Off-beat family hatch is missing substance to back up its good looks

What is it?

This is the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback 1.8 GS3. It’s about as mainstream as Mitsubishis get - a simple, honest Ford Focus rival. But the aggressive shark-nosed styling, side skirts and 18-inch wheels combine to make a much more sporty Evo-esque effect than the non-Evo Mitsubishi Lancers of old.

What’s it like?

Don’t expect Evo-style thrills from behind the wheel. The 141bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine is game enough, but it gets noisy at high revs, and torque is an issue. The Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback might have only 1385kg to haul around, but a weak 131lb ft at a peaky 4250rpm means that the Lancer Sportback often feels breathless. Couple that with a fairly heady C02 output of 198g/km and you have a generally disappointing powertrain.

The Lancer Sportback is equally disappointing around the bends. There’s more than enough grip and it corners flat enough, thanks to the beefier suspension that comes with GS3 spec.

The problem is there’s little feel or finesse to the way the Sportback goes about its business. The gearshift is a little rubbery and the ride is fidgety and over-firm. The one saving grace of the Lancer Sportback’s dynamic repertoire is the quiet ride; it might not smother lumps and bumps effectively, but it at least does so quietly.

The cabin is also a bit of a disappointment. Unless you go for the top-spec GS4 model with the natty Rockford Fosgate HDD/sat-nav, the radio looks like something out of a mid-1990s Vauxhall. It’s much the same for the rest of the cabin; it’s spacious, but the dark cloth trim and acres of hard-feeling plastic give a rather sombre and old-fashioned feel to the Lancer’s interior.

Should I buy one?

It’s not a bad car, the Lancer Sportback, but it lacks the polish of, say, a Ford Focus. In a sector as bulging with talented rivals as the small family hatchback segment, simply being okay is nowhere near good enough.

Matt Rigby

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TegTypeR 9 December 2008

Re: Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback 1.8 GS3

Matt Rigby wrote:

In which case you might like the Ralliart Lancer Sportback...

And from the article....

"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."

As I originally said, a decently suspended. Your review suggest it is far from it!

Zeddy 9 December 2008

Re: Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback 1.8 GS3

It's got bigger overhangs than Dolly Parton wearing a bussle!

jonfortwo 9 December 2008

Re: Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback 1.8 GS3

The mitsu dealership has been passed around my local town like a hot potato over the past couple of years and right now we dont have one.

My money is on Mitsubishi being the first Japanese "collapse". Average cars, average value,poor customer service.... looks will not save them...sadly