New models - Mitsubishi - Lancer
Mitsubishi loads up with Lancer wagon
Mitsubishi broadens its Lancer range with the Sportswagon
22 Sep 2004
By TIM BRITTEN
STATION wagons, despite popular opinion, aren’t dead yet.
At least Mitsubishi thinks not, having just broadened its Lancer range to embrace a wagon version – the Sportswagon – to do battle with Toyota’s also fairly new Corolla wagon.
It may be that the once clearly defined small car market had a place for compact wagons. But the proliferation of small "lifestyle" sport utility vehicles (SUVs) like the RAV4 and the consolidation of the five-door hatchback have stolen much of the small wagon’s thunder.
But Mitsubishi, like Toyota, maintains there is a market out there, albeit a relatively small one.
The arrival of the Sportswagon follows a two-year gap after Mitsubishi discontinued the previous Lancer wagon in 2002.
Mitsubishi’s sales expectation is around 250 Sportswagons a month, essentially to private buyers who are predominantly male, married, aged between 30 and 49, and who tend to have higher disposable incomes than hatchback buyers.
They are more pragmatic, concerned about function rather than style, more definite about what they want and are prepared to pay for it. They are not necessarily enticed by the image boost accompanying small SUVs, or the financial temptations that often come with small hatchbacks.
Like the Corolla, the Lancer Sportswagon barely qualifies as small. There are two versions of the neat-looking wagon – the base ES tagged at $21,990 and the top of the line, $28,440 VR-X.
To give some indication of its size, the Lancer is virtually the same length as an Audi A4 Avant.
It also stands a little higher, suggesting there might even be a little more load height in the back than the prestige German wagon.
Comparisons with the Corolla wagon reveal Mitsubishi and Toyota are very close here, right down to having identical wheelbases and body widths.
But the Lancer is slightly heavier and slightly less tall – although it does get a larger (2.0-litre) engine than the Corolla’s 1.8-litre VVT powerplant.
In terms of output, this doesn’t count for anything because the Toyota’s variable valve timing, twin camshaft four-cylinder produces more power (100kW against 92kW) and virtually as much torque at slightly lower rpm. Being a little lighter, the Toyota promises slightly more accelerative punch and perhaps slightly better fuel economy.
The average fuel consumption figures for the Lancer are not too shabby though, at 7.8 litres per 100km for the five-speed manual and 8.8L/100km for the four-speed auto. And as for performance, Mitsubishi claims the wagons are only slightly slower off the mark than the sedans, about one second behind to 100km/h.
The Sportswagon has the same 2600mm wheelbase as the sedan. MacPherson struts are used at the front and an independent multi-link arrangement minimises intrusion into the rear cargo area.
Unlike the sedans, the wagons use solid disc brakes rather than drums at the rear.
Mitsubishi says the rear cargo area will hold up to 591 litres with the seats in place, ballooning to 1079 litres with the 60/40 split rear seat folded flat and giving a floor length of 1.65 metres.
Handy features include a concealed 28-litre under-floor storage space, supplemented by two smaller two-litre boxes on either side.
The base Lancer has an edge on Toyota in that it offers dual front airbags as standard. Sidebags and headbags are optional – although not if the optional sunroof is fitted because there is simply no space.
Other options include anti-lock brakes (with electronic brakeforce distribution) and metallic paint.
Standard gear on the ES includes air-conditioning, remote central locking, a security blind for the cargo area and a four-speaker audio system with a single-disc CD player.
True to its role, the Sportswagon does well on the practical front. But it doesn’t entirely ignore style, particularly in the top-deck VR-X version. It adds things like a 15mm lower-riding sports suspension, 16-inch alloys in lieu of the ES’s 15-inch steel wheels, a bodykit and a dressed-up interior with power windows front and rear, leather steering wheel and the odd splash of carbon-fibre print.
It also gets the front suspension strut brace seen in VR-X sedans.
The rear windows are tinted to the maximum allowable, giving an extra touch of security as well as the slightly sinister look favoured by some people.
As part of its intention to offer something for those wishing to make a style statement, the VR-X also offers a bright yellow paint option not available on the ES.
Mitsubishi thinks the small wagon market provides a significant opportunity for the company.
It should add something to Lancer sales which, although they are down like just about everything else from Mitsubishi at present, haven’t dipped quite so badly.
PRICING:Sportswagon ES $21,990
Sportswagon VR-X $28,440
OPTIONS:Metallic/pearlescent paint $240
Side and curtain airbags $1500
Side/curtain airbags with ABS $2500
Power sunroof (VR-X only) $1600
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