PerformancePerformance  - 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Review - Reviews - Mitsubishi Lancer

The 152-hp four-cylinder engine produces plenty of power to move the Lancer at highway speeds, even when fully loaded with four adults and luggage. My only reoccurring thought was that no matter how competent the Lancer was in the performance department, it just wasn't as sporty as it looked. I can hear the engineers blaming the designers right about now.

The Lancer comes in base DE, mid-level ES and top-level GTS trims. In the GTS, the suspension gets some sportier tuning, there's a stabilizer strut fitted in the engine bay, and the larger wheels and performance tires help with grip. The handling was exceptional, but the five-speed manual still shifted like this was an everyday commuter. It did its job extremely well, just not with any high-performance skill or short shift motions. The engine revved energetically in low gears, but because power comes at such an even pace, it lacks the thrill one experiences from either high-revving or low-grunting power plants.

Still, the Lancer outshines most of the competition in its class. The more-powerful Mazda3 S is the only model that has more performance for the price. Otherwise, you'd have to move up to more-expensive performance-oriented models like the Honda Civic Si to best it in terms of compact sedans.

Braking was another area that was particularly noteworthy. Some competitors, like the Civic, have grabby brakes that offer grip the instant you touch the brake pedal, resulting in unnecessary lurching from time to time. Others have a mushier feel, with braking only coming after the pedal has been significantly depressed. The Lancer has an interesting approach: There's a small threshold when you first tap the brake pedal, with no significant grip until that threshold is passed. Then braking comes on at an appropriate, linear pace. This may sound like a small thing, but in bumper-to-bumper traffic, it's a lifesaver for your passengers — and your neck.

While the ride was relatively smooth, there was a significant amount of road noise intruding on the cabin. It was so loud on certain surfaces that it actually impeded a conversation with a passenger. Solo drivers might find solace in the stereo.

Gas mileage is average, rated at 21/29 mpg city/highway with the five-speed manual and 22/29 city/highway for the continuously variable automatic transmission. These are 2008 estimates, which are lower than what we've been used to through the 2007 model year, thanks to new EPA testing guidelines. Under the old guidelines, both transmissions would be rated at 25/31 mpg city/highway. Again, those numbers are about average, but significantly less than segment frontrunners like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, and just slightly worse than the Mazda3 S.

The Lancer got around 24 mpg in mixed highway and suburban driving and well under 20 mpg in city driving.

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