When Mitsubishi launched the 8th generation Lancer in 2008, many of us were excited. The stunningly aggressive looks, the performance-oriented engines, the sharp handling, the overall excitement it brought to what was becoming to be a rather boring class of car.
The Lancer EX, however, didn't make as much of an impact on the sales charts as we expected, owed perhaps to the relatively high price points as well as the perception of thirst for 2.0 liter engines.
Maybe this new Mitsubishi Lancer EX with the new 1.6 engine can do the trick.
Style-wise, not much has changed. The Lancer EX 1.6 still has the same overall look as the versions we got to drive before. It still has the sharp, fighter-inspired design up front, the same side profile and other bits. Mitsubishi has omitted the aggressive kit and details though, like the front splitters, the blacked-out grille, the spoiler, and the large 18 inch wheels with Advan A10 tires. Some may find it a little plain looking after getting used to the look of the original, but I just think of it as a blank canvas for tuners to do with as they please.
Inside, not much has changed, apart from the details like the trim colors (no more silver plastic trim) as well as the choice of fabrics. The steering wheel, previously wrapped in leather, is now an all urethane affair, though many of the power features remain like the windows, locks and mirrors. The Rockford Fosgate audio system that we liked in the Lancer EX GT-A has also been replaced, though this time with a more functional DVD system with iPod compatibility. The particular example is the GLX, meaning that the DVD entertainment system doesn't get navigation functions, though the MX versions do.
The big difference, however, lies at the heart of the Lancer as engineers transplanted a smaller 1.6 liter MIVEC engine in favor of the 2.0 liter MIVEC in the GT-A (as well as the now discontinued GT) variants. The new 1.6 motor produces a decent 117 PS at 6000 rpm as well as 154 Newton meters of torque, and is matched with either a 4-speed automatic or -in this case- a 5-speed manual.
Driving it around town, it sure feels light. In fact, I'd say it didn't lose much in terms of perceived acceleration. Of course the 2.0L engine has a long leg up on the 1.6, as it does have 38 PS more, but overall, the lightness of the car -especially the slimmer wheels and tires- do well to complement the 1.6 engine's capabilities. The 5-speed manual is good but a little notchy, while the 4-speed auto models we drove before seemed pretty good and smooth.
Fuel economy has definitely improved, especially in the city as I was getting (full tank to full talk, moderate traffic runabout, no passengers) 9.9 kilometers to the liter. On the highway it's pretty good too, though the ratios seem to be a bit short overall. I found that the best economy was yielded on an 80 km/h cruise (as opposed to the usual 100 km/h) at 14.9 km/l.
The engine isn't the only difference, as the handling has changed quite a bit. Toss it into a corner and the Lancer EX 1.6 GLX has noticeably (but not too much) more body roll than the GT-A. This is attributed to the softer suspension and the higher profile tires. Of course, the inverse is true: with the handling compromised, ride comfort receives a marked improvement.
The Lancer EX 1.6 GLX variants are what many customers have been looking for; a practical, more affordable, more efficient and more comfortable version of the venerable Lancer EX. Could it be too late for the EX to join the 1600cc bandwagon, especially since much newer models are out in the market?
I guess we'll find out, but with a price point that starts at just PhP 825,000 up to PhP 930,000, it really is quite a good deal, and signal's Mitsubishi's renewed challenge in the compact family car segment.