is func­tional but the un­yield­ing grey plas­tic dash is out of place against Lancer’s com­pe­ti­tion.

In prac­ti­cal terms it has a de­cent amount of in­te­rior room for four or five and a large boot. Some cabin stor­age is pro­vided for drinks and odd­ments and the driv­ing po­si­tion is pretty good.

In this area the GSR is quite im­pres­sive thanks to the rel­a­tively high-out­put en­gine and the size of the ve­hi­cle.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion is strong across the en­tire en­gine rev range and it never falls in a hole from a lack of grunt.

Fill the GSR with bods and their gear, crank up the air­con and it doesn’t com­pletely gut the car’s per­for­mance.

Dy­nam­i­cally the GSR is ac­cept­able, not the sporti­est thing on four wheels but a drive feel that is en­gag­ing enough for most.

An oldie but a goodie. The Lancer GSR is sharply priced and of­fers a lot of car for the money. Still looks OK against the com­pe­ti­tion and has a big war­ranty.

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