The Lancer is a smart choice for the budget shopper.

2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC Review

The Lancer could be good, but Mitsubishi has some work to do

By: Wade Thiel

Web2Carz Senior Staff Writer

Published: June 17th, 2016

Unlike the Lancer Evo, which is no more, the standard Lancer is nothing more than an attractive, practical compact commuter car with available all-wheel control and a rock bottom price tag. While this car is a viable option for many people, it's a tough sell because there are so many other great cars in this segment.

Unfortunately, it's almost painful to drive the Mitsubishi Lancer. No not because the seats hurt your hind parts and lower back, though they do on long drives. It's because the car is so close to being a genuinely good car. It's almost there, but like many of Mitsubishi's offerings, it comes up short. We spent a week with this car exploring all of its pros and cons. Here's what we noticed.

  • Driving Impressions

    The Lancer would be a pleasure to drive if it weren't for the power-sapping continuously variable transmission that just about drives you crazy. Rev the engine and you hear the 2.4-liter mill working away as it should, but what you hear doesn't seem to transition well to the wheels. It sounds like so much more power is coming out of the four-pot engine than hits the road. While you don't have a problem keeping up with traffic, every time you step on the gas you're reminded how much better this car would be with a standard gearbox, which is available in only ES (2.0-liter only) and GT (2.4-liter) trim levels and not with all-wheel control.

    • Ride Quality: The ride quality walks a line between sporty and comfortable. Road noise is an issue and most other compact sedans will have quieter cabins.
    • Steering: The hydraulic assisted steering is a little heavier than many other cars on the road, but it's precise and provides good road feel, making the steering one of the highlights of the car.
    • Acceleration: Unfortunately, the Lancer isn't quick. While it can reach highways speeds in a respectable time, the rubber-banding sensation of the CVT isn't exactly an enjoyable experience.
    • Braking: Stopping the Lancer is easy and the progressive brakes have no issues slowing the sedan down.
    • Handling: The Lancer feels stable in the corners and body roll is at a minimum. Navigating urban and rural environments is easy.

  • Technology & Safety

    The SEL trim of the Lancer comes with a reasonable amount of technology as standard equipment, but the car still feels dated. This is largely due to the poor quality infotainment system and lack of navigation. Still the car does come with Bluetooth pairing, heated seats, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic climate control, SiriusXM satellite radio and digital HD radio. All of these things are nice additions, but the packing of these items is poorly done. Many of the radio functions are difficult to get to and the infotainment system was difficult to get to work correctly.

    We had issues connecting our smartphone to the car via Bluetooth and even plugging in the phone to the system yielded less than favorable results. We experienced difficulty playing music and accessing functions that are extremely easy on other cars in this segment.

    • Infotainment Screen Size/Quality: The 6.1-inch screen could be bigger but our main concern was with the quality of the screen. The graphics seem outdated by at least five years.
    • Bluetooth Phone Pairing: Phone pairing was a bit difficult, but once connected, we experienced no issues and our phone reconnected automatically upon entry to the car.
    • Voice/Sound Quality: The sound quality for calls isn't the highest, with voices sounding a little far off. We experienced no interruptions during calls. The audio system sounds good when music is playing.
    • Controls: Most controls are simple and easy to use, but the touchscreen controls could be better. Half the time, the screen didn't register what you touched or tapped on.
    • Safety: The Lancer comes equipped with ABS brakes, stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system, front, knee, front seat, side curtain airbags and anti-theft security alarm.

  • Exterior Design & Styling

    While still attractive, the Mitsubishi Lancer shows its age a little when it comes to styling. The car's exterior hasn't changed much for around a decade. It received a facelift in 2015, but much of its overall styling has stayed the same since 07. Despite the Lancer's lack of a major redesign, the car isn't bad to look at. It features aggressive headlights, a creased hood and a fairly athletic stance. It looks sportier than it actually is.

    • Front: Aggressive-looking headlights and a large split grille dominate the front of the Lancer. It is accented by low fog lamps beneath the headlights.
    • Rear: The squared off rear features taillights that are styled very similarly to the headlights, giving the Lancer a sports sedan look from behind.
    • Profile: In profile the Lancer's lines slope up from the nose to the rear in the same way the Lancers have done in the past. This car is recognizable because it is largely unchanged.

  • Driver & Passenger Comfort

    Generally, there's plenty of room in the Lancer to get situated and if the seats were more comfortable, it'd be a decent cabin for long drives. While we'd like to see higher quality materials across the entire interior, we could have forgiven Mitsubishi for taking the cheaper route if the seats were comfortable for more than 45 minutes. Unfortunately, if you spend any more time than that driving in this car, your hips and lower back will start to ache.

    There's little lumbar support in the seats, but beyond that we couldn't tell what it was exactly that made the seats so uncomfortable. Maybe it was the seating position, maybe it was the relatively short length of the part of the seat you actually sit on or maybe it was the fact that you can't telescope the steering wheel and either have to have your seat up pretty far to reach it or move the seat back and really reach for the wheel. We tried adjusting the seat many ways and never really got comfortable.

    While we had a hard time finding a comfortable position in the Mitsubishi, other drivers with different body styles may not have that problem. Also, if you don't take long trips, the Lancer will likely be fine because we didn't notice any real discomfort until after 45 minutes to an hour of driving.

    • Front Seats: Well-bolstered and firm padding. The seats lack adequate lumbar support and could use additional adjustments.
    • Rear Seats: Similar padding to the front seats and a reasonable amount of legroom. Three adults may feel a little cramped.
    • Visibility: All-around visibility is good and no pillars seem to be too thick or poorly placed.

  • Storage & Cargo Room

    Compact sedans aren't exactly known for having a ton of storage spaces and the Mitsubishi Lancer is no exception. It has all of the pockets and bins you'd expect, like the space beneath the center armrest, door pockets and glovebox, but beyond that there isn't much. Luckily the trunk is reasonably spacious so if you need to carry a lot with you, you can likely fit it back there.

    • Storage: Door pockets, glovebox, center console and cup holders aren't exactly impressive, but they function well and are smartly laid out and easy to use.
    • Trunk/Cargo Room: The trunk is rather spacious at 12.3 cubic feet. That's on par with but a little less than the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. If you need more room, you can always fold the rear seats down.

  • Final impressions

    The Lancer is attractive, reasonably spacious and features a strong 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine and Mitsubishi's all-wheel control system. The makings of a pretty kickass car, right? Unfortunately, no. The Lancer suffers from the same shortcomings of all Mitsubishi's offerings: a poor interior, a bad transmission and outdated technology. It's a shame because if you remove the bad stuff from the equation, the Lancer has some serious merits.

    If you're interested in the Lancer, get it with the manual transmission. This will eliminate a lot of the issues we had with driving the car and would actually make it fun to drive thanks to its good steering and handling characteristics. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear you can get the manual transmission car with all-wheel control. If you could it would make for one sweet ride.

  • Price & Specifications:

    Engine: 2.4 four-cylinder MIVEC

    Transmission: CVT

    Drivetrain/Layout: Front engine, four-wheel drive

    Power Output: 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 23 city / 31 highway

    Base Price: $21,995 (SEL trim level)

    As Tested: $22,805 (incl. $810 destination charge)

    Standard Features: Hydraulic assist power steering; MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar; multi-link rear suspension with stabilizer bar; electronically controlled 4WD all wheel control; auto on/off halogen headlights; LED running lights; fog lights; high mount rear stop light; rear combination taillights; side air dams; roof carrier plug-in accommodation; color-keyed power side-view mirrors with turn indicators; heated side-view mirrors; color-keyed outer door handles; short pole antenna; rain-sensing windshield wipers; rear window defroster with timer; 16-inch two-tone alloy wheels; P205/60R16 tires; space saver temporary space tire; color LCD multi-information display; high-contrast speedometer/ tachometer gauge cluster; ECO status indicator light; front map lights; trunk light; leather seating surfaces; heated front seats; 6-way adjustable front passenger seat; driver's seatback pocket; 60/40 split folding rear seat; rear seat adjustable head restraints; automatic climate control; Micron air filtration; rear heater floor ducts; leather-wrapped steering wheel with silver accent; adjustable tilt steering wheel; silver painted meter bezel; leather-wrapped shift knob; mesh print I/P and front door accents; soft-touch front upper door trim; chrome-plated inside door handle; carpeted floor mats; 6.1-inch touchscreen; 140-watt AM/FM/MP3 6-speaker audio system; SirusXM satellite radio; digital HD radio; FUSE Hands-free Link System with Bluetooth and USB; rear-view camera system; auto dimming rear-view mirror; steering wheel mounted audio, cruise control and Bluetooth hands-free controls; FAST-Key passive entry system with panic alarm; power windows with driver's side auto up/down; power door locks; 12-volt accessory outlets; floor center console box with armrest lid; front lower console accessory box; front cup holders; door trim pocket with bottle holder; rear center armrest with cup holders; anti-lock braking system with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist; stability control; traction control; tire pressure monitoring system; side curtain airbags; front seat mounted side airbag, driver's side knee airbag; advanced dual-stage front airbag with occupant seat positions; height-adjustable front shoulder belts with pretensioner; LATCH child-restraint system; child safety rear door locks; anti-theft security alarm system; anti-theft engine immobilizer; RISE body construction

    Options on our test vehicle: None

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