By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 6/28/2011
Although the super-hot Lancer Evolution springs from the humble Lancer platform, its popularity and cult-like following haven't trickled down to its lesser siblings. Not that the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer is a poor choice - far from it. But, in an extremely competitive segment with such heavy hitters as the Honda Civic and new Ford Focus – not to mention the new 40-mpg Hyundai Elantra – the middle-of-the-road Lancer can easily be overlooked. After receiving a thorough makeover last year, Mitsubishi continues to load the Lancer with the high-tech features so important to today's younger buyers, but without raising the car's price. Keeping the Lancer's price in check is a smart move and one that might finally help the worthy Lancer finally get the notice it's due.You'll Like This Car If...
Those looking for a low-cost economy sedan that doesn't look like a low-cost economy sedan will find the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer an appealing choice. Its numerous variations range from timid to turbocharged, and feature lots of cool technology features, such as the FUSE hands-free voice control system.You May Not Like This Car If...
While it may look solid from the outside, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer just isn't built with the same attention to detail and materials found on such cars as the Mazda Mazda3, Honda Civic or Ford Focus. The interior is also a bit noisier than we're accustomed to.What's Significant About This Car?
Changes to the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer include an increase in fuel economy across all models, the addition of the FUSE hands-free link system to the GTS and Ralliart (it's optional on the ES), and the addition of electric-assist power steering on DE and ES models.Driving It Driving Impressions
In order to make a small car ride as well as it handles, engineers must sometimes manhandle the laws of physics; judging by our brief test drive in the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS, it would appear the engineers have won the battle. On twisting mountain roads, we were impressed by the GTS' composure, as well as its tenacious ability to cling to the pavement. Although Lancers equipped with manual transmissions are a second quicker to 60 mph than their automatic counterparts, we truly came to prefer the fast shifts afforded by the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. When not tearing through unpopulated mountain passes, we found the smooth and considerably less noisy ES trim to be far more compatible with daily driving needs. Although the ES' cabin is less raucous than in the GTS, it still allows in a fair amount of wind and tire noise.
40-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.
If we had to describe the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer interior in two words, we'd choose minimalist and contemporary. Sure, the design is clean, but the abundance of mid-grade plastics is a bit of turn off, lacking in both richness (see Volkswagen) and refinement (see Mazda). Seat fabric, seat design and interior features vary by trim level, successively growing nicer as the dollar signs move upward. The GTS features the most appealing interior, with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, deeply bolstered front seats, chrome interior door handles, and high-contrast gauge faces.Exterior
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer distances itself from the common compact with its wide stance, tall roof, and rally car inspired styling. Mitsubishi says the massive front grille was inspired by the air intakes found on fighter jets - an interesting source of inspiration, but one that works quite nicely in this instance. While the base DE, with its black trim and 16-inch wheel covers, doesn't inspire much enthusiasm for driving, the ES projects a far more appealing image, wearing 16-inch alloy wheels, a chrome grille and colored door handles and mirrors in place of the DE's black plastic. GTS and Ralliart trims stand out ever further, with 18-inch styled wheels, a rear spoiler, chrome exhaust outlets, and front and side body extensions.Notable Standard Equipment
A base Lancer DE includes a four-speaker, 140-watt CD/MP3 sound system, power windows, side-curtain airbags, driver's knee airbag, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), tilt wheel and a trip computer. If the ES model is within your reach, we'd recommend taking that step up, as it adds air conditioning, power locks, steering wheel mounted controls for the cruise control and audio, pre-wiring for a Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity option, an auxiliary audio input jack and remote keyless entry. GTS models gain 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension, bigger brakes, a 2.4-liter engine, automatic climate control, FUSE with Bluetooth hands-free communication, a USB port, and sport bucket seats. The Ralliart adds a 237-horsepower turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive and a six-speed twin-clutch Sportronic Shift automatic transmission.Notable Optional Equipment
Some of the Lancer's most desirable options are a hard drive-based navigation and audio system, and the Sun and Sound Package, which includes FAST Key keyless entry and start, a 710-Watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system, FUSE hands-free linking system and a sunroof. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) serves as the automatic transmission option.Under the Hood
For 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer DE and ES trims, the only powertrain decision facing a buyer is whether to stick with the five-speed manual or go for the continuously variable transmission (CVT). The GTS, however, gets a more robust 2.4-liter engine, which shows noticeable improvements over the 2.0-liter in the areas of vibration and low-end torque. The CVT-equipped GTS model includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and six simulated gears that effectively give the driver control of a quick-shifting manu-matic. The Ralliart trim gains a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine good for 237 horsepower and all-wheel drive. Lancer DE and ES models sold in California are PZEV-rated and deliver 143 horsepower and 143 pound-feet of torque.
2.0-liter in-line 4
148 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
146 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/33 (manual), 25/33 (automatic)
2.4-liter in-line 4
168 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
167 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/31 (manual), 23/30 (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged in-line 4
237 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
253 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2500-4750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/25
The 2011 Lancer DE carries a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of around $16,000 with destination fee, while the ES starts close to $17,500. The CVT automatic adds about $900. GTS models are priced just over $20,000 and top out around $27,000 fully loaded. The Ralliart trim starts around $28,500. We expect our Fair Purchase Price to reflect real-world transaction prices not far below those MSRPs. The Honda Civic and Mazda Mazda3 start closer to $17,000, and both top out near $25,000. We don't expect the Lancer to retain its value as well as the exceptionally resilient Civic or the Mazda3.