If car years were like dog years, the 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer would be collecting its pension. Or going away "to live on that farm upstate." This generation is about 10 years old, and despite Mitsubishi adding features every so often in an effort to keep things relatively fresh (such as the Fuse voice recognition system, enabling hands-free operation of phones and portable media devices) and offering all-wheel drive (one of only two non-premium compact sedans to do so), it’s obvious the company hasn’t made the same kind of meaningful investment we see in rivals.
That said, the Lancer still looks sharp, has a lot of passenger space for the class, and comes with a little fun built in.
What’s New for 2017?
The previously optional 6.1-in infotainment display is now standard throughout the range and that’s joined by a rearview camera. The GT version has been discontinued, with many of that trim level’s features going to the SE. See the 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer models for sale near you
What We Like
Engaging handling; 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
The front-drive Lancer ES has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine as standard, making 148 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission is a 5-speed manual, returning Environmental Protection Agency estimates of 24 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined. A CVT is optional, resulting in 27 mpg city/34 mpg hwy/30 mpg combined.
Both the SE and SEL have all-wheel drive and the CVT as standard, along with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine developing 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. When the lower ES level is specified with this larger engine, it also receives this all-wheel drive/CVT combination. Fuel consumption here is 23 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 5-seater 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer compact sedan comes in ES, SE and SEL trim levels.
ES ($18,630) starts with the 2.0-liter engine, 16-in alloy wheels, LED running lights, fog lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, power locks/windows, keyless entry, automatic climate control, height-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt-only steering wheel, cruise control, color driver information display, rearview camera, 6.1-in touchscreen, 4-speaker audio system with Fuse voice control, USB port and Bluetooth connectivity.
SE ($21,930) adds 18-in alloy wheels, sport suspension, push-button ignition, heated front seats, 6-speaker audio system and satellite/HD radio.
SEL ($22,930) brings an upgraded interior trim with leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic headlights.
Navigation is an option for every version, bringing a 7-in touchscreen. Other options include rear parking sensors, remote start and LED fog lights.
The ES (with CVT) and SEL may also be specced up to a higher level by selecting the Sun & Sound package. This includes a power glass sunroof and a 9-speaker/710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, plus satellite/HD radio for the ES.
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.
The Lancer comes with standard stability control, anti-lock brakes with discs at each wheel, 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 front and side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the car its highest rating of Good in all categories except the small-overlap front crash test, where the Lancer was deemed Acceptable (second-highest rating).
Behind the Wheel
The standard front seats are firm and reasonably supportive, but 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 the quality of materials is not a Lancer strong point. The dashboard looks nice enough in a minimalist kind of 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 SE/SEL’s tauter suspension. In ordinary driving, though, the experience remains quite civilized.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Honda Civic — Roomy, refined and generally superb.
2017 Hyundai Elantra — Not as sporty as the Lancer, but enjoys superior fuel economy and fresher styling.
2017 Mazda3 — Still the standout of this class, the Mazda3 sedan also offers great fuel economy without sacrificing driving enjoyment.
2017 Ford Focus — With its European-inspired styling and performance, the Focus is great fun. Its high-quality interior materials are a bonus.
2017 Subaru Impreza — All-new for 2017. More refined than it used to be, but still not the most refined. All-wheel drive comes as standard.
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 which 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 still quite tidy.
The Lancer has to be a whole lot cheaper to tempt any potential buyers away from one of the more modern and far more tempting alternatives. Find a Mitsubishi Lancer for sale