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2016 Mitsubishi Lancer: New Car Review

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Used 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer AWD Sedan
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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader June 2016

The 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer is among a small group of compact sedans that come with a little fun built in. The trouble is, that's one of the few real positives. Despite Mitsubishi trying to keep the Lancer fresh by occasionally adding new features, such as the Fuse voice-recognition system and hands-free mobile-device operation, as well as offering all-wheel drive, it's obvious that the company hasn't made the same kind of meaningful investment we see in rival models.

That said, the Lancer still looks sharp and has a lot of passenger space for the class, and there are some additional updates for this model year.

What's New for 2016?

Mitsubishi has released a new SEL trim for this model year, although they've ditched the entertaining Ralliart version. The basic trim receives alloy wheels as standard and now becomes eligible for the larger engine and all-wheel drive. The front end's styling gets a tweak to accommodate LED running lights, and the center console has also been updated to house a USB port.

The whole Lancer range has disc brakes for each wheel (the rears used to have drum brakes), along with automatic climate control and a voice-activated infotainment system. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has also been revised.

What We Like

Engaging handling (especially in the GT); 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 adjust for reach

How Much?

$18,430-$23,330

Fuel Economy

The front-wheel-drive Lancer ES comes standard with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission is a 5-speed manual, returning Environmental Protection Agency estimates of 24 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. A CVT is optional and brings fuel economy figures to 27 mpg city/35 mpg hwy.

Both the SE and SEL have all-wheel drive and the CVT as standard, along with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. When the lower ES level is specified with this larger engine, it also receives the all-wheel drive/CVT combination. Fuel consumption here is 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

It's back to front-wheel drive and a standard-issue 5-speed manual in the GT model, but this time with the 2.4-liter engine. In this configuration, fuel consumption is 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy. With the optional CVT (which also comes with shift paddles and simulated gears), we're looking at 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer comes in ES, SE, SEL and GT trim levels.

The ES ($18,430) starts with the 2.0-liter engine, LED running lights, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, power accessories, keyless entry, automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, a color driver-information display, cruise control and a 4-speaker audio system with Fuse voice control, a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity.

The SE ($21,830) adds push-button ignition, heated front seats, a rearview camera, a 6-speaker audio system and a 6.1-in touchscreen display with satellite radio and HD Radio.

The SEL ($22,830) brings an upgraded interior trim with leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights.

The GT ($23,330) upgrades to a sport-tuned suspension, 18-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/starting, sportier seats and upholstery, a 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, a sunroof and a rear spoiler.

Navigation is an option for every version and comes with a 7-in touchscreen. Other options for the range are rear parking sensors and LED fog lights.

The ES with the CVT may also be specced up to a higher level by selecting the Sun and Sound package, which includes a sunroof, a rearview camera and the Rockford Fosgate audio system with satellite radio and HD Radio.

Comfort in the back seat is a definite plus, delivering near-midsize accommodations in a compact package. The trunk offers a maximum of 12.3 cu ft.; the Rockford Fosgate system's subwoofer cuts that to 11.8 cu ft.

Safety

The Lancer comes with standard stability control, anti-lock brakes with discs at each wheel and seven airbags (front, front-side, driver's-knee and 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 front and side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the car its highest rating of Good in all categories except the small-overlap frontal-offset test, where the Lancer earned a score of Acceptable, the nonprofit's second-highest rating.

Behind the Wheel

The standard front seats are firm and reasonably supportive, but the GT's contoured sport seats are preferable. Either way, the tilt-only steering wheel could be a deal breaker for drivers with long legs.

The deeply hooded tachometer and speedometer are crisp and attractive, although materials quality is not a strong point. The dashboard looks nice enough in a minimalist way, but the plastics used in its construction are uniformly hard and basic. That criticism also extends to the door panels.

The base 2.0-liter engine's performance is adequate, but its noises are industrial, especially with the drone-producing CVT. Go for the 2.4-liter engine if possible. It's a relatively refined and spirited motor that makes the car much more satisfying.

The Lancer is rather tall for a compact, and that extra height is noticeable through fast corners, but it's sportier than the norm, especially with the GT's specially tuned suspension. In ordinary driving, the experience is quite civilized, with less road noise than some rivals.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Hyundai Elantra -- The Elantra is not as sporty as the Lancer, but it enjoys superior fuel economy and fresher styling.

2016 Mazda3 -- Still the standout of this class, the Mazda3 sedan also offers great fuel economy without sacrificing driving enjoyment.

2016 Ford Focus -- With its European-inspired styling and performance, the Focus is great fun. Its high-quality interior materials are a bonus.

2016 Subaru Impreza -- All-wheel drive comes as standard in the Impreza. Note that there's a new generation coming for 2017.

Used Honda Accord -- Sure, there's the late, lamented Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, a cult car among boy racers, but let's assume that anyone looking at a current Lancer is seeking a reasonable sedan with decent space. In that case, go for an Accord. It has even more room because it's a midsize, it's as reliable as they come, and while it's no thrill machine, the handling is quite tidy.

Autotrader's Advice

This generation of Lancer has been around for 10 years or so. If the pricing was considerably lower, it might be tempting, but virtually every other competitor in the segment is more modern.

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Used 2016 Mitsubishi Lancer AWD Sedan
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2016 Mitsubishi Lancer: New Car Review - Autotrader