The Lancer name is best known when it’s followed by Evo – a tag that’s built up a cult following as a fiery rally-bred machine.
But while the high performance machine has been a huge success, the standard car has failed to be a big seller in the UK.
Now Mitsubishi is aiming to change that with the Lancer Sportback – a car it believes has the qualities to compete in a market dominated by the likes of the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.
The big news is that the newcomer is a five-door.
Mitsubishi, like Subaru, has realised that it can’t ignore the hatchback market if it wants to grow.
The firm offers a four-door version of the Lancer but the Sportback is expected to account for the majority of sales.
It’s certainly not as handsome as the saloon, mainly due to its bulging rear which is far from attractive.
The interior isn’t great either with plenty of scratchy plastics and dated switchgear.
It’s longer than a Mercedes–Benz C-Class and offers more rear passenger space than similar-priced rivals, although the luggage space at 344 litres is disappointing.
However, it is fairly practical.
The engine range is fairly limited. The entry-level 1.5-litre is sluggish while the 1.8-litre variant has to be worked hard and sounds strained at high revs.
Mitsubishi expects this to be the most popular among retail buyers but the 2.0-litre diesel is far better.
The Volkswagen unit offers strong performance and decent economy.
The Mitsubishi rides well with little road noise while it is safe and composed through corners with decent grip.
There are few thrills to be had but it feels reassuring nonetheless.
For performance fans, the big news is the launch of a Ralliart version.
This junior Evo has 237bhp and a six-speed SST semi-automatic gearbox along with four-wheel drive. But, at £21,500 it’s not cheap.
The Lancer Sportback is an interesting alternative and its unusual looks mean it certainly stands out.
It’s spacious, well equipped and with prices starting at just £12,500, it represents plenty of car for the money.
Price £12,499-£24,000 Engines 1.5-litre 108bhp; 1.8-litre 141bhp; 2.0-litre diesel 138bhp; 2.0-litre turbo charged 237bhp Performance 0-62mph 7.1-14.9sec; top speed 105-137mph Transmission 5sp man, 6sp man, 4sp auto, CVT, 6sp automatic manual Efficiency 45.6-27.7mpg; 156-243g/km CO2 CAP RV 3yr/30k tbc Rivals Skoda Octavia, Mazda3, Subaru Impreza Strengths Generous standard kit, comfortable ride, punchy diesel option Weaknesses Sluggish petrol engines, low rent interior, average boot space