The Mitsubishi Lancer name plate is one of the oldest in the automotive world, with history stretching back to 1973. It also boasts a long and successful rallying pedigree, having won numerous rallies across the globe.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer LX sedan being tested here is the ninth-generation and was first launched back in 2007. If my arithmetic is right, the five year old Lancer is also one of the oldest models in its class today. Since its launch, Mitsubishi has brought out several updates, but they were limited to cosmetic and equipment revisions.
With the new generation not due for another couple of years, does it have what it takes to soldier on?
Design & comfort
The Lancer’s design has stood the test of time well. While looking decisively last decade compared to new arrivals like the Hyundai i30 and Mazda3, it is still a relatively handsome looking car. The ‘shark-nose’ front, lends the car a menacing look with good general proportions.
Inside, the tidy looking cabin and dash is let down by dated switch gear. But most of all, it lacks the dashboard soft touch plastics of its rivals. Even with a leather clad interior, the general ambience is one of low-rent, budget feel. The tilt-only steering wheel also highlights the age of the car.
On a brighter note, the seats are comfortable and the instruments are clear and easy to use. There is enough room for four, or five, if the back seat passengers are of a smaller stature.
Useful storage spaces are plenty, especially around the centre console and underneath the armrest. The rear seat back rest also folds down to increase cargo space of the already sizable boot.
Handling and performance
If you are looking for a fun to drive car, then you should focus your attention elsewhere. The entry-ES and mid-range LX aren’t designed to be driver’s cars. There is excessive body roll and the engine sounds terse even at idling. The listless electric power steering doesn’t help with the driving experience either, providing little to no feedback to the driver.
However, the Lancer has good throttle response that when combined with the short gearing, helps boost acceleration from its punchy but vocal 110kW/197Nm 2.0-litre 4-cylinder MIVEC petrol engine.
The five-speed manual tested is archaic compared to the 6-speed gearboxes of many of its rivals. The one gear deficiency is especially noticeable on freeway cruising where the high engine speed intrudes into the sparsely insulated cabin.
Around town, the soft suspension irons out road imperfections with unrelenting vigour, providing occupants with a nice cushy ride. The standard electronic stability control system is effective without being overly intrusive.
Being a Japanese made vehicle, the Lancer LX naturally has good built quality. All switch gear feels robust. On top of that, Mitsubishi’s class leading new car warranty with 10 years or 160,000km on the powertrain, 5 years on corrosion and 5 years or 130,000km on the new car warranty, should provide any potential buyers with further peace of mind.
On test with an even mix of city and freeway driving, we averaged around 7.8L/100km of combined fuel consumption. This compares well with the 6.9L/100km quoted by Mitsubishi. The Lancer will also happily accept wallet friendly normal unleaded fuel.
The small sedan only needs to visit the service centre every 15,000km or 12 months, which further adds to the reduced running costs.
The MY2013 update brings better equipment across the Lancer range. The LX picks up chrome plated door handles, dark silver interior trim, heated leather seats with electric driver’s adjustment and soft touch door trim with leather inserts.
The LX also comes with the convenience of keyless entry and start. A touch-screen infotainment system is also standard and comes with Bluetooth phone connectivity with sound through a decent 6-speaker audio system.
On the safety front, the entire Lancer range is equipped with 7 airbags, including driver’s knee airbag, electronic stability control with antilock braking system and brake assist. A reverse camera is also standard from the LX up.
There is no denying that the Mitsubishi Lancer range is in need of a thorough update. However, the car has performed admirably for its age and it shows that the fundamental engineering of the car is still good – think the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, which sits on a modified Lancer platform.
But for those who are looking for a well built, reliable, comfortable and economical car to get from A to B, the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer will fulfill the brief just fine.
|Price (Excl. On-roads):||From $21,690 (ES) to $44,490 (Ralliart)|
|$26,390 (LX – As tested)|
|Engine:||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder (ES & LX)110kW@6,000rpm/197Nm@4,200rpm (As tested)|
|2.4-litre, 4-cylinder (VRX)125kW@6,000rpm/226Nm@4,100rpm|
|2.0-litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder (Ralliart)177kW@6,000rpm/343Nm@2,500-4,750rpm|
|Transmission:||5-speed manual (As tested)/6-speed CVT|
|Twin Clutch Sport Shift Transmission (TC-SST) with Sports Mode|
|Body:||4-door sedan (As tested)/5-door hatchback|
|Dimensions:||Length: 4585mm, Width: 1760mm, Height: 1505mm, Wheelbase: 2635mm|
|Kerb Weight:||1325 – 1400kg|
Car reviewed is based on Australian Specified model and may differ to that available in your country of residence.