Jude Morte / Ramon Sy, Jude Morte | July 15, 2009 00:00
Purpose drivenFor some time, the Mitsubishi Lancer was considered as a mere option to such compact car benchmarks as the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. But when the 10th generation Lancer was introduced last year, pundits and the public (that were lucky enough to purchase a unit) deemed that the current iteration was built with a single purpose - to dethrone the aforementioned competition. Can it do the job?
In terms of performance, the Lancer DEFINITELY was built to run. Even at 3,250 rpm there's noticeable torque, and the MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing Electronic Control) wakes up at roughly 4,000 rpm to deliver power until 6,000 rpm. Clutch pedal feel is generally light overall, but there's a bit of pedal resistance, especially when making the unit move from rest. The short throw shifter is a big plus; every throw is smooth and positive (including reverse). However, the tall gearing forces you to upshift at 3,750 rpm onwards so you're not out of the powerband. No doubt, the range topping Lancer GT-A's CVT(with paddle shifters and third-geneneration Intelligent Innovative Vehicle Electronic Control System or INVECS-III) is much better in terms of response and steps between ratios, but those looking for an m/t Lancer EX will be no doubt pleased with this version. The results speak for themselves - a 230 kph top speed (ECU-governed) and a 9.12-second 0-100 kph time. Oh, and it can go 8.73 kilometers on a single liter of pump gas.
The Lancer embraces the twisties with a peppy, alert personality. Traction breaks at 105-107 kph, with an understeer bias from entry to exit. However, it's stable, never nervous or skittish. Cornering speeds could be higher, but the unit's mileage (10,000 kilometers) made the Yokohama Advan A10 215/45R18s somewhat worn out and forced this writer to take it easy on corner entry speeds. The ride is surprisingly comfortable despite an 18-inch rim/tire combo, absorbing even nasty road irregularities on the EDSA southbound-Shaw underpass with an ability rivaling its larger Galant sibling. Steering feels heavy at low speeds, but it's not as heavy as current BMW units in the same situation. By 60 kph onwards steering feel is light, but feedback isn't reduced - just a degree or two of input and the car follows.
Much like its competition, the Lancer doesn't compromise on safety. Mitsubishi realized that its present compact car progeny is a potential weapon for speed, and equipped the Lancer with a bevy of active and passive safety features to help the fellow behind the wheel immensely. Despite the aforementioned high kilometer readout there was little to moderate fade on the middle pedal (and the ABS wakes up when you need it). Exterior lighting is bright, the foglamps can substitute for the headlights anytime, and the side mirrors have lateral vision up to two lanes on either side.
When you first see the Lancer, you know that it was meant to stomp the competition. Or smoke ‘em on looks alone. A homage to the 1999-2004 "shark nose" Galant is what comes to mind upon first sight, and with the rear spoiler and low ground clearance it looks more like a weapon of speed than a passenger car. No doubt the link to the Lancer Evolution X is present, and in fact some passers-by thought that the P 1.15 million Lancer EX GT lent for this test drive was an Evo X in sleeper garb. One question - what's with the taillight design? To this writer the taillights are reminiscent of the Mazda 3's rear lamps.
The interior's ergonomics and layout convey a more driver-centric ambience, instead of trying to appease all occupants. The faux carbon fiber beltline, generous amounts of aluminum trim (including the pedals), a leather-wrapped short shifter, a sporty three spoke steering wheel and a gauge cluster with deep set rev and speed counters (plus a large multi-info screen between the said counters) accentuate the "tuner" look favored by the boy racer crowd. All windows have power assist, but driver's window only automates the down function. The door locks also have power assist, but operating them is similar to the current Mazda 3 (pull on the driver's door lock tab to unlock all doors, push on the said tab to lock the doors) and there's no visible door unlock indicator since the locks are painted blacks. The radio has decent sound and frequency locking, but only has six FM and six AM presets. It would be nice, though, if this Lancer variant had the Rockford Fosgate subwoofer/amplifier in-car entertainment found in the top-line Lancer EX GT-A.
Just because the Lancer is a speedster doesn't mean that it can't swallow people and cargo. The cabin is good for four but seriously tight for five. With two six footers in front, there's half a fist left of rear kneeroom. Legroom in the aforementioned situation is okay, probably 2.5 inches of space left between the front backrests and rear occupants' legs. The cupholders can swallow a little bottle of water, and the center console can handle two paperback books stacked upright and two Canon EOS 50mm lenses. The trunk can handle a golf bag and four to five duffel bags.
Performance to back up its racer looks, competitive pricing and a cabin that accentuates the purpose of spirited driving make the Lancer a reasonably rewarding car on all sorts of tarmac.