By KBB.com Editors
Although the high-tech, high-performance Lancer Evolution is among the most respected, most sought-after enthusiast cars on the planeta bona fide "bargain exotic" at its sub-$30,000 starting pricethe Lancer sedan on which it's based has never amounted to much more than an also-ran in this country's currently-burgeoning small car market. By combining more aggressive sheetmetal, more invigorating performance and a host of compelling in-cabin technologies, however, the all-new Lancer arrives well-positioned for newfound success.You'll Like This Car If...
The all-new Lancer will prove most appealing to those who appreciate both its sporty demeanor and the combination of in-cabin technology not offered by any other car in the category.You May Not Like This Car If...
Although the Lancer feels well-built where it counts most, the interior styling, materials and noise levels don't convey the same sense of refinement delivered by competitors like the MAZDA3 or Honda Civic.What's New for 2008
The sportier, more tech-savvy 2008 Lancer is entirely new from the rubber to the roof.Driving It Driving Impressions
The laws of physics dictate that it's easier to make a small car handle well than it is to give it a smooth highway ride. Still, we were impressed with just how tenacious and composed the Lancer GTS proved to be on twisty roads. We also liked the fast shifts afforded by the paddle shifters and six artificial "gears" of the optional continuously variable transmissionalthough it's important to note that Lancers with the five-speed manual transmissions are more than a second quicker to 60 mph, according to Mitsubishi. Out on the highway, we preferred the less aggressive setup of the ES model, which resulted in a more comfortable, less noisybut still not quietride. Beneath the din of wind and tire noise that we counted as a Lancer weak spot, however, was a reassuringly solid compact sedan.Favorite Features
30-Gigabyte Hard Drive
Lancer's hard drive-based navigation system responds more quickly than more common DVD-based units. It also allows you to store up to six gigabytes of digital music taken directly from CDs, or about 1,200 songs.
Keyless Entry and Start
The available FAST-Key system lets you unlock and start the Lancer without ever touching the key/transmitter.
Swathed in contemporary, minimalist styling and plenty of mid-grade plastic, the new Lancer's otherwise attractive passenger cabin falls short of the category's best in terms of richness and refinement. Each of the Lancer's three distinct trim levels features unique seat fabric and trim pieces, and the top-level GTS features a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, chrome interior door handles and more deeply bolstered sport seating.Exterior
Taller, wider and more aggressively styled than its predecessor, the new Lancer commands a much larger presence on the road. With a front end inspired by the air intakes of fighter jets, the base Lancer DE is adorned with black door handles, black mirrors and 16-inch covered steel wheels. The Lancer ES projects a far more polished appearance, with 16-inch alloy wheels, color-keyed door handles and mirrors and a chrome grille surround. The top-level GTS is further distinguished by 18-inch alloy wheels, front and side body extensions, fog lights, a rear spoiler and a chrome exhaust outlet.Notable Standard Equipment
A base Lancer DE includes a four-speaker, 140-watt CD/MP3 sound system, power windows and a trip computer, but not air conditioning, power locks or anti-lock brakes (ABS). If the ES model is within your reach, we'd recommend taking that step up.Notable Optional Equipment
Some of the Lancer's most desirable options include a Bluetooth hands-free phone interface, hard drive-based navigation and audio system, FAST-Key keyless entry and start, 650-Watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system, automatic climate control and a sunroof. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) serves as the automatic transmission option.Under the Hood
The only powertrain decision facing a Lancer buyer is whether to stick with the five-speed manual or go for the continuously variable transmission (CVT). CVT-equipped GTS models include steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and six simulated gears that give drivers the control of a quick-shifting manu-matic. The GTS also includes 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and bigger brakes. Lancers sold in California are PZEV rated and deliver 143 horsepower and 143 pound-feet of torque.
2.0-liter in-line 4
152 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
146 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/34 (manual), 25/31 (automatic)
The 2008 Lancer starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $14,615, while a GTS with the CVT starts at $19,115 and, fully loaded, will approach $23,000. Because the Lancer is all-new for the 2008 model year, we expect our Fair Purchase Prices to reflect real-world transaction prices not far below those MSRPs. The Honda Civic starts at $15,605, the MAZDA3 starts at $14,390, and both top out near $24,000. We don't expect the Lancer to retain its value as well as the exceptionally resilient Civic or the MAZDA3.