Test Drive: 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer SEL AWD
Entry Price: $17,795
Price as Tested: $24,430
This week, we’re reviewing the 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer, a compact sedan available in three trims of ES, SE and SEL. A low priced alternative, Mitsubishi is trying to re-capture its consumer popularity heyday when it was a major influence on patrons of all ages.
Specifically, there was a time when Mitsubishi had the sports car crowd in awe of its sporty Eclipse and GT300 VR4, as both models at one time appeared even in my family driveway thanks to my daughter’s Dodge Eagle Talon (similar to Eclipse and sold at Dodge dealers back then) to my brother’s awesome 3000GT VR4 dual turbo sports car.
Along the way, however, Mitsubishi lost its edge. Its car line dissolved to where today, a consumer has the choice of either an Outlander crossover or a Lancer or Mirage automobile. There’s also the electric I-MIEV sub compact, but I haven’t driven one although it does point to Mitsubishi experimenting with some really new models.
Additionally, the Lancer Evolution high-performance model is still available for 2017 starting at $34,495 … and I can attest after driving several of them they are worth every penny. Also there’s the new Outlander Hybrid out there, which will offer the best of both worlds when it comes to economy and SUV performance. So stay tuned and let’s hope that Mitsubishi regains some of its lost luster.
Back to the Lancer test drive.
If you don’t mind a bit more plastic in the interior or a lack of some popular optional items, you can park a brand new 2017 Lancer ES in your driveway at a retail of just $17,795. Now that’s retail mind you as we all know no one pays the retail price. Additionally, all Lancers now come standard with a safety rearview camera and a 6.1-inch center info screen as standard fare. Notable also is a good amount of rear seat room for taller adults, something that compact cars usually don’t offer. The tradeoff is cargo space, as the Lancer has less than its competitors.
The cabin is generally OK, but nothing to cheer about. Standard on every Lancer are daytime running lights, heated mirrors with turn signal notice, SiriusXM, four speaker stereo system, air conditioning, height-adjustable non-power driver seat, tilt steering wheel, all the powers, cruise, Bluetooth, USB, and more. Your dealer will go over all standard items.
Our tester arrived in top line SEL trim where 18-inch tires on nice alloys mate well to a sport-tuned front strut and rear link suspension to offer good handling. Also added to the standard list are upgrades like keyless ignition, heated front seats, automatic headlights, six-speaker sound system, automatic wipers, and leather interior trim. Most important is SEL’s standard all-wheel-drive, a drive mode select traction system that is electronically controlled and sure to impress when the weather turns nasty. The mid-level ES also lists AWD as a standard fare and starts at just $21,095.
Under the hood on the SEL and SE models is a standard 2.4-liter four cylinder that is responsive considering it is a normally aspirated fuel injected induction, unlike the Evolution which comes with a turbocharger. It boasts 168 horses and 167 lb. ft. of torque and hooks to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Lancer’s EPA fuel economy is decent but not great as 23 city and 30 highway are the numbers. The engine is also on the noisy side when asking for more power, but the optional Rockford Fosgate 710 watt nine-speaker stereo helps drown out the noise. The stereo is part of a $1,500 SEL Sun & Fun option, which also adds a nice power sunroof.
The base Lancer ES comes with a 2.0-liter four that delivers 148 horsepower and 145 lb. ft. of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission or an optional CVT. MPG moves up nicely to 27 city and 34 highway for the manual and 24 city and 33 highway with the CVT. Remember, this is a front drive Lancer, not an AWD. You can order the optional 2.4 engine on the ES if desired with the CVT transmission.
Most all safety features come standard, including all the airbags and traction controls to ABS four wheel disc brakes. Rear parking sensors are optional and some of the best optional safety aids just aren’t available yet on these Lancers (blindspot, emergency braking, etc.). That’s a major drawback in my book. The big plus is Mitsubishi Lancer’s low price and 10 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 103.7 inches, 3,142 lb. curb weight, 5.8-inch ground clearance, 14.5 gallon fuel tank, and 12.3 cu. ft. of cargo room. (Our tester had 11.8 thanks to a sub woofer in the trunk).
In summary, these Lancers (not the Evolution) are behind the times and need to undergo some really big enhancements to catch up with the competition. Still, and on the positive side, the price of a Lancer is low and offers a reliable car that boasts four and five star government crash safety ratings.
Likes: Low price, AWD standard on SE and SEL, good rear seat room .
Dislikes: Some safety items not available, outdated design needs major overhaul.
-- Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other GateHouse Media publications. He welcomes reader questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.