What is it?
This is the car that bridges the sizeable dynamic and performance gap between the most powerful mainstream Lancer, the 141bhp 1.8 petrol, and the 290bhp Evolution, providing hot hatch buyers with a Mitsubishi alternative to hot hatches like the Focus ST, Golf GTI and Impreza WRX.
In this five-door guise it also fills out the Lancer range with the body configuration most popular in this segment, which is also available with other engine and trim packages.
The Ralliart’s 237bhp compares well to rivals in the segment, and it’s dynamic arsenal also includes four-wheel drive and a six-speed paddle-activated twin-clutch transmission – there’s no manual option. Compared to the Evo, the hatchback loses 53bhp, the Evo’s super-sticky (but wear-prone) rubber and – most critically – active yaw control.
What’s it like?
It might be unfair to compare the Ralliart with its pricier stablemate, but the comparison is irresistible – and sadly, not entirely favourable. If you know the Evo you’ll notice the difference at the first bend, the Lancer’s tendency to understeer unmasked by the missing yaw control as its nose pushes to the outside of the curve.
This is not entirely surprising, especially as the car is four-wheel drive, a layout that tends to provoke understeer, and the net result is a car that does not have the balance of the best of its two-wheel drive rivals.
In faster bends the understeer is less apparent, but it’s there nonetheless, along with squealing tyres. The role of the active yaw control in the Evo becomes very obvious when you drive this car.
Fixing the understeer should not be the only job on Mitsubishi’s to-do list for the Ralliart. The brakes lack convincing initial clamping power, the engine’s power delivery seems woolly – and it’s peaky too. Most of the urge emerges at the upper end of the rev range.
Another complaint is with the dual clutch transmission, which does not swap ratios with the sort of seamless precision of the best rival systems. On the over-run, especially in lower gears, the drivetrain turns jerky too. The transmission is not only low-geared, but some of the ratios have quite noticeable gaps between them.
Despite these rough edges, the Ralliart can still provide plenty of amusement. The steering is excellent, grip levels are good and body control is impressive. We’re also promised some more revisions before the car goes on sale in January 2009.
But if the Ralliart is going to properly challenge its hot hatch rivals – and not be completely over-shadowed by the Evo – it’s going to need some serious polishing.
Should I buy one?
That depends on how much Mitsubishi can get sorted before the Ralliart goes on sale. The package has considerable promise, but we reckon potential buyers should wait to see how good the final version is.