MITSUBISHI LANCER LX
TIME hasn’t done the Mitsubishi Lancer any favours other than to highlight how good the original vehicle was.
It is akin to buying a secondhand outdoor dining setting: still structurally sound and with seats for all but the fading varnish means it needs a visual lift. For Mitsubishi the answer has been to keep adding content and cutting prices, ensuring the small sedan stays on buyers’ radar as value for money. VALUE You have to look past the sticker to see the appeal of the Lancer range. The base ES is $20,390 with a five-speed manual gearbox, with the LX costing $22,990 using the same transmission. A continuously variable auto adds $2250. On paper that doesn’t rate highly against a 2.0-litre Ford Focus Trend ($24,590) with a sixspeed auto, the new Mazda3 Maxx at $22,990 with six-speed manual or the new Toyota Corolla SX at $22,990.
A look at the Lancer’s specs shows seven airbags are standard, as is Bluetooth with audio streaming and seveninch touchscreen with satnav. The LS adds a powered driver’s seat and reversing camera. TECHNOLOGY Variable valve timing has helped keep the 2.0-litre engine ticking over but it can’t disguise the lack of refinement. It just isn’t as smooth as a new Mazda/ Kia/Ford whether in manual or CVT guise.
The touchscreen is a welcome bonus but it looks like an aftermarket install and the response isn’t as timely as it should be, especially when relying on the satnav in innercity streets — it’s possible to be past the desired intersection before the screen registers the location. DESIGN The class-straddling Holden Cruze is one of the few to match the Lancer’s interior space.
This is a relatively roomy vehicle, which helps explain why it keeps on keeping on. Families like that space — it helps keep the kids’ feet away from the back of the front seats.
That’s the highlight, though. The downside: the hard, textured plastics confining the Lancer to the lower end of the class in terms of occupant comfort and tactile quality. The same applies to the switchgear. Dated is a generous term.
The Lancer’s exterior is just as seasoned. A series of horizontal slots for the grille and air intake don’t cut it in the 2014 styling department. SAFETY Mitsubishi doesn’t beat its chest about the Lancer’s five-star safety rating but it’s not bad for a seven-year-old car. That said, the chest is the one weak point in the Lancer’s armoury — it earns an acceptable rating in ANCAP’s frontal offset crash test and a marginal score in the side impact hit. That results in a still laudable score of 33.56/37, backed by the reassurance of seven airbags. DRIVING If commuting is the common denominator in buying a car, the Lancer is in with a shot. This is fuss-free motoring for a small family more interested in getting the kids to daycare than dashing out a personal best time.
Good thing, too. The Lancer is adept at normal driving duties but starts to unravel as the pace picks up and exposes its dynamic shortcomings. The steering is so-so and the suspension leans to comfort over cornering.
These traits don’t warrant crossing the Mitsubishi off the list but they underscore the deftness of the newer small-car brigade in both areas, letting owners have their cake and nibble the edges as well.
Road noise is another minor Mitsubishi bugbear, especially when teamed with the CVT. It is PRICE $25,240 WARRANTY 5 years/130,000km CAPPED SERVICING Yes SERVICE INTERVALS 12 months/15,000km SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags RESALE 48 per cent ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 110kW/197km TRANSMISSION CVT; FWD THIRST 7.2L/100km, 169g/km CO2 DIMENSIONS 4.6m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.5m (H) WEIGHT 1315kg SPARE Space-saver mildly annoying in front or rear seats but can be drowned out by the surprisingly good Rockford Fosgate audio. One bonus is the 400L boot that gives the Lancer room to shove all the bits a growing family needs for a weekend away. VERDICT It’s dated, dare I say daggy, but represents reasonable value. Its rivals are a touch classier and are close enough in price to rate the Mitsubishi as an “also consider” rather than a first choice.