In the world of Japanese cars, automakers fall into categories. Lexus, Acura and Infinity are the luxury companies. Honda, Toyota and Mazda build cars for a general consumer crowd.
Setups like Subaru and Mitsubishi aim for that middle ground between the two. They want their cars to be considered a notch about the biggest Japanese firms while selling for cars for much lower sticker prices than the luxury guys.
To get a feel for the Mitsubishi line, we started out with the Lancer. In its various forms, the car is the entry level model for Mitsubishi. Just like Honda and Toyota – who offer up a smaller, base model for younger or mildly funded drivers under $20,000, the Lancer starts out around $15,695 for the DE model and topping out with the $27,995 Ralliart.
For our week long road test, we had the $19,845 GT version. But, this was a maxed out version with additional features pushing the MSRP up to around $25,000.
The build quality is a little on the light side. A few of the knobs, buttons and handles teeter on flimsy. But, you have to expect that in an introductory Japanese car. Still, since Mitsubishi’s ambition is to shoot higher than some of its competitors, I wanted a little more solid feel. That may have been unreasonable, considering the car’s price tag. This is an intro model, after all.
In its GT setup, the Lancer ￼offers a 2.4 liter, 4 cylinder engine providing 23 city and 31 highway. That’s another sticking point for the Lancer. With comparable cars at Mazda reaching for 40 mpg, and with Toyota and Honda serving up their base models well north of 30 mpg, I was hoping the Lancer would turn in better numbers. In fairness, the Lancer is bigger and more spacious that the Toyota/Honda/Mazda intro cars. That makes the Lancer heavier and knocks down the mpg a peg or two.
Aside from the mileage, the GT offers a continuously variable transmission, stability control and traction control. You get front, side and curtain airbags, an MP3 player connection and Bluetooth compatibility. For an additional charge, you can add an in-dash navigation system.
When I first hopped into the Lancer GT, I obviously realized how much bigger Mitsubishi’s introductory car was than the Mazda 2 or Toyota Yaris. The Lancer can comfortably seat four with room to spare. I’m 6’3”, and the back seat of those other two cars might fit a Barbie if someone my size was in the front seat.
The 4 cylinder engine obviously doesn’t offer ample power for a four seater sedan, but it’s adequately quick for urban driving.
The external styling is modest and understated with nothing overly significant to separate it from the Corolla or the Honda Civic. I get the feeling Mitsubishi saved up the fancier bits and bobs for their up-line models.
In general, the Lancer in any of its forms is a serviceable ride for a modest pile of money. While it doesn’t provide the best mpg numbers, it does provide spacious comfort compared to its rivals.