Strengths and weaknesses:
- exterior design
- selectable AWD
- dated interior
- no manual shifter available
- awkward rear seat fold-down release
- rear seats don’t fold flat.
Lancer evolves without reaching Evolution status
"I still like the aggressive, shark-inspired front end, but it’s hard to tell what year of Lancer I’m looking at."
I’ve always liked the Mitsubishi Lancer, but I’m disappointed to find there’s not much new about the 2012 version, other than the addition of an all-wheel drive version of the SE.
Otherwise, the company is standing pat in terms of exterior and interior design and equipment.
The AWC initials stand for all-wheel-control and bringing the system into the mix is a good move, especially with a price beginning at just a hair over $23,000. But whether it’s enough to keep up to its only real competitor, Subaru’s Impreza, is a question.
I still like the aggressive, shark-inspired front end, but it’s hard to tell what year of Lancer I’m looking at and that’s got to be a deal-breaker for some buyers, especially if they’re moving from an older Lancer.
Not to say this is not a good car. But it is getting old.
Getting into the test vehicle is like greeting an old friend. It’s familiar; it’s comfortable – and likeable, although the interior plastics look a bit cheap.
The AWC model gets standard Bluetooth that hooks up to my iPhone nearly instantly.
But it takes a while to find the USB connection for the audio system. It’s hidden in the glove compartment.
All the dials, gauges and switches are where they’ve been since 2008 - easy to read, easy to reach; totally familiar and (unlike most of today’s vehicles) the Lancer keeps things simple with relatively few knobs and switches. Comfortable but dated.
The seats are supportive and, in this model, come with standard heat. The view from the driver’s seat is hampered somewhat by the lower section of the large A-pillar; otherwise, prudent mirror adjustment gives a clear look at my surroundings.
Under the hood is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine rated at 168 horsepower (this is the only model to have it). It’s a willing propellant for the Lancer, but its fun factor is hampered by a noisy continuously variable transmission – the only shifter available. Although the combination does deliver a nice punch off the line, I find myself longing for the five-speed manual found in other Lancer models.
The CVT does have “sport shift” points that help a little and there are paddle shifters which are attached to the steering column rather than the multi-function steering wheel.
For the driver, steering response is crisp and predictable and I like the AWC switch on the console which allows selection of all-wheel drive or front wheel drive.
Lancer’s suspension delivers a calm, controlled, easy ride even on rough roads, but it tends to lean a bit when pushed in the corners. Then again this is not a Ralliart or EVO so absolute stiffness is not the goal. The family is pleased with the ride and that’s good enough for me.
There’s plenty of head and leg room for four people and the cabin remains relatively quiet on the highway save for a bit of wind and road noise.
The trunk can contain 348 litres of cargo that expands greatly by folding the 60/40 split rear seatback. Unfortunately the seat does not fold flat and the release mechanism is awkwardly located on the inboard side of the headrests.
When all is said and done, Lancer may be getting a bit long in the tooth, but it’s still an able performer and handles with the best of them. And it has a nice starting price, although options and accessories can add up quickly if you simply must have more than the more-than-adequate standard equipment.
Lancer is wearing its age well. It still looks good, but four years without a change might be a bit long.
2012 Mitsubishi Lancer
Trim level: SE AWC
Price as tested (before taxes): $23,098
Options on test vehicle: none
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 2.4L 4-cyl./ CVT with sequential shift
Horsepower/torque: 168 hp/ 167 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (55L)
Fuel economy ratings: 8.7 L/100km city; 6.8 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 9.4 L/100km over 428km
Warranties: 5 years/ 100,000 km (basic); 10 years/ 160,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Cruze; Mazda3; Subaru Impreza