One of the first 2008 models to land in dealer showrooms, the new Mitsubishi Lancer is a complete remake, from the wheels up, of the company's entry in the compact sedan class. This is not merely an exercise in dressing the previous model in a new set of threads. From sheetmetal to upholstery to mechanicals to interior trim, it's a new car.
The body has been re-styled, with a more aggressive fascia and a wedgier profile. The result, sadly, is mixed. It looks really sharp head on, a little dull going away. Overall proportions are balanced, though, so the final result is a plus.
The engine is new, albeit the same displacement as before, but now with a double overhead cam in place of the previous models single, and updated electronics. Horsepower is up by 32, torque by 16 pound-feet of torque (22 and 12, respectively, in states with California emission rules). A Continuously Variable Transmission replaces the predecessors automatic, with a five-speed manual still the standard gearbox.
The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer has gained weight over the previous model, between 200 and 400 pounds, depending on model and trim. This, together with the more powerful engine, no doubt accounts at least in part to the lower fuel economy ratings for the 2008 model. Lower, also, than most of the competition, some of which better the Lancer by 5 miles per gallon or more in EPA City and Highway estimates.
Inside, there's roomy seating for five. Instruments and dash are pleasing to the eye and friendly to the fingers, with easy-to-use knobs and switches for the more important functions. Some details are less than ideal, but the Lancer is, after all, an economy car and not Mitsubishi's flagship.
The option list comprises value-adding packages. Disappointing is the need to pay extra for air conditioning and anti-lock brakes on the base Lancer. But a high-quality sound system is offered for the two upper trim levels. And impressive for this price level is a full-featured navigation-come-music-server system available on the top model.
The Mitsubishi Lancer returns for 2008 after skipping the 2007 model year. Now, just one engine is available: a 152-hp four-cylinder (143-hp in California emissions form). It comes with a choice of five-speed manual transmission or optional CVT automatic, a continuously variable transmission. Body style remains a four-door, five-passenger sedan.
The Mitsubishi Lancer DE is the base model.
Standard features are sparse. There is no air conditioning, although the heater does have micron filtration. Shift knob and tilt steering wheel are wrapped in urethane. Most interior trim pieces and accents are black, as are side view mirror housings and inside and outside door handles. Driver and front passenger get four-way, manually adjustable seats. The audio system is a four-speaker, 140-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 unit, but it has DSP and vehicle speed-compensated volume and equalization and pre-wiring for Sirius satellite radio.
Windows and outside mirrors are powered, but door locks are not. A driver information center hosts a trip meter, fuel economy data display and fuel and coolant warning lamps. Steel wheels wear P205/60R16 tires. There's an anti-theft engine immobilizer.
One factory option is offered for the DE, a package consisting of anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, air conditioning, power door locks, and auto-up on the driver side window. Dealers sell the fog lights and floor mats.
The Lancer ES comes with air conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted controls, power door locks with keyless remote, six-way adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seatback with folding center armrest, front map lights, floor mats, the auto-up driver-side window, premium fabric upholstery, silver interior accents, body-color outside mirror housings and door handles, second power point, anti-theft security alarm and steering wheel-mounted redundant audio controls, and pre-wired Bluetooth switch. Aluminum alloys replace the DE's steel wheels, and the rear suspension gets a stabilizer bar.
The Sun & Sound package includes a 650-watt, nine-speaker, Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system; a six-month, pre-paid Sirius satellite radio subscription; a six-disc in-dash CD/MP3 changer; an auxiliary audio input jack; and a power, tilt-and-slide, glass sunroof. Fog lights are sold by dealers.
The Lancer GTS is the top of the line. Automatic climate control is standard. Leather wraps the steering wheel and shift knob. Driver and front passenger get sport bucket seats with unique fabric surfaces. Most interior accents get a geometric print. The stereo adds two speakers, for a total of six. An aero package with front air dam, lower side air dams and rear spoiler spruces up the exterior.
The factory installs the fog lights. Tires are P215/45R18s on alloy wheels. The suspension gets sport-tuned shocks and springs and stiffened bushings. A cross-brace bar bolted to the tops of the front suspension towers boosts body stiffness. The Sportronic version of the CVT, exclusive to the GTS, lets the driver shift gears using steering wheel-mounted, magnesium paddles.
Options include the same Sun & Sound package. The Navigation & Technology package includes a GPS-based navigation system storing mapping data on a 30GB hard disk drive (with 6GB set aside for personally recorded audio files). Integrated into the navigation system is the driver information center plus screens displaying, among other things, ambient temperature, barometric pressure and altimeter; vehicle maintenance reminder and calendar; controls for the underlying Rockford-Fosgate audio system and Sirius satellite radio; and customization settings for the Lancer's various interior electronics. Also in this package is Fast-Key, a keyless, proximity-activated, auto-unlock system.
Safety features include seven airbags, with a driver's knee airbag augmenting the usual collection of frontal airbags; front seat-mounted, upper body-protecting side airbags; and head-protecting, side-curtain airbags. Front seatbelts have pretensionsers and force limiters to help position users for maximum protection from airbags in crashes. Rear seats incorporate child safety seat anchors and tethers (LATCH).
Anti-lock brakes, which enable the driver to steer the car during panic stops, and electronic brake-force distribution, which balances emergency brake application between front and rear brakes for maximum effect, are standard on ES and GTS and optional on DE. Tire pressure monitors, which warn of low tire pressure, are standard across the line. Missing, however, is an electronic stability program, which attempts to avoid spin outs, an important safety feature that's standard or at least optional on many cars in the Lancer's class.