One of the sportiest compact sedans available, the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer is aimed squarely at consumers who are bored with more mainstream choices. Whether you just want a car that looks and handles sharper than the average econobox or you need something speedy enough to embarrass genuine sports cars, the Lancer lineup likely has something with your name on it.
The first two Lancer trim levels, DE and ES, offer stylish and competent basic transportation, though they make do with a noisy and relatively inefficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The top-of-the-line Ralliart is ready to rip, however, sporting 237 turbocharged horsepower, an automated dual-clutch manual transmission, all-wheel drive and a sport-tuned suspension. Introduced last year, the Ralliart effectively bridges the chasm between the workaday Lancers and the ultra-performance Lancer Evolution. Slotting in below the Ralliart is the sport-tuned Lancer GTS, which features an extraordinarily smooth 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an appealing mix of performance and affordability.
Even though the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer is in the same segment as mainstream economy cars like the Honda Civic, it doesn't quite match them in the areas of interior quality, base engine refinement, fuel economy and reputation. In return, though, the Lancer gives you apart-from-the-pack styling, above-average handling, fun-to-drive sporting variants and an impressive array of high-tech features that until recently were reserved for luxury automobiles.
Close Lancer rivals include the Subaru Impreza and the sporty Mazda 3, which likewise offer high-performance variants in the form of the WRX and Mazdaspeed 3, respectively. The Impreza features standard all-wheel drive versus the Lancer's Ralliart-only AWD system, while the Mazda boasts a nicer interior; moreover, both competitors have superior base engines. But the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer still has a lot going for it, especially in GTS or Ralliart trim. Folks who want basic transportation that's a refreshing alternative to the status quo should have no trouble finding something suitable within the Lancer family.
The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer is a compact sedan available in DE, ES, GTS and Ralliart trim levels. The base DE comes with 16-inch steel wheels, lower body sill extensions, a tilt-only steering wheel, full power accessories, a trip computer and a four-speaker CD/MP3 stereo. The A/C and Power package adds air-conditioning, keyless entry and floor mats to the DE.
The ES comes with all the aforementioned items and adds 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, upgraded upholstery, a 60/40-split rear seat with a center armrest, manual driver-seat height adjustment, steering-wheel audio controls and an auxiliary audio jack for the stereo. The ES Sport package adds a front spoiler, a large rear wing, a chrome exhaust outlet and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The GTS gains a more powerful engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped shifter and handbrake handle, sport bucket front seats with upgraded fabric, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo. The Ralliart ups the performance ante with a turbocharged engine, an automated dual-clutch manual transmission (with shift paddles) and all-wheel drive. The latter also features keyless ignition and entry.
The Sun & Sound package available on the ES and GTS includes a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer and satellite radio. Also optional is a navigation system that features a 30GB hard drive capable of storing digital music files. The Ralliart can be outfitted with a Recaro Sport package that includes the namesake sport seats as well as the Rockford Fosgate audio system.
The Lancer's interior is one of its principal weaknesses. Materials quality is on the cheap side, and the dull overall design doesn't live up to the statement the eye-catching exterior makes. The driving position for taller drivers leaves something to be desired, with no telescoping steering wheel and little under-thigh support.
We also have mixed feelings about the touchscreen navigation system: It's well-equipped in terms of features, but its lack of volume and tuning knobs and not-quite-logical layout make operation tricky at times. Rear seat comfort is very good, though, with an impressive amount of legroom. At 11.6 cubic feet, the Lancer's trunk capacity is unremarkable for this class.
The Mitsubishi Lancer DE and ES come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 152 hp and 146 pound-feet of torque. In California-emissions states, this engine is classified as a Partial Zero-Emissions Vehicle with a downgraded 143 hp and 143 lb-ft of torque. The Lancer GTS packs a 2.4-liter four that cranks out 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. Both engines come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, while a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional. When added to the Lancer GTS, this CVT includes a manual mode with simulated gear ratios operated via paddle shifters. The Ralliart features a 2.0-liter turbocharged four (237 hp and 253 lb-ft), an automated dual-clutch manual transmission with shift paddles, and all-wheel drive.
The GTS with a manual transmission accelerates from zero to 60 mph in a quick-for-its-class 7.7 seconds. The base engine with the five-speed does the same sprint in 8.8 seconds, while the CVT gets there in 9.1. The Ralliart dispatches with the 0-60 dash in a sizzling 5.8 seconds.
Fuel economy is subpar for this class. The 2.0-liter achieves an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with the manual transmission. The 2.4-liter gets 21 city/28 highway and 23 combined with the manual. The CVT produces a negligible difference in fuel efficiency. The Ralliart is rated at 17 city/25 highway and 20 combined.
The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer DE and ES are certainly comfortable in daily use, and their cabins remain acceptably hushed at highway speeds. However, the mandatory 2.0-liter engine in those models sounds unpleasant and doesn't have much get-up-and-go, especially with the power-sapping CVT. The GTS model is the clear choice for folks on a budget who are looking for a more spirited driving experience. Its 2.4-liter engine has more low-end power, and its sport-tuned suspension provides unusually sharp handling for this class.
The Ralliart is built to thrill with its sharp handling, powerful engine and super-quick gearchanges (whether done via the column-mounted shift paddles or by the transmission itself in automatic mode). Overall, the Ralliart has an energetic, "on its toes" personality that makes for quick passing and merging maneuvers. The only caveat is that the tire fitment for the Ralliart could be better, as we've found that the capable chassis is let down by the tires' substandard grip.
The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer comes standard with front-seat side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Antilock brakes and stability control are standard across the board, as are four-wheel disc brakes. In our testing, a Lancer GTS stopped from 60 mph in a scant 115 feet.
In government crash testing, the Lancer received a five-star rating for driver frontal crash protection and front-seat side crash protection. It got four stars for passenger frontal crash protection and for rear-seat side protection. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests, the Lancer achieved the best rating of "Good."
A number of new standard features and styling tweaks are added for the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer sedan. Among the former are stability control, antilock brakes and power door locks across all trims, while the latter include a shorter radio antenna, new side sill extensions, revised taillights and, for upper trims, upgraded cabin accents. A new wagon variant of the Lancer also debuts for 2010 (reviewed separately).