By KARLA PINCOTT
24 September 2007
Mitsubishi has done more than throw down the gauntlet. It has
stuffed it full of equipment and style, and plans to slap it around the
ears of the competition in the small car market. The new Lancer has just
arrived and it has stability and traction control as standard across the
Stability programs, that monitor and correct a loss of balance
or traction, have been in the media spotlight for their ability to
avoid crashes. Indeed there has been debate over whether they
should become a mandatory safety feature.
Now Mitsubishi believes that having them as standard fitment on
cars like the Lancer will force the change.
"The inclusion of stability control will change the
segment,’’ Mitsubishi Australia president Robert McEniry says.
"It’s only a matter of time before others follow our lead.’’
The safety focus includes anti-lock disc brakes with brakeforce
distribution and brake assist, five airbags, including knee
airbag, on the entry level $20,990 ES, while the $25,290 VR and
top-spec $28,990 VRX also get side and curtain bags (available on
the ES for $850).
Then there are tech treats like automatic air conditioning,
rain-sensing wipers and dusk-sensing headlights on the VR, and
voice-activated Bluetooth with steering wheel controls and ‘smart
key’ in the VRX.
But the Lancer could probably sell on looks alone.
Taking cues from cues from the Sportback and Concept-X show
cars, the body styling has turned up the aggression dial with a
heavily sculpted nose, with hints of recent Volvos, lowered air
dam, and bold bonnet creases flowing into the A-pillars.
The rising beltline swooping over flared wheel arches to the
flanks, a touch of pout on the bootlid, angled tail-light clusters
and add to the pert stance, while the squared planes of the rear
bumper are tapered around the sides to visually shorten the
The ES gets 16-inch steel wheels, but the VR is shod with
alloys and the VRX wins with big 18-inch rims and low-profile
Lancer initially comes only as a four-door sedan, but a
five-door hatchback is on the way next year. As is an all-new
2.4-litre engine for the VRX.
For now all three variants share the same new-design 2.0-litre,
four-cylinder with variable valve timing that improves both power
and fuel economy. The new engine produces 113 kW at 6000 rpm and
198 Nm of torque at 4250. The use of some plastic parts makes it
lighter and improved technology means it produces fewer emissions.
Mitsubishi claims 0-100 km/h figures of 9.5 seconds with the
five speed manual, and 10.5 with the continuously variable
automatic (an option at $2300-$2500, depending on variant), while
fuel consumption per 100 km is posted at 7.7 litres and 8.2 litres
The new car is much larger, and is roomy enough to compete with
some medium cars, and Mitsubishi expects some conquest sales from
that segment among the 1500 it predicts should roll off showroom
floors each month.
Tall people will be able to stretch out in the four-door
Lancer, and even the rear seat passengers will have no complaints
about leg or head room. There’s plenty of both when compared to
many others in the class.
The seats are comfortable enough, but would benefit from a bit
more bolstering, and there’s something about the so-called ‘sports
fabric’ on the sides that sets your teeth on edge.
The interior is also let down by some cheap-looking plastic,
which undermines the effect of better features like the
double-domed binnacle and deep instrument cluster. There are
enough little stowage nooks for the usual cargo of bottles,
mobiles and assorted trash we cart around. And the boot can
swallow a reasonable amount, more than reasonable now that
split-fold seats are offered across the range.
The Lancer is satisfyingly sprightly once you get it off the
line, which proved to be a chore in the CVT’s fully automatic
The transmission’s infinite number of adapting gear ratios
delivers the power smoothly enough, but not early enough in fully
automatic mode. There is simply nothing on offer low down, and you
have to keep the revs simmering to stir the engine up.
Slapping it over to the simulated manual mode with six preset
ratios produces better results and much more fun, especially in
the VRX with its magnesium F1-style paddles. Changes are nearly
instant, and the ratios close enough for some satisfying action.
This also produces a bit more noise, but not what you’d call
pleasant. Rather than a growl, it’s an over-refined whine with
nothing exciting about it.
The manual transmission felt notchy at first, but it took only
a few kilometres to find the right touch and settle into it.
However after driving the sophisticated CVT, the manual seemed
The car sits confidently flat when you hurl it around corners,
although the downside is a less compliant ride that’s noticeable
once you hit rougher rural bitumen. Steering is well-weighted and
responsive, and it was fun to swing it through one bend after
another on hilly roads, while the stability controls worked to
iron out any of the understeer a front-wheel drive would normally
throw back at you.
That firmer suspension won’t please everybody. But it’s the
first Lancer apart from the Evo that can leave you with a grin on
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