A decent budget saloon that lacks ultimate dynamic ability

What is it?

This is the Mitsubishi Lancer 1.5 SE, a new entry-level version of the saloon car powered by the 1.5-litre MIVEC VVT engine previously found only at the base of the hatchback range.

It gets a decent amount of standard kit, including 16-inch alloys, curtain and driver's knee airbags, air conditioning, Bluetooth and iPod compatibility.

Mitsubishi claims the modest four-cylinder petrol engine will get the saloon from 0-62mph in 11.6sec, while returning 44mpg combined and emitting 153g/km of CO2.

With the launch of the new Mazda 3 this summer, it was only a matter of time before Mitsubishi decided to prop up the Lancer range with a budget offering. The car was originally intended as a direct competitor to the Mazda's predecessor, and it is no coincidence that the 1.5 SE significantly undercuts the cheapest 3.

What's it like?

Considering the Lancer's generous proportions, and the modest power of the 1.5-litre engine, first impressions of the car are not bad.

Progress around town is predictably leisurely, but the Lancer doesn't feel drastically underpowered at slow speeds. Drive with economy in mind and Mitsubishi's quoted fuel consumption figure is easily attainable.

Admittedly, things do become a bit more frantic when the car is asked to overtake slower traffic or reach the national limit in a hurry. Without the exploitable torque band a similarly sized diesel engine would offer, the Lancer must be worked hard to maintain a reasonable rate of acceleration.

This is hardly surprising, but the higher revs arrive in the cabin at the unpleasant pitch of a dentist's drill, leaving you hunting for a non-existent sixth gear on Mitsubishi's crude five-speed gearbox when the car finally arrives at an open-road canter.

As such, the Lancer leaves its driver with the nagging impression that it's labouring slightly to keep up with A-road traffic, making the car seem like a tedious prospect for a long commute.

This is unfortunate, as the Lancer does fare much better on the motorway, where its falsetto voice fades into the not-insignificant road noise, and the car immediately seems more comfortable travelling at speed.

Should I buy one?

There's little doubt that the Mitsubishi Lancer 1.5 SE offers value for money. It's a spacious, well equipped and exceptionally practical car.

Given its potential economy, many prospective owners will be prepared to overlook the limitations of the diminutive petrol engine and accept the budget saloon for all it does offer.

But for those of us who insist on a more dynamic package - and are prepared to pay a slightly higher price for the better performance and refinement that come with it – Mazda has already moved the game well beyond this Lancer's reach.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
nickp47 6 October 2009

Re: Mitsubishi Lancer 1.5 SE

Unfortunately the 1.5 Se being reviewed is not the car shown in the pics, it is actually a model higher in the range.

The SE comes without the large alloys and bodykit, which is a shame and drastically alters the look of the Lancer

Zeddy 6 October 2009

Re: Mitsubishi Lancer 1.5 SE

What looked so good as a concept seems very bland on the road.

What committee signed off the dashboard?

jonfortwo 6 October 2009

Re: Mitsubishi Lancer 1.5 SE

This is a great looking Japanese car, OK so its not the best drive but it is very handsome.

The new Mazda 3 is a little odd looking me thinks.