RALLY heritage shines through
Striking looks made Lancer’s 2007 CJ version stand out from the crowd, reports GRAHAM SMITH
THE Lancer has always been an unpretentious model and its cheap and cheerful reputation often meant it was overlooked.
Mitsubishi was updating its image at the time of the CJ and tapped into its rally-bred heritage for the design. A distinctive nose, larger body and clear improvements in quality made buyers sit up and take notice.
Any doubts that the Lancer was a genuine small-car contender were swept away when it finished near the top of the Carsguide Car of the Year tussle for 2007. It had sedan and hatchback body styles and the variants ranged from entry level to sporty.
There was plenty of room for five adults in comfortable seats, the controls felt positive in their action and the cabin layout was pleasant.
The base engine at the launch late in 2007 was a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that delivered a decent blend of performance and economy.
A 2008 update brought a new 2.4-litre four-cylinder with stronger performance but greater fuel consumption. There were manual and auto transmissions, the latter a sixspeed CVT.
On the road the Lancer drove nicely and even the CVT was pleasant with its six pre-set ratios.
This was a well-equipped little car, even the base ES came with airconditioning, cruise control, power windows and mirrors. Dual front airbags were standard and side and curtain airbags were optional.
Take a step up the range to the VR and you drove away with all the airbags and six-stack CD audio. At the top of the pile, the VR-X got big alloy wheels, paddle shift on the auto and premium sound.
On the road the Lancer came across as a solid toiler, not as sporty as some, not as grand as others, but it got the job done with aplomb.
There is nothing to suggest the CJ Lancer has any issues to make buyers wary. Used Lancers are snapped up quite quickly, so shoppers need to be on their toes and watching the ads closely. One seller reported that he had seven people phoning within two days of putting his wife’s Lancer up for sale.
The Lancer engines are solid and reliable in service but in common with all modern engines, demand regular servicing to keep them ticking over in good health. The cam belt change interval is 100,000km and it is imperative not to miss it.
Transmission specialists report the gearboxes are also sound and reliable.
One auto transmission mechanic reported he has not had one Lancer come through his workshop in the past two years but he has seen plenty of rival brands in for rebuilds.
Most new Lancers are still under Mitsubishi’s five-year warranty.
A small-car winner all round, the Lancer is definitely one worth keeping.