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Mitsubishi unveils new Lancer

Evolutionary: Mitsubishi's new Lancer features distinctly conservative styling.

Mitsubishi has pulled the wraps off its new, more spacious Lancer sedan

Mitsubishi logo19 May 2000

MITSUBISHI has launched a bigger, more conservatively styled replacement for the Lancer in Japan.

The new model is scheduled to make its Australian debut in mid-2001 - initially in sedan form only. Coupe and Mirage variants will follow a few months later.

In Japan the new Lancer comes with a choice of 1.5 and 1.8-litre GDI (gasoline direct-injection) engines that deliver 74kW and 96kW respectively.

GDI engines deliver low fuel consumption and emission levels but are not suited to Australia's comparatively low octane petrol.

Consequently, local versions are likely to use updated versions of the existing powerplants.

The Lancer sold here currently is offered with 1.5 and 1.8-litre engines that generate 69kW and 86kW respectively.

An optional CVT (continuously variable transmission) is available in Japanese-spec Lancers, but Mitsubishi Australia spokesman Kevin Taylor says local cars will be offered with a five-speed manual or conventional four-speed automatic.

The new Lancer is 70mm longer and 5mm wider than the current car but, more importantly, its wheelbase has been stretched by 100mm to liberate appreciably more interior space.

Despite the newcomer's larger dimensions, Mitsubishi says manoeuvrability has been improved and its turning circle measures a tight 9.8m, compared with 10.0m for the current model.

Equipment levels are yet to be finalised but expect the base model GLi sedan to retain air-conditioning, central locking and a four-speaker stereo as standard features.

It may also gain a driver airbag as standard. Dual airbags come at no extra cost in all Japan-spec Lancers.

As before, the Lancer is suspended by MacPherson struts at the front and a trailing arm multi-link set-up at the rear. The 1.8-litre Touring model sold in Japan gains a rear stabiliser bar to deliver sportier handling.

Externally, the newcomer leans distinctly towards conservatism, employing the "diamond-cut nose" design that graces other Mitsubishi products such as the Pajero and Galant.

The new Lancer's prominent upright grille is flanked by large clear-lens headlights.

Inside, the Lancer gains better quality plastic trim and a revised dash and centre console layout.

Time will tell whether the car's evolutionary look is well received by Australian buyers.

Local Lancer sales have picked up following the launch of a facelifted version of the CE model last October.

It notched up 5978 sales during the first four months of this year to be the second-biggest seller in its class behind the Toyota Corolla (6480 sales).

Mitsubishi Australia is going through a tough period at present and its future still hangs in the balance after returning a loss of $130.1 million last year.

But the launch of several new products - including the just-released Pajero - should help boost its prospects.

A substantially facelifted Magna is due in August and an updated version of the Challenger will make its debut around the same time.

Mitsubishi is still awaiting clarification about the new low-volume import scheme before making a decision on bringing in niche models such as the Lancer Evolution 6, FTO Coupe and Mirage Cyborg.

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