In past years, the Mitsubishi Lancer's crisp styling, steady handling and spacious interior made it a compelling alternative to more mainstream offerings in the economy car class. However, Mitsubishi has left its compact sedan entry largely unchanged for several years now, while most rival automakers have redesigned their small sedans. These newer competitors surpass the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer in most areas.
There's nothing gravely wrong with the 2014 Lancer, which offers an acceptably smooth ride and ample amenities in the cabin. However, if you start looking at the details, the picture isn't quite so rosy. To start, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that takes the place of a conventional automatic transmission saps the strength of the Lancer's four-cylinder engines, particularly the base 2.0-liter. Performance is still passable, but the level of noise in the cabin during hard acceleration is excessive.
Although the Lancer's EPA fuel economy ratings are still middle of the road for this class, there are better options out there if mpg is a priority. Inside, Mitsubishi's compact sedan simply isn't as comfortable as rivals: The steering wheel doesn't telescope, and extensive use of hard plastic makes it hard to find a good spot to rest an elbow on longer trips. Trunk capacity is also low for this class.
There are quite a few cars in this price range that we'd recommend ahead of the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer. Topping the list are the well-rounded Ford Focus and the Honda Civic, which have nicer interiors, more refined engines and transmissions and higher fuel economy ratings. Other good choices include the Kia Forte, which packs in a lot of features and style for the money (and has a much larger trunk to boot), and the Mazda 3, which gets a full redesign for 2014. If you're looking at the all-wheel-drive Lancer SE for its added capability in snow, the Subaru Impreza is worth considering as well.
Although we've always liked the Lancer Ralliart, one of the few sporty cars in this price range to offer an automated manual transmission, it, too, faces stiffer competition this year now that Subaru has overhauled its WRX.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer is a small sedan available in ES, SE, GT and Ralliart trim levels. The high-performance Lancer Evolution and a five-door hatchback version of the Lancer called the Lancer Sportback are reviewed separately.
The base ES comes with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, a tilt-only steering wheel, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, a 60/40-split rear seat, front and rear center armrests, a height-adjustable driver seat, steering-wheel audio controls and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. Available on CVT-equipped ES sedans only is the Alloy Wheel package, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels along with rear disc brakes (instead of drums). The Deluxe package (which requires the Alloy Wheel package to be added first) adds a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, a six-speaker stereo, the Fuse voice-activated electronics interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/iPod integration, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and padded door panel inserts.
The SE trim level has a more powerful 2.4-liter engine, all-wheel drive, four-wheel disc brakes, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and side mirrors, chrome exterior accents and a 6.1-inch touchscreen audio interface with a rearview camera and HD and satellite radio. The Fuse interface, Bluetooth and USB port are sold as accessory add-ons for the Lancer SE. A sunroof is available as part of the Premium package, which also includes a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, the upgraded door trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. A keyless ignition is not available on the SE.
The GT also gets the 2.4-liter engine, but is front-wheel drive only. It builds on the ES trim's equipment list with 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, foglights, a sporty front fascia, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, upgraded front seats (with extra side bolstering), a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, shift paddles (with the CVT), the 6.1-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, Fuse, Bluetooth, a USB input and a six-speaker sound system with HD/satellite radio.
Note that unlike the SE, the GT does not come with heated front seats or heated mirrors. You can get the seat heaters as an option, though, if you buy the Touring package, which also includes leather upholstery, xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Rockford Fosgate audio, a sunroof and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Adding this package also substitutes a more discrete rear lip spoiler for the larger rear wing that's standard on the GT.
The all-wheel-drive Ralliart ups the performance ante with a turbocharged engine, an automated manual transmission (with shift paddles), hill start assist, dual exhaust outlets, additional sport exterior treatments, a sport-tuned suspension, a sport steering wheel, unique upholstery and aluminum pedals. Otherwise, standard equipment is the same as on the GT, and the Touring package remains available.
A navigation system with a 7-inch touchscreen is optional on all 2014 Mitsubishi Lancers. For those who want the look of the GT or Ralliart without the expense, an appearance package for the ES and SE adds a front airdam, rear wing and chrome-finished exhaust outlet.
While the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer's chiseled exterior lends an air of aggression, its uninspired interior design drags down the car's overall appeal. Interior materials quality isn't good, either, as an abundance of hard plastic gives the Lancer a downmarket feel.
Taller drivers will likely bemoan the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and the dearth of under-thigh seat support. On the other hand, the rear seats, with a generous amount of legroom, are comfortable. These 60/40-split seats fold flat to accommodate bulky items, which is advantageous considering the Lancer's small 12.3-cubic-foot trunk. Note that trunk capacity drops to 11.8 cubic feet with the optional Rockford Fosgate stereo (due to the addition of a subwoofer). Space is really at a premium in the Ralliart model, whose trunk measures only 10 cubic feet (9.1 with the subwoofer).
Much like Ford's Sync system, Mitsubishi's Fuse voice-activation system assists in selecting a destination or your favorite music. The Fuse system lacks some of Sync's functions and commands, but for the most part, it works pretty well.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer ES is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a CVT is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-shift Lancer ES accelerated to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, while the CVT version ran that dash in 9.1 seconds. Both are average times for this segment. In terms of fuel economy, the 2.0-liter achieves an EPA-estimated 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined with the automatic transmission, and 26/34/28 when combined with the five-speed manual. Both are average ratings for this class of car.
The Lancer SE and GT upgrade to a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. The SE comes standard with a CVT and all-wheel drive. The GT has front-wheel drive and the five-speed manual standard, while its optional CVT features a Manual mode with simulated gear ratios operated via shift paddles on the steering wheel. In Edmunds testing, a GT with a manual transmission accelerated from zero to 60 in 7.7 seconds, which is quick for this class. The front-wheel-drive 2.4-liter gets 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined with the automatic. The manual version is rated at 22/31/26, while the all-wheel-drive SE model comes in at 22/29/25.
The Ralliart features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that thumps out 237 hp and 253 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels through an automated dual-clutch manual transmission with shift paddles and an active center differential. The Ralliart dispatches the 0-60 dash in a sizzling 5.8 seconds, but has notably poorer fuel efficiency, with ratings of 18/25/20.
Most consumers will find a 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer with the base 2.0-liter engine powerful enough for their daily commute. Unfortunately, this engine is quite noisy during passing and merging maneuvers. The programming of the CVT only makes the problem worse, because engine rpm goes way up as soon as you stomp on the gas pedal. If your budget allows it, opt for the 2.4-liter engine in the SE and GT. Not only does this more desirable engine sound better, but it also makes more power at lower revs, so even with the CVT, it stays quieter on the highway.
The GT's sport-tuned suspension also makes it more capable during spirited driving on back roads. However, the bigger wheels and tires on the GT also generate more road noise, so you'll have to decide whether its advantage in handling is worth a less serene cabin environment.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart represents a more affordable version of the high-performance Lancer Evolution, and it delivers plenty of excitement thanks to turbocharged power, sharp handling and quick, smooth shifts from its automated manual transmission. Keep in mind, though, that the Lancer Ralliart's transmission is detuned compared with the version in the Evo and doesn't include the rapid-fire S-Sport shift mode or launch control. In addition, the Ralliart's standard tires are unexpectedly low on grip, which detracts from its braking and handling abilities.
Standard safety features on all 2014 Mitsubishi Lancers include front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Antilock brakes and stability control are standard across the board, but four-wheel disc brakes are standard only on the SE, GT and Ralliart. The ES trim has rear drum brakes unless you spring for the Alloy Wheel upgrade package.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Lancer GT stopped from 60 mph in an excellent 115 feet. Surprisingly, the performance-themed Ralliart model delivered a disappointing stop of 127 feet. In our experience, the issue here is not a lack of braking power; rather, it's the unusually low grip from the car's high-performance summer tires. A Lancer ES (with rear drum brakes) took 130 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph.
A rearview camera is now standard on all Lancers, except the ES. Rear parking sensors are sold as an accessory on all trim levels.
In government crash testing, the Lancer received four out of five stars for overall crashworthiness, along with four stars for frontal- and side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Lancer its top score of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer SE, GT and Ralliart trim levels get a standard touchscreen audio interface with a rearview camera. A revamped navigation system with a larger touchscreen is available in the GT and Ralliart. New wheels, upholstery and interior panels have also been added to certain trim levels, and the base DE trim has been dropped.