The Lancer has long been a mainstay in Mitsubishi's dwindling U.S. lineup, from its no-frills economy model to the coveted high-performance Evolution. Even with more than five years in its current body style, the 2014 Lancer remains one of the more attractive compact sedans on the road. We drove the GT, which slots just below the frisky Ralliart in the Lancer's five-trim lineup. (The Evo is a separate beast.)
Appearance: At a time when its compact competitors all appear to be undergoing redesigns, the Lancer may come off as a bit dated to some, but it's still a good-looking sedan. The Lancer sports the company's trapezoidal grille, which gives it an aggressive appearance. Sheet-metal creases in the hood and body panels, along with slender halogen headlights and eight-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, complement this athletic look. The most dominant feature in the GT trim is a large rear wing that doesn't scream "performance" so much as "exaggerate."
Performance: The Lancer's 2.4-liter MIVEC 4-cylinder puts out 168 horsepower that makes for peppy acceleration, which is no doubt helped by the car's light weight (just over 3,000 pounds). Unfortunately, our tester was hamstrung by an optional continuously variable transmission, which contributes to cabin noise and anemic shifting. One detail we appreciate: large metallic paddle shifters that are mounted on the steering column. We wish more automakers — even some high-end ones — would follow this example. Still, we would go with the standard five-speed manual gearbox. The front-wheel-drive GT gets a sport-tuned suspension system that makes for taut cornering and a gripped, but not uncomfortable, ride. (If you want all-wheel drive, you'll have to opt for the SE or Ralliart trims.) The estimated MPG of 23/30 for the CVT falls short of some competitors.
Interior: The Lancer could benefit from more sound insulation as both road noise and the sound of the revvy CVT intrude on the cabin. Our tester's interior (lots of plastic) was black with faux metallic and gloss-black trim and on the drab side. Still, the Sport fabric seats were comfortable and supportive. The GT trim does come with some impressive (and welcome) standard features: auto-off headlights, LCD multi-information display, automatic AC control, rearview camera and keyless entry and start. The Lancer also has Mitsubishi's FUSE hands-free link System with USB port. The dash is anchored by a 6.1-inch touchscreen.
Our 3 favorites
Steering wheel: Thick and leather-wrapped.
Sound: The 140-watt system has six speakers and is satellite-radio ready.
Price: A base Lancer with a manual transmission starts at $17,195.
Camera: Rearview camera is a standard feature.
Trunk: 12.3 cubic feet of space. Not bad for a small sedan.
Controls: Simple, especially those AC dials.
The bottom line: The Mitsubishi Lancer GT, especially with a manual transmission, can add a little flair to your daily commute. Still, if you seek performance to match its sporty look, we'd opt for the Ralliart.