The biggest surprise on Mitsubishi's Detroit show stand didn't turn out to be the aggressive Prototype X; it was, in fact, how well the new standard Lancer, which the motoring press clapped eyes on for the first time, held its own next to its 300 horsepower sibling.
From without, the new Lancer has a great deal more of the Mitsubishi Evo's DNA than any previous one. It's got the same wedgy profile, jet-fighter-inspired styling and in-your-face grille as the next Evo, and for the first time, you can well imagine customers who aspire to own an Evo being seduced by those cues and opting for the more affordable entry-level model.
The new Lancer is also a hugely-improved car. Its body structure is stiffer even than the current Evo's, and Mitsubishi has addressed criticisms of the outgoing model's dated cabin by upping material quality and improving the equipment tally. As of next Spring, Lancer buyers will be able to specificy a 650-watt factory audio system, a satellite navigation system with a built-in 30GB hard drive, and Bluetooth telephone connectivity, should they want it.
Five engines will be available in Europe from the car's launch, including a 108bhp 1.5-litre petrol, a 152bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol and the VW-sourced 134bhp 2.0-litre common-rail diesel, coupled to either a five-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission with six preset ratios and steering wheel-mounted paddles for flicking between them. Mitsubishi also announced at Detroit that it is currently developing its own four-cylinder diesel engine for the Lancer, but it won't be ready for European introduction until the end of the decade.
The new Lancer will be on sale in the UK in April. Prices have yet to be finalised, but expect them to range upwards from about £11,000 for the 1.5-litre, to £14,000 for the top-spec 2.0-litre CVT diesel.