No, the 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer SE sedan is not the fun-to-drive Ralliart we've driven in the past, or the uber-sporty Evolution. This compact sedan is more pedestrian than performance, but the rally background helps.
Appearance: Not too much has changed in the past couple of years. Our tester was the middle of the Lancer sedan lineup, which includes roof-rack mounts for a Thule system and 16-inch, five-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels. Mitsubishi's most striking design feature is its shark's mouth grille. (Peter's wife calls them ''angry cars.'') The grille is a bit more subdued in the SE, with the body-color bumper strip that bisects it and softens the look. Still, the grille and the sharply slanted headlights — now slightly bigger — give the Lancer an aggressive look. The sloped hood gives good visibility.
2013 Mitsubishi Lancer SE sedan
- Price: $15,995
- Powertrain: 2.4-liter MIVEC inline 4, Continuously Variable Transmission, All-Wheel Control with mode selector
- Horsepower: 168 at 6,000 rpm
- Torque: 167 pound-feet at 4,100 rpm
- Curb weight: 3,120 pounds
- Cargo space: 11.8 cubic feet
- Seats: 5
- Fuel economy: 22 miles per gallon city, 29 mpg highway
- Safety features: advanced front dual airbags, side airbags and curtains, knee airbag, front crumple zones, active stability control, traction control, ABS.
Performance: The SE gets a more powerful engine than the base trim, with a 168-horsepower 2.4-liter I-4. Its 168 horsepower provides good acceleration and doesn't feel underpowered in highway driving. The SE has a standard CVT transmission and all-wheel drive. We're not big fans of the often buzzy-sounding CVTs, but this one isn't too loud under acceleration. We liked the all-wheel-drive mode selector. Instead of being constant, there's a switch to select two- or four-wheel drive (2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock). This is a feature that we haven't seen in this segment and liked having it during a downpour. We also think that Mitsubishi's rally heritage has influenced the Lancer's nimble steering. Fuel efficiency is not as good as we'd expect from this segment: 22 miles per gallon in the city and 29 on the highway.
Interior: The SE trim is certainly a step up from the base with features like heated seats, antitheft alarm system, heated side mirrors and keyless entry, but in terms of materials, it still feels like a budget car. Especially noticeable: A lot of road noise intrudes on the interior. Our tester also had the premium package, which adds a power sunroof, premium Rockford Fosgate sound system with Sirius radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Oh, and it adds $1,550 to the sticker price. The cloth seats are comfortable, with decent support. Dislikes: The center console is plasticky, with the climate-control dials set too low in front of shifter, and stereo tuner controls look simple but are overly confusing.
The bottom line: The Mitsubishi Lancer is a good compact sedan in a market full of very good compact sedans that offer better fuel efficiency, more refined interiors and other features.