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First drive: Mitsubishi Lancer 1.6 - on sale now



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Mitsubishi has always made a big song and dance about its rally-bred Lancer Evolution model.

Read an enthusiasts’ car mag and you cannot miss the aggressively-styled, turbocharged vehicle. Yet many of those readers will be unaware that its humble 1.6-litre sibling, the standard Lancer, is even on sale in the UK.

Of course this Lancer is aimed at a totally different customer. Buyers seeking an adequately-equipped four door family saloon for little more than the price of a basic Renault Clio are not exactly spoilt for choice, but that is what the Lancer achieves.

While the car does suffer from the use of cheap-looking plastics inside, its exterior appearance is quite pleasing. In fact, the standard alloy wheels, front foglights and rear spoiler are neat styling points which help the Lancer stand out against its uglier value-brand rivals.

Inside, leather-faced seats, a leather steering wheel, gearknob and handbrake all add value.

Driver conveniences include front and rear electric windows (including child-friendly anti-trap functionality), electric mirrors, air-con and a CD player, although the switches are a little randomly placed. Unfortunately Mitsubishi has decided to dress up the interior with shiny black wood-effect panels which give it a rather cheap appearance.

The Lancer will carry a family in comfort, although not with any haste. At motorway speeds the engine works hard, and struggles to maintain its speed on inclines with a full load. Nevertheless, it never gets especially noisy; in fact at start-up it is barely audible.

The Lancer’s greatest obstacle is marketing. With its Korean rivals promoting market-leading offers like five-year warranties (Hyundai) or £1 deposit (Kia), Mitsubishi needs to devise some clever concepts that will attract customers into dealers’ showrooms.

Strengths: Value, decent space, free metallic/pearl paint
Weaknesses: Cheap plastics, no side airbags
Opportunity: A Better brand than its Korean competition
Threat: Let down by its marketing
USP: Family saloon at a supermini price

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