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2015 Mitsubishi Lancer: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader March 2015

There's a theme in our Mitsubishi reviews, and the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer drives it home: Getting older isn't always a bad thing.

Yes, Mitsubishi's lineup is aging, and we're being polite, but the company has made the best of it, adding features each year to keep its products fresh. The FUSE voice-recognition system is a great example, enabling hands-free operation of phones and portable media devices, while automatic climate control and a hard-drive-based navigation system add to the high-tech vibe.

Unfortunately, the Lancer's powertrains are behind the times. The best the Lancer can do on gas is 26 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, and that's with the ES model's unpleasant tandem of a 2.0-liter engine and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Step up to the more satisfying 2.4-liter engine and you're looking at 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy as a high. For a 4-cylinder economy car, that doesn't really cut it in this day and age.

Still, the stylish Lancer has plenty of character (the Ralliart trim even gets a turbocharged 237-horsepower engine), and it's more rewarding to drive than most compacts. If fuel economy isn't a huge priority, you'll find that the 2015 Lancer otherwise still has its finger on the pulse.

What's New for 2015?

The Sportback hatchback body style has been discontinued, but the Lancer receives standard heated mirrors across the lineup, and FUSE is now standard on all models except the base ES. Also, the Ralliart gets new standard features such as xenon headlights and Rockford Fosgate audio.

What We Like

Engaging handling (especially in GT and Ralliart); edgy styling; adult-friendly back seat; plenty of available technology

What We Don't

Unimpressive fuel economy; undesirable base 2.0-liter engine; unpleasant CVT; steering wheel doesn't telescope

How Much Is It?


Fuel Economy

The Lancer ES is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, while a continuously variable automatic is optional. Fuel economy is 26 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the CVT and 25 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with the manual.

The all-wheel-drive SE and the front-wheel-drive GT feature a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated at 168 hp and 167 lb-ft. Either the 5-speed manual or the CVT can be specified. Fuel economy for the SE is 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy. The GT checks in at 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with the CVT and 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy with the manual.

The Ralliart is treated to a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder that cranks out 237 hp and 253 lb-ft. A 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual is the only available transmission. Fuel economy is 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer is offered in ES, SE, GT and Ralliart trim levels.

The ES ($18,890) starts with the 2.0-liter engine, 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, power accessories, air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, a 4-speaker audio system with an auxiliary audio input and Bluetooth connectivity.

The SE ($21,490) adds the 2.4-liter engine, a standard CVT, all-wheel drive, 16-in alloy wheels, fog lights, a Thule roof-rack system, a color LCD trip computer, heated front seats, FUSE voice-command functionality, a 6-speaker audio system and a 6.1-in touchscreen display with HD Radio, satellite radio and a rearview camera.

Optional on SE is a Premium package that adds niceties such as upgraded interior trim, Rockford Fosgate audio and a sunroof.

The GT ($22,240) is front-wheel drive but upgrades to a sport-tuned suspension, 18-in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, keyless entry/start, sportier seats and upholstery, and automatic climate control.

Optional on the GT is a pricey Touring package that brings a less-prominent rear lip spoiler, xenon headlamps, a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, a navigation system with a 7-in touchscreen display and Rockford Fosgate audio.

The turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Ralliart ($30,305) boasts a dual-clutch automated manual transmission, summer performance tires, hood vents, an even sportier suspension tune and aluminum pedals. It also adds some items from the GT Touring package as standard, including the xenon headlights and Rockford Fosgate sound system.

Some of the higher trims' standard features are offered on lower trims as options.

The Lancer's back-seat comfort is an unequivocal plus, delivering near-midsize accommodations in a compact package. As for cargo space, the Lancer's trunk normally measures 12.3 cu ft., but the Ralliart drops to 10 cu ft., and the Rockford Fosgate stereo's subwoofer cuts those figures to 11.8 and 9.1 cu ft., respectively.


The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer comes with standard stability control, anti-lock brakes (with standard rear drums on the ES and discs on the other trims) and seven airbags (front, front-side, driver-knee, full-length side-curtain).

The Lancer received an overall score of four stars out of five in government crash-testing, including four stars each for frontal and side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Lancer its highest rating of Good in all tested categories except the small-overlap front test, where the Lancer was deemed Acceptable (second-highest rating).

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation, we found that the Lancer's standard front seats are, well, standard front seats. They're firm and reasonably supportive, but we much prefer the GT and Ralliart's more contoured sport seats. Either way, the tilt-only steering wheel could be a dealbreaker for drivers with long legs.

The Lancer's deeply hooded tachometer and speedometer are crisp and attractive, and they bookend a great-looking optional color LCD trip computer. Materials quality is not a Lancer strong point, however. Although the dashboard looks nice enough in a minimalist kind of way, the plastics used to construct it are uniformly hard and basic, and that extends to the door panels, too.

The base 2.0-liter engine's performance is adequate, but its noises are industrial, especially with the drone-producing CVT. We'd recommend stepping up to at least the 2.4-liter engine if you can, as it's a relatively refined and spirited motor that makes the Lancer much more satisfying. As for the Ralliart's turbocharged 4-cylinder, it puts the Lancer on level footing with the zesty Subaru WRX, and the dual-clutch transmission is a fine example of its breed, delivering shifts that are both quick and smooth.

The Lancer is rather tall for a compact car, and you notice that extra height in fast corners. Still, the Lancer is sportier than the norm, especially with the GT's sport-tuned suspension or the all-wheel-drive Ralliart's racy setup. In ordinary driving, the Lancer is quite civilized, with less road noise than some rival compacts.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Hyundai Elantra -- The Elantra isn't as sporty as the Lancer, but it has standard 4-wheel disc brakes, superior fuel economy and unique styling.

2015 Mazda3 -- Still the sports car of this class, the sleek Mazda3 sedan also offers great fuel economy without sacrificing driving enjoyment.

2015 Ford Focus -- With its European-inspired styling and performance, the Focus is great fun, and its high-quality interior materials are a nice bonus.

Used Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution -- Particularly if you're considering the Ralliart, it's worth keeping in mind that a used Evo, with its much higher performance capabilities, can be had at similar cost. Watch out for abusive previous owners, though; a prepurchase inspection by a qualified mechanic is a must.

Autotrader's Advice

The Lancer GT is an unusual proposition, offering sporty handling plus high technology in a reasonably priced compact car, and we're sold on it. Give it some consideration alongside other athletic compacts.

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2015 Mitsubishi Lancer: New Car Review - Autotrader