Base Lancer is sensible but short on excitement

What’s new?

People always associate the Mitsubishi Lancer with the super-hot Evo variants, but the ordinary car has long provided sensible, experience-free transport. And this is the new Evo X’s dowdy sister, now available with saloon and five-door hatchback bodystyles.

Behind the contemporary styling the proportions look a bit unusual, but a bold grille, sporty sill extensions and a tail spoiler give some visual links between this four-door GS3 and the star-turn Evo. Modern mechanicals and a fairly generous equipment count should tempt a much wider audience than that which went for the old car.

The four door saloon tested here will remain relatively rare - it’s the five door Sportback, out this summer, that will be the mainstay seller - but mechanically they are the same. Larger-than-average dimensions also provide it usefully more cabin space than most of its competitors in the Focus/ Golf segment.

What’s it like?

Mitsubishi has chosen not to aim too high – pitching the Lancer as a rival to the Mazda 3. And, like the Mazda, the Mitsubishi drops points for having a hard-feel dashboard in place of the soft-feel interiors of the class leaders, and you also feel short-changed by a steering column that only adjusts for rake and stepped seat recliners – the combination makes it hard to find a perfect driving position.

The 1.8 litre engine also comes with a five-speed manual gearbox, although the motor’s 141bhp gives decent enough performance – 9.8sec to break 62mph will be more than rapid enough for the Lancer’s likely conservative clientele.

On the plus side, the sculpted dashboard and clear instruments look good and there’s lots of space for people and stuff. It drives well enough, too – accurate and planted, although with little of the Evo magic having made the transition.

Grip levels are good and the cornering line tightens up nicely in response to a lifted throttle – with no unruly behaviour if you try the same with the ESP turned off. It’s a well-behaved, grown-up chassis, but it’s not as lively to drive as the Ford Focus, and refinement over poor road surfaces is also noticeably bad.

Should I buy one?

Despite quite a long list of things to carp about - lightly - this Lancer certainly isn’t without appeal. Buyers looking for excitement are advised to look elsewhere, but it’s certainly a better all-rounder than the Mazda 3 it’s aimed at. That said, the Focus, as ever, has got it licked.

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