Aggressive styling cues along with available all-wheel drive and a lively driving personality made the current-generation Mitsubishi Lancer a standout when it was first introduced. That was nearly a decade ago, though, and the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer is up against a segment of more recently introduced compact cars that are far more capable and desirable.
Objectively, the 2015 Lancer is still a competent compact car, but apart from its available all-wheel-drive system, there is little that makes it positively stand apart from its rivals. Fuel economy is merely average for the segment. That same story of mediocrity continues on the interior, where quality and design are decidedly basic.
The Lancer used to be a leader when it came to providing an exciting driving experience, but it has been surpassed there, too. The power-sapping continuously variable transmission (CVT) dulls driving enjoyment, especially when paired with the noisy, base 2.0-liter engine. If you opt for the manual transmission, things are a bit nicer but fuel economy is easily beaten by other sedans. If you upgrade to the performance version of the Lancer, the Ralliart, things are much more entertaining and lively, but the experience still falls short of sporty compact cars like the Ford Focus ST, Subaru WRX and Volkswagen GTI.
Compact economy sedans have become much more plush and refined over the last few years. The 2015 Mazda 3 is one of our favorites thanks to its fuel-efficient engines, upscale interior and precise handling. For a comfortable commuting experience in a well-rounded sedan, we recommend checking out the popular 2015 Honda Civic. The 2015 Kia Forte and 2015 Ford Focus are also excellent options with modern, high-quality interiors. The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer may be acceptable, but up against so many strong competitors, we recommend looking elsewhere when shopping for a compact sedan.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer is a small sedan available in four trim levels: ES, SE, GT and Ralliart. The high-performance Lancer Evolution is reviewed separately.
The base ES comes with 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, 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, a trip computer and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and RCA-style audio jacks.
Available on CVT-equipped ES sedans only is the Value package, which adds 16-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes (instead of drums), the Fuse voice-activated electronics interface (includes Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity), padded door panel inserts, chrome interior trim, upgraded gauges and a USB audio port in place of the standard RCA jacks. The Deluxe package adds the same equipment as the Value package, plus a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-speaker sound system and satellite radio.
The SE trim level is a little less plebian; it gets the ES' standard equipment plus the Value package items, a more powerful engine, all-wheel drive, different 16-inch alloy wheels, different styling elements, foglights, heated front seats and a 6.1-inch touchscreen audio interface with a rearview camera and HD radio. The Premium package adds a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The GT lacks the SE's standard all-wheel drive and heated front seats, but otherwise comes with the same equipment along with 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a different front fascia, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control, sport front seats (with extra side bolstering), upgraded upholstery and the leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The Sun and Sound package adds xenon headlights, a sunroof and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system. The Touring package gets the same equipment, plus automatic headlights, automatic wipers, a subtle rear lip spoiler, heated front seats, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a navigation system.
The all-wheel-drive Ralliart ups the performance ante with a turbocharged engine paired with an automated manual transmission (with shift paddles), a limited-slip differential, hill start assist, dual exhaust outlets, additional sport exterior treatments, a sport-tuned suspension, a sport steering wheel, unique upholstery and aluminum pedals. Standard equipment is mostly the same as on the GT with the addition of the Rockford Fosgate stereo, automatic xenon headlights, automatic wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The GT Touring package's navigation system is optional on all Lancers. For those who want the look of the GT or Ralliart without the expense, an appearance package for the ES adds a front airdam, rear wing and chrome-finished exhaust outlet.
The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer has some interesting styling cues on the exterior, but 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 cheap 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. Cargo space isn't as generous at 12.3 cubic feet and actually drops to 11.8 cubic feet with the optional Rockford Fosgate stereo (due to the addition of a subwoofer) and down further to a rather pathetic 9.1 in the Rockford Fosgate-equipped Ralliart.
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 touchscreen interface standard on all but the base ES has easily legible commands, but graphics quality falls behind most competitors.
The 2015 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, which is about average for the segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy with the 2.0-liter engine stands at 29 mpg combined (26 city/34 highway) with the CVT, and 28 mpg combined (25/34) with the five-speed manual.
The Lancer SE and GT are powered by 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. The front-wheel-drive 2.4-liter gets an EPA estimated 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway with the CVT and 22/31 with the manual), while the all-wheel-drive SE model comes in at 25 mpg combined (22/29).
The Ralliart features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that puts 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. During Edmunds testing, the Ralliart went from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, which makes it one of the quickest sport compact cars. Unfortunately, it has notably worse fuel efficiency at 20 mpg combined (18/25).
The base 2.0-liter engine in the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer will likely be powerful enough for most daily commutes, but 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 better handling is worth a less serene cabin environment.
The 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 2015 Mitsubishi Lancers include front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Stability control, traction control and antilock brakes 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 Value package.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Lancer ES (with rear drum brakes) took 130 feet to come to a stop from 60 mph. That's longer than average for compact sedans. The higher-performance Lancer Ralliart came to a stop from 60 mph in 127 feet, which is even more disappointing given the car's sporting intentions. In our experience, the issue here is not a lack of braking power, but rather the unusually low grip from the car's high-performance summer tires.
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. In the small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Lancer earned the second highest "Acceptable" rating. Its seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Aside from some minor trim level changes, the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer carries over unchanged.