Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Lancer - sedan range
20 Sep 2007
By CHRIS HARRIS
MITSUBISHI is set to challenge the leaders in the small-car class with a new Lancer sedan loaded with features not usually seen at such a price point.
On sale from October 1, the new CJ Lancer range starts at $20,990, which is $1000 more than the existing model’s list price - but it includes both electronic stability control and cruise control across the entire line-up.
As such, the smallest of Australia's car manufacturers will attempt the difficult task of moving the bold new model up and away from its current budget price.
In reality, Lancers have always sold well below the list price and the run-out models, which were loaded full of luxury gear, were selling at $19,990 drive away, which equates to about $17,990.
The new price puts the base Lancer at the same price point as the base Toyota Corolla and Mazda3, and $1000 more than the entry-level Ford Focus.
It will test the value of the Mitsubishi brand, which has been weakened by years of bad headlines regarding the possible closure of Australian production operations, but Mitsubishi Motors Australia president Rob McEniry is confident the new Lancer is good enough to wear the new pricetag.
“This is not a $19,990 car,” he said.
“We are getting away, as fast as we can, from that low price point strategy.”
Mr McEniry believes the company will still be able to draw buyers into showrooms despite the price increase because the car is bigger, has more features, drives better and looks sharp.
“In this segment, the buyers have no problem moving up if the product delivers,” he said.
Mitsubishi Australia has a lot riding on the Lancer, which has taken over from the struggling 380 as the brand’s biggest-selling model.
While the 380 has sold an average of 890 a month so far this year, the ageing Lancer did 1534 a month for the same period.
Mitsubishi Australia’s sales and marketing department says it expects to sell about 1500 Lancers a month with the introduction of the new model, but the company’s chief Rob McEniry told GoAuto that the car should do far better.
Remarkable safety levels will be a key plank in the sales pitch for the new Lancer.
It’s not the only car-maker to offer ESC as standard on a small car, but it is the only brand to do so at such a price.
While the base car comes with driver and passenger front airbags, as well as a driver's knee airbag, the mid-range VR and VRX are also fitted with side and curtain airbags.
The side and curtain airbags can be added to the base car for just $800.
All models also have front active head restraints and pre-tensioning seatbelts, plus a stronger body that utlilises high-tensile steel for parts of the occupant cell.
The new Lancer has not yet been tested by the European New Car Assessment Program, but Mitsubishi is confident it will score five crash-test stars.
Another big selling point for the new Lancer is its bold styling that has a clear link to the Evo superstar car, which will arrive in Australia around next April.
The bold ‘shark’ nose and narrow slit headlights give the car an aggressive look and the bodykit and 18-inch wheels of the VRX model give it a more menacing edge.
The Lancer is powered by a new 2.0-litre MIVEC four-cylinder which uses variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust camshafts.
Thanks to its smaller capacity and some new lighter components, including a plastic intake manifold, the new engine is 27kg lighter than the 2.4-litre unit it replaces.
It generates a class leading 113kW at 6000rpm and 198Nm of torque at 4250rpm.
The previous-generation 2.4-litre produced the same amount of power at 5500rpm and 22Nm more torque at 3500rpm.
When it comes to fuel economy, the new Lancer comes in at 7.7L/100km according to the ADR81/01 test, which is a 13.7 per cent improvement over the previous car, and it also runs on regular unleaded rather than premium fuel.
The Lancer manual takes a claimed 9.5 seconds to hit 100km/h, while the automatic takes 10.5 seconds. These figures aren’t far off those of Lancer's rivals, but are modest and leave room for performance models.
A five-speed manual is the standard transmission on all Lancer models.
When it comes to automatics, Mitsubishi has made the switch from a regular four-speed auto to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic.
A CVT, which uses a pulley system to continuously alter the gear ratios, has been included for fuel efficiency.
Unlike a standard automatic, there are no step changes with a CVT, but the slurring noise it makes (which sounds like a slipping clutch) can put off some drivers.
In the case of the Lancer, the CVT can run in full auto mode or the driver can flick between six pre-set gear ratios using the gear-shifter.
VRX automatic models are also fitted with gear-shift paddles that sit behind the steering wheel.
Choosing an automatic transmission adds $2300 to the price of the base model ES and mid-spec VR, and $2500 to the price of the VRX.
The new Lancer is built off the same base as the current Outlander and the platform has also been shared with a range of Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge products including the Caliber, Sebring, Avenger, Compass and Patriot.
It is 35mm longer and 65mm wider than the previous Lancer and the wheelbase and front and rear track have also grown accordingly.
Mitsubishi says the body is 56 per cent stiffer than the previous model.
Despite the weight saving of the new engine, the bigger Lancer is around 35kg heavier than the previous model. The weight range runs from 1295kg to 1385kg, depending on the model.
The Lancer still uses a MacPherson-type front suspension set-up, but it has been redesigned with a higher roll centre and uses some lighter components.
The rear suspension is a new multi-link set-up with trailing arms.
Mitsubishi says the VRX has unique spring and damping rates to give the car a sportier feel, while that model also has a strut brace that links the front suspension strut towers to reduce flexing.
The steering system is rack-and-pinion and the power steering uses hydraulic assistance rather than electric assistance as is now commonplace in many new small cars.
The base model in the CJ Lancer range is the ES, which starts at $20,990.
Apart from the previously mentioned safety gear and cruise control, the ES also offers air-conditioning, electric windows, a trip computer and a single-CD sound system.
It runs 16-inch steel wheels, with a space-saver spare and has split/folding rear seats.
Stepping up to the $25,290 VR adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a mild bodykit, automatic headlights, foglights, rain-sensing wipers, six-CD sound, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear-knob, and side and curtain airbags.
The VRX costs $28,990 and adds larger brake discs, a more overt bodykit with high-rise boot spoiler, 18-inch alloy wheels, carbon-fibre-look door and dashboard trim, alloy pedal covers, sports seats, Bluetooth phone preparation with voice recognition.
Also standard is a ‘keyless go’ system which means the driver doesn’t have to get the key out of their pocket to open or start the car. The driver still needs to twist a plastic tab in the ignition barrel where the key would have gone.
A sunroof is a $1600 option for the VR and VRX models, while a Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with nine speakers including a 10-inch subwoofer is available as an option for the VRX model at $750, which is very cheap when it comes to such sound systems.
As with all Mitsubishi models, the new Lancer is covered by a five-year/130,000km bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 10-year/160,000km powertrain warranty.
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