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The 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart Was Mitsubishi’s Forgotten Sporty Wagon

The first-generation Mitsubishi Lancer, sold from 2002 to 2006, was always an also-ran in the highly competitive compact car market — even though the high-performance Evolution version was one of the most desirable performance cars on the market. But here’s something most people don’t know about the original Lancer: There was a sporty wagon version — and the Lancer Sportback Ralliart wagon may have been the best-looking wagon available at the time, even though it was nothing close to a sales success.

The Ralliart was one of two available trims for the Sportback wagon variant of the Lancer — the other was a base model — and it was certainly the more desirable of the two. The Sportback Ralliart came with 162 horsepower (a whole two horses more than the base version!), along with a stiffer suspension that lowered the car a couple of inches and improved handling. Mitsubishi also equipped the Sportback Ralliart with some bucket seats to keep your butt firmly planted with all of that extra handling prowess.

Maybe most importantly, Mitsubishi also made it look awesome. The Sportback Ralliart had a really boxy shape that gave it a lot of space for people and things, and it boasted unique, tall taillights that extended from the rear bumper to the roof. The Sportback Ralliart looked like nothing else on the road at the time — and it could even be had in colors like bright yellow-green.

Unfortunately, Mitsubishi completely dropped the bomb elsewhere. Their sporty wagon that was made to appeal to enthusiasts and was given an Achilles heel that made it almost entirely undesirable: a miserable 4-speed automatic transmission that wanted to be efficient above all else. While the regular Lancer Ralliart could be had with a 5-speed manual, no wagon variants had that option.

In the end, the Lancer Sportback and its Ralliart trim were only available in the US for a single year — 2004 — and only a few hundred units were sold before cancellation. Admittedly, Mitsubishi brought back the "Sportback" Lancer for the second-generation — and while it was a much-improved car, it was a hatchback rather than a true wagon.

As for the original Sportback, I’m not sure I would have known it had existed if not for a former neighbor of mine who had one — so keep your eyes peeled for a Lancer wagon. Believe it or not, there are currently four for sale across the country on Autotrader, with an average price of $3,672. Chances are the Lancer Sportback Ralliart is probably one of the cheapest — yet rarest — cars you may ever encounter. Find a Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback for sale

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I owned one for almost seven years.  Loved it and miss it sorely.  I got my compliments and questions on that car than just about anything else (some thought it was a Volvo, others wanted to know if it was a “true” Ralliart).  The only huge letdown was the same one you’ve already mentioned…the automatic trans.  If that car had have come with a manual, I’d likely still have it today.  It carried as much stuff as many of the CUVs, handled much better, sounded great and I loved the upgraded interior from the stock Sportback.  It was *just right* as far as size goes, and I bought it for cheap back in 2009, because it sat forlornly on a dealer’s lot alongside pickup trucks and SUVs, and of course nobody wants a small wagon anymore. 

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