Check out these things when buying a Mitsubishi Lancer

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The Lancer is one of the most sporty looking compacts, thanks to the image created by its rally sibling – Lancer Evolution. But does it really stack up to its reputation? Is it a good car to buy used? To find out, we took it for a test drive.

Lineup: The 2008 Lancer was only available as a front-wheel drive sedan offered in budget-minded DE, mid-line ES and sporty GTS trim levels. The hatchback (Sportback) model joined the lineup for 2010. The 291-hp Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution model is probably known to every teenager, but you can only find a very few of them for sale on the used car market. A more affordable performer, the 237-hp AWD Lancer Ralliart was added for 2009, but they are also rare and expensive (neither of the two is covered in this review).

2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback
2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback.
Photo: Mitsubishi
2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback interior
2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback.
Photo: Mitsubishi

Mechanical: The base engine in the 2008-2013 Lancer is the 2.0L DOHC MIVEC 4-cylinder (MIVEC = variable timing) engine rated at 152 horsepower (later changed to 148). A stronger 168-hp 2.4-liter motor was added for 2009. Transmission choices include a 5-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Fuel Economy: The 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer with a 2.0L engine and a continuously variable transmission is rated at 22/28 mpg city/hwy (10.7/8.4 liters per 100 km). It’s not too bad, but well behind class leaders, for example, 2009 Honda Civic, which is rated at 25/35 mpg (9.4/6.5 L/100 km). Partially it’s because the Lancer is heavier: the 2009 Lancer SE with a continuously variable transmission weights 3,021 lbs. versus 2,754 lbs. of the 2009 Honda Civic LX-S with automatic. The 2.4L Lancer with the CVT gets 21 mpg city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Inside: The Lancer is roomy, but you probably won’t find it as exciting as on the outside. The dash looks clean with sporty gauges and strangely-shaped audio control knobs, but the quality of some of the interior plastic could be better. The front seats are supportive, but the steering wheel doesn’t telescope. The visibility is good although the front pillars feel a bit too thick, especially when turning left. Rear seat space is average for a small car; tall passengers will find the rear headroom tight. The trunk is large and the rear seatbacks fold down.

Handling: The Lancer handles sporty and holds the road well. The ride is on the firm side. The 2.0L motor is strong enough for daily driving, but is quite noisy, especially on acceleration. It also feels a bit sluggish when taking off from a stop, partially because of the CVT, which is a type of automatic transmission.

Pros: Styling, supportive front seats, sporty handling, available as a hatchback, not too many problems.

Cons: Gas mileage, acceleration with CVT, interior plastic, rear headroom, paint quality.