Mitsubishi’s current Lancer is a bit old by market standards, heading towards six years on Australian roads. It’s been kept reasonably fresh with an update here and there and a recent reshuffle of the range has the LX replacing the VR. Mechanically, there’s no difference; A Wheel Thing had the company of a black 5 speed manual Sportback, powered by the 2.0L MIVEC engine. That’s 197 Nm on tap at 4200 rpm with maximum kilowatts of 110 at 6000 rpm with a brutal, disconcerting, redline cutout if you try to go stratospheric. The real delight of this combination is how the slick, notchy, short throw gear lever matches with the light clutch and peaky power band to rocket the car to freeway speed. It was interesting to note the extra pull when the MIVEC system kicked in, giving this 4.5 metre long, 1400 kg (with driver) car a real shove between the shoulder blades from around 3000 revs.
The gearbox is, largely, a huge delight to play with; largely as it didn’t like too much of a hustle between gears and sometimes Reverse was, well, somewhere to be found. As mentioned, a short throw makes shifting fun, and a solid, notchy feel gives great feedback to the driver. The clutch is light enough to not test the knee, naturally, with a relatively low output four cylinder. It’s a smooth, fairly progressive pickup with the actual point of take being late in the clutch pedal upswing.
Lancer has always had a sparse but functional dash since its release in 2007 and that hasn’t changed in the LX, bar the addition of the touchscreen for radio noise and car direction. It’s a relatively clean looking unit, featuring two buttons (CD eject, menu) and a dial (volume, power) located high in the centre dash position. A gloss screen is rarely hard to read and the interface is mostly user friendly. The sound quality in the LX is good enough for most driving situations however the lack of sound deadening is, again, a chink in the armour. The console and dash themselves are functional enough, with HVAC (heating, venting air conditioning) controls set within three efficient dials, just under the Warning and passenger airbag buttons. The dash itself is easy to read, simple, cleanly laid out with basic controls, as always, on the tiller, including the now almost mandatory Bluetooth.
The workspace is, as expected, comfortable without being over the top; easy to adjust leather seats, roomy enough for a small-mid sized car, handbrake was on the left hand side of the centre console…hmmmmmm…..not sure about that. It did necessitate a reach across just that little further. The Sportback also featured levers, ala Outlander (unsurprisingly), to tumble fold the rear seats forward. Nifty. Plenty of room either way with seats up or down too.
Drivewise, the LX seems to go for a softer, less sporty feel than the VRX, with the damping a bounce once, absorb, return to starting position setup. The tyres were the basic rubber from Bridgestone, offering a modicum of grip and being of a higher profile on the alloys (16 inch, 205/60 profile) added to the slightly spongy rebound and slightly noticeable, yet controllable, roll of the body. Freeway driving was pleasant enough, tracking straight and true with minimal steering adjustment for the Macpherson strut front end whilst Sydney’s goat tracks didn’t trouble the dampers too much.
Overall the Lancer LX is unsurprising, cozy enough, drives well enough and is good enough for the market it attracts, but does nothing outstanding either. A shame, in one respect, because it needs a little more to stand out from the crowd and against stiff opposition such as Hyundai’s brilliant i30, especially the cracker diesel (not seen in Lancer, why??) it’s fighting a battle on too many fronts to win the one it needs: the heart and minds of the consumer. With Outlander’s recent facelift pointing the way, could this be the shot in the arm Lancer needs?
Go here for more details: http://www.mitsubishi-motors.com.au/vehicles/lancer/specifications