Jun 20 2008 John Scantlebury
Mitsubishi Lancer 1.8 GS3
THE new Lancer is the ninth in the line of sporty cars delivering panache at a very reasonable price, sharing a design with the latest version of the mighty and iconic Evo.
It’s been created in and for Europe and it certainly delivers in visual appeal, particularly in this GS3 trim which flaunts extra skirts and flared bumpers as well as a huge spoiler at the back. There’s also the new-look nose with what Mitsubishi dubs the “Jet Fighter” grille and the whole thing has a broad, low, confident stance.
There are other encouraging aspects. On a new global platform co-engineered with Daimler/Chrysler, it has a body that is 50 per cent more rigid than the previous version and one that is actually stiffer than the last Evo, while the GS3 has a sports version of the suspension, which features a multi-link independent set-up at the back.
And, fair play, it is well-judged, firm enough to generate the control you are looking for while still managing to make long journeys comfortable. The hydraulic power rack and pinion steering system should have more feel but the car, with a tight 10m turning circle, is nimble to handle. Stability and traction systems are standard in the GS3.
So the Lancer has the looks and the handling authority to win hearts; unfortunately, at the moment it is saddled with some uninspiring engines. I can only speak for the 141bhp 1.8-litre engine in the test car, but it doesn’t hold out a lot of hope for the other petrol unit on offer, a 1.5.
The book says that with the five-speed manual transmission the 1.8 will get the car from standstill to 62mph in 9.8 seconds, which in practice takes some believing; while a satisfying throatiness is delivered, changedown is required to get any measure of real acceleration at any time.
A more gutsy petrol engine is promised for the future, but for now I’ve heard good reports of the two-litre turbo diesel which is accounting for the bulk of sales. It costs £1,500 more but will also give you better responses and better fuel returns than the rather disappointing 36.7mpg average you get with the 1.8.
But the driver will thank the cabin designers. Sports seats provide plenty of support, comfort is good and there’s height adjustment, while the leather-bound steering wheel, though offering only height variation, has remote audio and cruise control buttons.
Mitsubishi’s declared aim was a “clean and crisp” effect and that is achieved on a dash that is very well organised. Decoration comes from a restrained waistband and a few metal highlights, but a deliberately dark matt interior has been generally chosen to reduce glare.
The main dials, red needled and red backlit, sit in pots and are clearly presented, as is the trip info display.
Good work has been done, as well, on noise and vibration insulation and the cabin ambience all round is good.
For those at the back, leg and head room is fine, and three adults can be accommodated easily; if there are just two a centre armrest with drinks holders can be pulled down. There’s an armrest at the front, too, offering a tray and deep container and the tunnel console contributes drinks holders and a couple of small containers.
In the main, though, in-car stowage points are limited, the door pockets aren’t huge (although they do have a drinks holder) and the glovebox is minimal. However, the boot is quite a good one.
For a £14,999 car, the Lancer GS3 comes with plenty of equipment, including climate control, seven airbags, automatic lights and wipers, all electric windows, heated and folding door mirrors, front foglights, 18in alloys, six-speaker audio system with MP3 compatibility, cruise control and deadlocks. So good value and with an excellent warranty, but beware of slightly-high running costs.
Mitsubishi Lancer 1.8 GS3 4dr
Mechanical: 141bhp, 1,798cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5spd manual gearbox
Max speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 9.8 secs
Combined mpg: 36.7
Insurance group: 8
CO2 emissions: 183g/km
BiK rating: 23%
Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited mileage, 6yrs paint, 12yrs anti-rust