Car reviews - Mitsubishi - Lancer - sedan/wagon range
Extra engine performance and driveability, interior and exterior styling updates, enhanced standard equipment, manual-shift auto function across range, value equation
Room for improvement
No split-folding rear seat across range, no hatch option
26 Aug 2005
BACK in mid-2002, when Mitsubishi’s all-new CG Lancer sedan arrived brandishing more safety, more space and more power from a new 2.0-litre engine, it presented a compelling argument against 1.8-litre Corollas and Astras.
Three years on and despite remaining a sedan and wagon-only proposition – excluding it from 50 per cent of the small car market - Lancer’s interior space advantage remains, but the small car category has moved on.
Though Holden’s new Astra and Toyota’s Corolla are still powered by 90kW and 100kW 1.8s respectively, Mazda’s new Three has shaken up the establishment with a standard 104kW 2.0-litre engine, while its 2.3-litre SP variants score a 115kW engine. The Corolla Sportivo also boasts a 141kW 1.8.
So while the MY2006 Lancer’s new 2.4-litre MIVEC engine – borrowed from Grandis and Outlander – may not be as performance-efficient as its rivals, the extra capacity gives all 2.4 Lancers a performance advantage over all but the near-$30,000 Mazda3 hatch/sedan and Corolla Sportivo hatch.
Its 115kW engine therefore makes it the most powerful small sedan available, and the performance equal of the more expensive Mazda3 SP23.
Priced only $1000 more than the base 2.0-litre ES sedan, the $20,990 2.4 ES represents significant value.
While Lancer wagon competes with only Toyota’s Corolla and Holden’s new Astra wagon in the low-volume small wagon market, it too represents good value at $23,490.
While all Lancers get minor exterior changes and an all-black sports interior, the 2.0 ES gains the convenience of cruise control for the first time.
The 2.4 ES, meantime, picks up even more significant changes like larger brakes, ABS with EBD, larger 15-inch steel wheels, a manual-shift auto mode and a VR-X-style interior.
The mid-range LS is the pick of the 2.4 Lancer bunch, however, gaining alloy wheels, climate control, six-CD/six-speaker audio and leather and titanium-look interior highlights.
It’s priced just $3500 more than the ES, but $4500 less than the VR-X, which adds just sports seats, alloy pedals and a new-look bodykit.
The VR-X’s singular useful extra is a 60/40-split folding rear seat, which would have been handy on all variants.
Value equations aside, the new MIVEC engine has lifted Lancer’s performance to a new league.
Gone is the flat, weazy power delivery of the previous 2.0-litre – as well as the characteristic pinging sound from its valvetrain.
It’s replaced by strong, robust acceleration right across the rev-range, but particularly in the midrange – where Lancer 2.4 is now happy to pull lustily in any gear.
Responding quickly and cleanly from as low as 2000rpm, it’s well into its meatiest power zone by 3000rpm – which happens to translate to 100km/h in fifth gear in the VR-X, making for effortless highway overtaking and requiring far fewer gearshifts for similar results.
In short, the 2.4 MIVEC engine works well in Grandis and Outlander, but is a quantum leap in the vastly lighter Lancer – both in terms of outright acceleration and day-to-day driveability.
The sport-shift auto mode previously reserved for VR-X is also a boon for auto buyers of lower-spec variants.
Like the CG Lancer upon which it’s based, the MY2006 upgrade brings significant equipment, safety and value improvements.
But it’s the bristling new MIVEC engine, which increases fuel consumption insignificantly over the smaller engine it replaces, that’s mostly likely to grab Lancer the attention it deserves in the overcrowded small sedan class.
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