Appearance: The Ralliart is a five-door hatchback whose sleek styling is European-influenced and not unlike that of its more powerful brother, the Evo. The rear end slopes gently to the taillights with a rear wing spoiler perched high on the hatch. The gaping, sharklike grille dominates the front of the car and definitely is an acquired taste. Peter's wife dubbed it "the angry car." Functional scoops accent the hood.
Performance: The large, Sportronic paddle shifters are mounted on the steering column — thank you very much — so they don't turn with the steering wheel. The twin-clutch six-speed transmission shifts smoothly, but in the automatic mode we both felt it revved too high in the lower gears. And unlike front-wheel-drive sport compacts, there's no torque steer. The Ralliart's AWD and limited-slip differentials (front and rear) kept the car firmly planted on the pavement. The sports suspension is firm, but not uncomfortable. Lyra cruised up to Ocala and back without problem. The acceleration belies the car's 237 horsepower and there is almost no turbo lag.
Interior: Here's the potential deal-breaker, at least for Lyra. She thought the Recaro racing seats were, in a word, awful. There weren't enough adjustments to make it comfortable for a shorter driver. Elsewhere, the interior is a mix of plastics and faux carbon fiber, with easy-to-read sport gauges (white on black, with a sharp color screen in the middle) and a thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel. The hatch opens to a spacious cargo area, which has a flat opening, no lip to hoist your groceries over. We both thought this was a neat feature: The angles of the head lamps can be adjusted with a button. And the nine-speaker Premium Rockford-Fosgate sound system has a volume control that automatically adjusts according to car speed. We both like keyless start, but wondered why the car has a knob and not a start button. The navigation system works well, and the screen is easy to read. The Ralliart has all the creature comforts, like an AC with micron filter, auto climate control, rear-heater floor ducts, power door locks and windows, and Bluetooth phone system.
The bottom line: Great car (and transmission) for those who need utility without sacrificing on performance, especially in city driving. We wish the price was closer to 25K than 30K, though. Skip the Recaro seats if you're short.
Mitsubishi's all-new Lancer Sportback Ralliart is a car that seeks to straddle performance and practicality, which is a tough task for any carmaker — especially at a price for under $30,000. Mitsubishi already has a giant-killer with its much-lauded Evolution (a.k.a. Evo). So how does this "hot hatch" cousin succeed in its goal?
Our 3 favorites
Color: How could you not love a name like Rotor Glow? This burnt orange color is stunning, worth the extra $150.
Cargo access: Open, so it's easy to load and unload.
Easy on the eyes: Crisp and easy-to-read gauges and displays.
Transmission: Big paddles, and smooth shifts in manual mode.
Color: It's bold without being outlandish.
Acceleration: Not much off the line, but do you need to zip through traffic? Check.