Car review: Mitsubishi Lancer LX SportbackMotor News Motor Reviews New Car Reviews
Mitsubishi Lancer LX Sportback
Mitsubishi Lancer LX Sportback
- CJ MY13
- Badge Description
- LX Sportback
- Engine Configuration Description
- Gear Num
- Build Country Origin Description
- Car Size
- Overall Green Star Rating
- Fuel Type Description
- Petrol - Unleaded ULP
- Drive Description
- Front Wheel Drive
- Warranty KM
- Well equipped
- Useful packaging
- Long warranty
- Outdated interior
- Road noise
- Ordinary dynamics
If a week is a long time in politics, then five years in the ultra-busy small-car segment is an eternity. Yet that is how long the current Lancer has been with us, a period during which virtually all of its major rivals have been replaced by sparkly new models to tempt buyers in their direction.
There is no sign that a new Lancer is just around the corner to replace the CJ model released about halfway through 2007. So in the meantime Mitsubishi has given us a seemingly value-packed variant called the LX, loading it with equipment and some other gadgets in the same way an ageing actress will use make-up and jewellery to distract from advancing years.
Price and equipment
The LX slots into the Lancer range above the $19,990 ES and below the $29,990 VRX, and at $23,990 for the five-speed manual version looks like pretty good buying. It's available as a sedan or a five-door Sportback (tested here), and if you want an auto, the CVT version costs a not-inconsiderable $2250 extra.
Mitsubishi has not skimped on the standard equipment list, fitting leather seats that are heated up front, power seat adjustment for the driver, a touch-screen infotainment display, rear reversing camera, voice activation for the Bluetooth phone interface and some extra touches of chrome and plastic on the outside.
That's all on top of the familiar Lancer them, which includes a quite large and spacious body, a 2.0-litre petrol engine and a safety package that includes seven airbags and the usual electronic stability control. Any way you look at it, you're getting quite an amount of small car for the money.
Under the bonnet
The 2.0-litre engine delivers better than decent performance with big reserves of bottom-end pulling power that make it handy in the cut and thrust of city traffic. There's 110kW of power, which is a perky output for the Lancer's relatively low kerb weight and, even with three passengers on board, it is a willing partner in getting about.
The continuously variable transmission - kind of a gearless auto - behaves strangely to the uninitiated, allowing road speed to increase without a commensurate rise in engine revs, and also offers a manual shifting mode of six preselected ratios, plus a sport mode.
It's not a quiet combination, however, and the voluminous drone of the engine is as uninspiring as it is tiresome. Neither is this a particularly fuel-efficient drivetrain, using an official 7.3L/100km (and much more in real-time city traffic) while puffing out more than 170g of carbon each kilometre.
How it drives
The best aspect of the Lancer driving experience is its ride quality, which is comfortable and compliant, partly due to sensibly specified tyres on 16-inch alloys and quite soft suspension settings.
There's nothing sporty about the handling, though, or even anything particularly clever. The front end is likely to change direction over mid-corner bumps and the rear takes a time to settle from a moment of body roll to comply with the driver's intentions. It's probably not something that would be noticed around town, but tackling a country road with even mild enthusiasm is far from rewarding.
It is also a noisy car, with plenty of roar from the tyres on coarse bitumen with the ever-present drone of the engine providing the backing soundtrack. The lack of refinement might be forgiven in a hatchback with sports-style handling and response but unfortunately, the Lancer isn't one of them.
Comfort and practicality
Rear seat passengers will like the Lancer because few (if any) similarly sized cars offer as much legroom, and the car's practical nature extends to a quite voluminous amount of cargo space under the ungainly looking liftback. Fold the rear seats flat and it almost doubles as a work van.
Unfortunately, despite the impressive interior equipment list, the Lancer can't help looking a bit cheap inside. The hard plastic surfaces are shiny and grainy, that touchscreen display looks like an afterthought and some of the switches seem to have been tossed randomly into the cabin from a distance away.
The driver gets commendably clear instrumentation but only height adjustment for the steering column and not reach. Another niggling annoyance is that the USB connection for charging phones or connecting non-Bluetooth devices is almost impossible to find high up in the glove compartment.
There are a number of pragmatic reasons for choosing the Lancer LX over its rivals. These include a reasonable price tag given the equipment levels, the spacious interior and a massive five-year warranty on everything expect the drivetrain, which is twice that.
While age shouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, the Lancer's wrinkles are more than skin deep. The interior looks dated and lacks integration, the drivetrain provides performance but not remarkable efficiency, handling is far from sparkling and high noise levels detract from driving enjoyment.
As a solid workhorse with added frills the Lancer LX may find plenty of friends, but it's worth looking beyond the bling of its impressive equipment levels and leather-clad interior to see what else is available out there.