Mitsubishi Lancer Review

The Mitsubishi Lancer is a compact model that was sold in the UK for a number of decades until 2011

£20,982
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Out of 5

Pros

  • Plenty of interior space
  • Good value
  • Decent equipment levels

Cons

  • Dull to drive
  • Unrefined petrol engines
  • Cheap-feeling interior

Model review

The nameplate ‘Mitsubishi Lancer’ is best known for one thing in the car world, and that’s the Evolution, or Evo as it is better known. Renowned for its rallying degree, this performance model has a particularly loyal following, even though an Evo hasn’t been on sale for a number of years. 

But alongside the Evo, the regular Lancer exists too, and it’s been around for some time too. Launched under a whole range of different names and brands, it was first introduced in 1973, and designed to fill the gap between a kei car (a really small Japanese car) and a larger saloon. 

Various generations would follow, with the Lancer being offered in a range of bodystyles over the years, including hatchbacks, coupes, saloons and estates. The latest generation of Mitsubishi Lancer hit showrooms in 2008. 

Latest model

The Lancer spanned nine generations, with the latest model sitting on a new platform and boasting a more stylish look than its predecessor. 

Despite competing in the C-segment (where a Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf sit), it was larger in size too, and offered more interior space. A choice of saloon or Sportback (hatchback) were also offered, which isn’t all that common in this class. 

The latest generation Lancer had a relatively short lifetime in the UK, with Mitsubishi discontinuing it after just three years on sale in 2011. The only real change came in the form of the Juro special edition in 2010. Based on the GS2, it brings additional equipment like a reversing camera and Kenwood sound system. 

Value for money

Value was always at the core of the Mitsubishi Lancer, and even when it was new, it represented great value for money – costing from £12,499 for the entry-level option, which still features electric windows, air conditioning and a trip computer. 

Today, the Lancer makes for a very attractive used buy, with high-mileage cars starting from as little as £1,500, and double that for something with around 80,000 miles on the clock. Outside of the Evo, which we won’t focus on here, the Ralliart models are the most desirable, and are quite rare to find on the used market. Prices for these start from around £6,500. 

Looks and image

Despite its age, the Lancer remains a relatively stylish choice, with its sleek styling and neat grille making it quite an attractive choice. The choice of saloon or Sportback models adds to the appeal too. If you want the most style, it’s worth looking out for a higher-spec GS3 or GS4 car, as these come with smarter 18-inch alloy wheels as well as privacy glass. 

The Lancer’s cabin doesn’t quite impress in the same way, as the switchgear feels quite low-rent, and the overall quality is disappointing, particularly if you compare it to a model like the Skoda Octavia of the same year. It does feel quite sturdy, though, and certainly up to dealing with anything family life throws at it. 

With the Lancer being linked to the Evo, you might expect it to be quite a sporty choice behind the wheel. Sadly, it does disappoint in this area, with its quite lethargic petrol engines (Ralliart aside) not making for an enjoyable drive. There’s lots of body roll through the corners, while the stiff suspension can be quite uncomfortable. A Seat Leon or Ford Focus are much better choices in this respect. 

Space and practicality

An area where the Lancer doesn’t fall short, however, concerns rear seat space, with this Mitsubishi having plenty of legroom, while big windows are great for kids as they'll be able to see out without feeling claustrophobic. 

Boot space is more adequate, with the Lancer having 344 litres in Sportback form, or 400 litres if you choose the saloon. The latter’s boot isn’t quite such a practical shape though. 

Engines 

Mitsubishi offered a broad selection of engines on the Lancer, with the majority being petrol options. 

A 108bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine kicks off the line-up, with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. With this, it takes 11.4 seconds to get from 0-60mph, and a lethargic 14.1 seconds with the auto. 

Up next is a 142bhp 1.8-litre petrol, which is offered with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Getting to 60mph takes 9.6 seconds with the manual, or 11 seconds with the latter. 

If you want more power, but perhaps can’t stretch to a pricey Evo, the Ralliart could be a great option. Using a 237bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine and all-wheel-drive (the other Lancers are front-driven), it’s able to hit 0-60mph in just seven seconds. 

If you’d like a diesel, the only option is a Volkswagen-sourced 138bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged unit. Coming with a six-speed manual gearbox, it’s able to head from 0-60mph in 9.4 seconds. 

Running costs

Where running costs are concerned, you should look at the diesel, which is able to return a claimed 44.8mpg, with CO2 emissions of 165g/km.

The petrol units are quite thirsty, though, returning fuel economy figures in the 30mpg region, while the Ralliart model won’t even manage that. Be careful not to be stung by car tax, either, with this costing up to £615 a year for the Ralliart version, which is a significant extra expense.

Things to look out for

The Mitsubishi Lancer has an excellent reputation for reliability, and there are few things to worry about, providing you can find a well-serviced example. Ralliart versions are not quite so good in this respect, many being driven hard over the years, so look out in particular for issues relating to the gearbox. 

Rivals

Though the Lancer might never have been a big seller in the UK, it sits in a very popular category. Key alternatives include the best-selling Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra. The Seat Leon, Kia Ceed and Hyundai i30 are worth a look too. 

If you’re looking at a Lancer saloon, the Mazda3, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Jetta are all worth a look at in four-door form. 

Depreciation

As the Lancer hasn’t been sold for more than a decade, depreciation is not something you should have to worry about too much. Ralliart versions might start appreciating in the future, though, as they have more of a cult status. 

Trims explained

Four trim levels are available on the Mitsubishi Lancer, with equipment highlights and pricing as follows.

GS1 –

Available purely on the Sportback model, the GS1 comes with air conditioning, a trip computer, remote locking and electric front and rear windows. You also get front and side airbags, an alarm system with immobiliser and a CD/MP3 player with four speakers.

From £1,500 (used)

GS2 –

The GS2 adds further niceties, including a leather steering wheel with audio controls, further speakers and 16-inch alloy wheels. Curtain airbags are also fitted, while the grille gets a smarter chrome surround.

From £1,500 (used)

GS3 –

High-spec GS3 models get plenty of additional equipment, such as larger 18-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and stability and traction control. Other features include cruise control, privacy glass, sports suspension and climate control.

From £2,500 (used)

GS4 –

At the top of the range, the GS4 comes with heated front seats and a colour touchscreen with satellite navigation. You also get leather upholstery, a more advanced trip computer, ‘memory’ settings and iPod auxiliary input.

From £3,000 (used)

Ralliart –

Ralliart versions are designed to bridge the gap between the standard Lancer and Evo. Using a powerful 2.0-litre petrol engine and four-wheel-drive, they also come with automatic lights and wipers, a sports steering wheel, revised grille, Xenon headlights and Recaro sports seats.

From £6,000

Summary

  1. Mid-size Mitsubishi sold as a saloon or hatchback
  2. Decent equipment levels
  3. Affordable used buy
  4. Plenty of interior space
  5. Inefficient petrol engines
  6. Not very good to drive
  7. Stiff suspension
  8. No ‘Evo’ DNA
  9. Plenty of trim and engine choice
  10. Not class-leading, but a respectable left-field choice