Auto Review: Frugality, the Mitsubishi way

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Feature Article - posted Thu., May. 26, 2011
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

Compact cars are often ridiculed by drivers of larger vehicles, for they equate what’s out there now with small cars of the past and think the modern article must be a tin box that isn’t as safe or well-equipped as some of the beefier machines out there.

This perception takes a beating when the high price of gas forces a closer look, though – for lo and behold, these same folks then discover that good things come in small packages, and the modern compact is far safer, has more room and features, and gives you more for your money than they ever expected. When you top this sundae with a modest appetite for fuel, all the sudden that four-wheeled aircraft carrier you were navigating to work every day makes less sense.

Mitsubishi’s Lancer is the company’s entry into the incredibly competitive compact sedan category, and manages to have a look and feel that’s all its own. For 2011, all Lancers get styling derived from the ultra-high-performance Lancer Evolution all-wheel drive sport sedan, meaning that even at an entry level, Lancer has ties to one of the most charismatic four-door hot rods on the road today.

We tested a Lancer GTS, and this front-drive sedan comes armed with a 2.4-liter inline four with 168 horsepower and a choice of two transmissions: a close-ratio five-speed manual and a very sophisticated CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) which graced our test mule. This is a really interesting gearbox, in that it has no set ratios while in fully automatic operation, yet has six distinct speeds when in manual mode that you can select via paddle shifters located on the steering wheel. The engine idles with impressive smoothness (a long-time Mitsubishi quality), while 60 mph arrives in just 7.7 seconds. The GTS has a sport-tuned suspension (very nicely calibrated, so the ride isn’t harsh) to further enhance the driving experience, and this in combination with excellent ABS brakes make the Lancer a really entertaining car to drive (especially considering this is an economy sedan, after all). A full compliment of state-of-the-art airbags, as well as traction and stability controls are standard, thus rounding out a loaded résumé of safety features.

Our GTS came with the optional Touring Package that, in addition to including a 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system, features stout leather seating surfaces with good side bolsters in the front sport seats. While the leg and foot room can get tight in the rear seats area when the front seats are moved back for taller occupants, comfort is good and the seatbacks fold forward to increase the trunk’s 11.8 cubic-foot cargo capacity. My only real gripe with this car is the lack of sound deadening insulation in the doors, for the rear ones especially sound less than substantial when you close them.

The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS is EPA-rated 23 MPG city/30 highway and we saw 26.3 MPG in a week of mixed driving. With options our sticker came to $24,505. www.mitsubishicars.com.


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