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2012 Mitsubishi Lancer

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2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 5.8

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer sedans and Sportback wagon are perhaps the sportiest cars in the profoundly competitive compact-car segment. While there are plenty of more-fuel-efficient choices in the category, few can match the vibrant driving experience and diverse model range provided by the Lancer. From the basic ES sedan to the versatile 5-door Sportback to the high-performance Evolution variant, the Mitsubishi Lancer is an enticing carrot for compact-car shoppers searching for something practical that also looks and handles like a sports car.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you are looking for a sleek, sharp-handling compact car with a comprehensive warranty, you'll find the Mitsubishi Lancer worth a look.

You May Not Like This Car If...

While the Lancer's sub-$16,000 starting price may appear attractive at first glance, value-driven buyers may favor the equally priced Hyundai Elantra and Kia Rio for their additional standard features and superior fuel economy.

What's New for 2012

For 2012, Mitsubishi introduces a new SE trim with standard all-wheel drive (AWD), heated seats and outside mirrors, a continuously variable automatic transmission, and the GT model's more powerful 2.4-liter engine. Additionally, the Lancer Sportback no longer offers a manual transmission and drops the performance-based Ralliart edition from the lineup.

Driving the Lancer
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 test drive in the Lancer GT...

... model, it would appear the engineers have won the battle. On twisting mountain roads, we were impressed by the GT's composure, as well as its tenacious ability to cling to the pavement. When not tearing through unpopulated mountain passes, we found the smooth and less noisy ES trim to be far more compatible with daily driving needs. Although the ES' cabin is less raucous than in the GT, it still let's in a fair amount of wind and engine noise.

Voice-Activated HDD Navigation
The Lancer's hard drive-based navigation system responds more quickly than traditional DVD-based units. It also features Mitsubishi's new FUSE voice-recognition software for simple multimedia commands.

Keyless Entry and Start
The available FAST-Key system lets you lock, unlock and start the Lancer without ever removing the key fob from your pocket or bag.

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Details
Interior

Despite its aggressive and modern styling, the Lancer's sleek exterior design, unfortunately, does not carry into the cabin. The interior's stale design and its abundance of hard, cheap plastics are the Achilles' heel of the Lancer. Taller drivers will find the seating position uncomfortable due to the Lancer's lack of a telescoping steering wheel and the minimal thigh support provided by the short seat bottom. The GT and Ralliart trims feature 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. Rear-seat legroom is surprisingly generous, and the Sportback's flexible configuration delivers an impressive 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space - comparable to many small SUVs.

Exterior

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer separates itself from the mundane designs of traditional compact cars with its bold stance, aggressive snout and rally car inspired styling. Mitsubishi says the massive front grille was inspired by the air intakes found on high-tech fighter jets - the same source of inspiration behind the Lamborghini Reventon. The base DE model rolls on 16-inch steel wheels while the ES/SE and GT/Ralliart models wear 16-inch and 18-inch alloys, respectively. Chrome accents, color-keyed body pieces and exterior features vary by trim level, successively growing nicer as the dollar signs move upward.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

Since the base DE trim lacks the essential creature comforts one would expect from a $16,000 vehicle, we'd recommend taking a step up to the ES, as it adds air conditioning, power door locks, steering-wheel-mounted controls, an auxiliary audio input jack for portable music players and remote keyless entry. Designed for the Snowbelt states, the SE model adds all-wheel drive, a more powerful 2.4-liter engine and heated seats to the mix. GT models gain 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, automatic climate control, FUSE voice-recognition software with Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, a USB port for MP3 players, and sport seats. The Ralliart boasts a 237-horsepower turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive and a 6-speed twin-clutch Sportronic Shift automatic transmission. The high-performance Lancer Evolution features a 291-horsepower turbocharged engine with all-wheel drive, large Brembo brakes and Recaro racing-style front seats.

Optional Equipment

Some of the Lancer's most desirable options are a hard-drive navigation system and the Deluxe Package which includes FAST Key keyless entry and start, a 710-Watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system with a USB port, FUSE voice-recognition and a sunroof. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) serves as the automatic transmission option for the workaday Lancers, while a twin-clutch Sportronic Shift automatic is available for the Evolution.

Under the Hood

For 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer DE and ES trims, the only powertrain decision facing a buyer is whether to stick with the 5-speed manual or go for the CVT. The SE and GT trims, however, get a more robust 168-horsepower 2.4-liter engine, which shows noticeable improvements over the outdated 2.0-liter in the areas of vibration and low-end torque. The CVT-equipped GTS model includes steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The Ralliart trim gains a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine good for 237 horsepower, while the Evolution model whips out 291 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.

2.0-liter inline-4
148 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
146 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm (Sportback: 145 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 mpg (manual), 26/34 mpg (automatic), 24/32 mpg (Sportback)

2.4-liter inline-4
168 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
167 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/31 mpg (manual), 23/30 mpg (automatic), 22/29 mpg (Sportback)

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
237 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
253 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500-4,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/25 mpg

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
291 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
300 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/23 mpg (manual), 17/22 mpg (automatic)

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