No, the 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer SE sedan is not the fun-to-drive Ralliart we've driven in the past, or the uber-sporty Evolution. This compact sedan is more pedestrian than performance, but the rally background helps.
Appearance: Not too much has changed in the past couple of years. Our tester was the middle of the Lancer sedan lineup, which includes roof-rack mounts for a Thule system and 16-inch, five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels. Mitsubishi's most striking design feature is its shark's mouth grille. (Peter's wife calls them "angry cars.") The grille is a bit more subdued in the SE, with the body-color bumper strip that bisects it and softens the look. Still, the grille and the sharply slanted headlights — now slightly bigger — give the Lancer an aggressive look. The sloped hood gives good visibility.
Performance: The SE gets a more powerful engine than the base trim, with a 168-horsepower 2.4-liter I-4. Its 168 horsepower provides good acceleration and doesn't feel underpowered in highway driving. The SE has a standard CVT transmission and all-wheel drive. We're not big fans of the often buzzy-sounding CVTs, but this one isn't too loud under acceleration. We liked the all-wheel-drive mode selector. Instead of being constant, there's a switch to select two- or four-wheel drive (2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock). This is a feature that we haven't seen in this segment and liked having it during recent downpours. We also think that Mitsubishi's rally heritage has influenced the Lancer's nimble steering. Fuel efficiency is not as good as we'd expect from this segment: 22 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway.
Interior: The SE trim is certainly a step up from the base with features like heated seats, antitheft alarm system, heated side mirrors and keyless entry, but in terms of materials, it still feels like a budget car. Especially noticeable: A lot of road noise intrudes on the interior. Our tester also had the premium package, which adds a power sunroof, premium Rockford Fosgate sound system with Sirius radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Oh, and it adds $1,550 to the sticker price. The cloth seats are comfortable, with decent support. Dislikes: The center console is plasticky, with the climate-control dials set too low in front of shifter, and stereo tuner controls look simple but are overly confusing.
Our 3 favorites
AWD: Adds more stability and control.
Style: Especially in the upper trims, the Lancer is a sharp compact.
Sound: Like it loud? There's an available Rockford Fosgate Premium Audio system.
AWD with mode selector: 2WD or 4WD? Nice to have a choice.
Upgraded door trim: The front doors have some soft-touch trims.
Lights: Sharply angled with a menacing glare.
The bottom line: The Mitsubishi Lancer is a good compact sedan in a market full of very good compact sedans that offer better fuel efficiency, more refined interiors and other features.