Mitsubishi's venerable compact sedan, which dates back to 2002, earned a substantial increase in equipment last year, meant to resonate with value-conscious shoppers. As before, what really sets the Lancer apart from most competitors is the availability of all-wheel drive.
Loss of the performance-packed Lancer Evolution after the 2015 model year shaved away some of the model’s edginess. Now, the GT edition is gone, too. Most compact competitors are better-known than the Lancer.
What's New for 2017
A rearview camera now is standard on all Lancers. So is a 6.1-inch touchscreen radio. The entry-level Lancer ES is fitted with new 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels. Two-tone 18-inch wheels now are standard on SE and SEL models. Sun and Sound Packages are newly available for ES and SEL Lancers. The GT model has been dropped.
Choosing Your Mitsubishi Lancer
The Lancer starts with a 2-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower, matched to a five-speed manual transmission or optional continuously variable automatic (CVT). However, most models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that generates 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque, which can be paired with the CVT and all-wheel drive. The 2-liter models come only with front-drive.
Fuel economy is reasonably thrifty, at least with the smaller engine. With manual shift, the Lancer ES is estimated at 24 mpg in city driving and 33 mpg on the highway (28 mpg combined). The optional CVT raises the figures to 27/34 mpg (city/highway), and 30 mpg combined. With the 2.4-liter engine, the estimate dips to 23/30 mpg (city/highway), or 26 mpg combined.
Inside, the Lancer merits acclaim for its spacious rear accommodations and standard split-folding backseat. Three trim levels are offered. Only the ES comes with front-wheel drive and the choice of manual shift.
All trim levels are eligible for an optional navigation system, LED illumination, and an all-weather package. ES and SEL models can get a Sun and Sound package with a sunroof and a 710-watt, nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system.
Mitsubishi’s compact tends to be overlooked, but it offers quite a bit for a modest price. When it comes to features for the price, the SEL might be impossible to beat. We can't think of another car that gives you all-wheel drive and a leather interior for less money. Even the basic ES, has a good selection of amenities, including a rearview camera.
Mitsubishi's long-running compact, the Lancer carries on in familiar form for 2017. While it can't match the refinement of newer competitors, the Lancer offers all-wheel drive at an economical price.
Pricing and Equipment
The Lancer starts out in ES trim for $18,630. Buyers get some nice features for the money, including:
Automatic climate control
Heated side mirrors
A rearview camera
Fog lights and LED running lights
A 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen with voice controls
16-inch two-tone alloy wheels
The front-drive ES comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque while returning 28 combined miles per gallon with the standard six-speed manual transmission is standard. The optional continuously variable automatic transmission, available for $1,000, boosts that number to 30 mpg.
The all-wheel-drive ES AWC ($21,130) gets the CVT as standard and a more powerful 2.4-liter engine with 168 hp, 167 lb-ft of torque, and 26 combined mpg. The $21,930 SE has all of that, plus 18-inch wheels, keyless ignition, and satellite radio. The line-topping SEL throws in leather seats and a few extra conveniences for $22,930. A Sun and Sound Package for the SEL ($1,500) adds a sunroof and a Rockford Fosgate sound system.
The 2.4-liter performs with gusto, taking the Lancer from zero to 60 mph in under 8 seconds.
The Lancer's relatively firm suspension produces more responsive handling than many compact sedans we've driven. We genuinely enjoyed putting the Lancer through a workout.
Available all-wheel drive is a boon for owners in snowier states.
With the 2.4-liter liter engine, the Lancer is EPA-rated at 26 mpg in combined city and highway driving. That's near the bottom of this class.
The CVT didn't always cooperate when it's asked for more power. We sometimes had to bury the pedal just so the engine could do its thing.
Ride quality suffered at the expense of handling, a trade-off we wish wasn't so obvious.
The Lancer's upright design provides impressive head room all around, and there's enough rear leg room for full-size adults.
The hooded gauges and thick steering wheel are pleasantly sporty.
The Lancer's age really shows in the hard plastic that dominates the interior. Soft, textured materials are now the rule, even for compacts.
There's plenty of road and wind noise to disturb the peace. Throw in some engine roar during acceleration, and the cabin is easily one of the noisiest in the segment.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
Despite being on market since 2008 without a major redesign, the Mitsubishi Lancer ranks above average in passenger room and overall performance.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The Mitsubishi Lancer comes up woefully short in safety technology. Aside from rear parking sensors, there's not a single collision-avoidance or driver assistance feature available.
The Bottom Line
The Mitsubishi Lancer remains a viable choice for buyers who must have all-wheel drive at a low price (although the far newer, safer Subaru Impreza is likely a smarter play). For everyone else, just about any competitor will hold greater appeal.