The Mitsubishi Lancer.
The Mitsubishi Lancer.

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer road test: Veteran holding firm

YOU couldn't confuse the Lancer ES for fussy and frilly. In fact it plainly favours the necessities over luxuries, hoping to wow instead with space on hand and an affordable price. It certainly attracts the interest, even if it is just briefly, and while it delivers in most respects some areas are decidedly better than others.

There are some good deals around at the moment on the Lancer, with this model we sampled retailing for $22,240 - but we have seen great drive-away deals for less than $22K for the automatic.

Despite the advantages of its what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach, the Lancer, now in its seventh year, is looking a bit tired.

Comfort

The interior of the ES is light and airy with plenty of room to stretch out. The look is dated though, with plenty of hard plastics and very little texture, although there is a certain practicality in layout and design. Instrument dials and buttons are placed well, while consideration has been given to the angle of the dash and stereo screen.

There is room for water bottles, phones and the other odds and ends we travel with these days.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels solid to the touch but with limited steering adjustment it takes work to find the best driving position.

While the front seats are supportive and comfortable, those in the back have to make do with a pew that is much flatter.

However, both leg and headroom in the second row is generous, among the best in this small-medium class, as is the boot, which can happily deal with luggage and the groceries as is your want.

On the road

The Lancer ES is powered by a 2.0-litre MiVEC four-cylinder engine paired either to a five-speed manual or a continually variable transmission. Our auto test car was easy to drive, handling well around inner city trickeries and during longer trips on the highway.

The CVT marches along well, provided of course you are accustomed to the steady drone when it holds a gear too long when descending or ascending a hill.

Steering is responsive and it holds its line through a corner but the suspension is a bit on the hard side and you are likely to feel the bumps more often than not.

The ES lacks a bit of power in the low ranges and it had to be persuaded along until it builds up speed. It feels a bit lacklustre, even with just two people in the car, a far cry indeed from its racing roots.

What do you get?

The base model, as you would expect, is presented with few luxury inclusions but does feature cruise and climate control, Bluetooth hands free and audio streaming, rain-sensing wipers, steering wheel controls and central locking.

You can have reverse camera and rear sensors fitted at an additional cost. Safety is five-star with seven airbags, anti-lock brakes with EBD and brake assist, stability and traction control and hill start assist in the CVT.

Other options

There is little room in this segment to move with primary competition coming from the Mazda3 (from $20,490), Hyundai Elantra (from $20,990), Nissan Pulsar (from $19,990) and the Holden Cruze (from $19,490).

Practicality

Meeting the market price and surprising spaciousness helps put the Lancer on the radar of couples or small families interested mainly in getting from A to B.

Our entry-level ES lacked some of the niceties we have come to expect from a new car but of course the option is there to add them on or opt for another model in the range.

We did not have a reverse camera or sensors, but good rear vision and a good turning circle meant those features were rarely missed.

Running costs

Official figures put the ES at 7.2litres/100km. Our test week - a combination of highway driving and shorter trips around town - saw usage closer to a litre more. Mitsubishi offers a five year/130,000km warranty with one-year road-side assist, as well as a four-year capped price servicing program.

Service intervals are 15,000km or 12 months.

Funky factor

The Lancer is a standout in a sea of sameness, turning its trademark nose and grille up to the competition. Edges are sharp, lines are simple and the shape distinct, with a rear spoiler and lights adding interest.

The lowdown

Lancer sales have started to slip in the past year as competitors put forward increasingly modern-looking vehicles that boast all the latest technology.

It is hard to compete with a model that is close to a decade old despite the nips and tucks intended to rejuvenate it.

The bones of the Lancer are solid so it stands to reason that a completely new model would give Mitsubishi the boost it is looking for.

But watch for an exterior refresh in the very near future, we have heard whispers Mitsubishi will adopt a more sporting appearance across the range.

What matters most

What we liked: Roomy interior, easy handling.

What we'd like to see: More power, less on-road noise, updated interior.

Warranty and servicing: Mitsubishi offers a five year/130,000km warranty with fixed-price servicing of $250 for each visit to the dealer for up to four years. Service intervals are at 15,000km or annually.

Vital statistics

Model: Mitsubishi Lancer ES.

Details: Five-door front-wheel drive small sedan.

Transmission: Five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic (as tested).

Engine: 2.0-litre MiVEC four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 110kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 197Nm @ 4200rpm.

Consumption: 7.2litres/100km (man 6.9l/100km).

CO2: 169g/km.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $22,240 (manual at $19,990).

Inside the Mitsubishi Lancer.
Inside the Mitsubishi Lancer.

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