Road Tests

LANCER SPORTBACK: HATCHING A PLAN

Time 13 years ago

 

We all know of Mitsubishi’s off-roaders and mental Evo performance cars, but regular largish family cars? The Japanese company has not really been a big player in this sector before, despite the obvious mainstream appeal of the high performance Evo FQs (FQ standing for, well, ‘something’-quick). 

Here’s the car the firm hopes will change all that. The Lancer Sportback aims to bring some of the Evo glamour to the five-door hatchback sector, without the running costs. Certainly, on looks alone, it’s got FQ clout, with hints of the Evo up front and a massive wing at the back. 

It’s not quite a direct Focus rival though, with dimensions placing it midway between Ford’s hatch and a Mondeo. Indeed, Mitsubishi itself claims the car straddles the gap between the two – but we wonder if prices aren’t likely to confuse here because they’re pretty competitive.

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From £14k means it represents a lot of car for the money. Especially as that base car uses a punchy 141bhp 1.8-litre engine, with MIVEC variable valve timing. It hits 60mph in 9.8 seconds, and is willing enough on the move – there is a noticeable kick over 4,000rpm. Shame it’s a bit noisy at higher revs.

There is also a 2.0-litre turbodiesel, an engine sourced from Volkswagen, and that low entry price will drop even more, to just £12,499, when a 1.5-litre petrol version 

arrives, too. Buyers focused on economy may be a bit disappointed by the 1.8’s 36.7mpg average, but the diesel is rather better: it does 47.8mpg and emits 157g/km of CO2. 

But does it drive like an Evo? Well, it’s certainly crisp, with fast, accurate steering and proper composure thanks to expensive multi-link rear suspension. GS3-spec and above cars get full sports suspension, enhancing things further, which includes 18-inch wheels and even a strut brace in the engine bay. 

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Alas, the quality of the interior lags behind the class. Much of the dash is made from cheap plastics that are hard and tinny to the touch. At least it’s well equipped, while there is a decent boot, which expands to 1,394 litres with the seats down. 

So is it a viable alternative to a Focus or a Golf? Well, it’s certainly different, with plenty of Evo kudos, but it can’t quite match the Focus for overall class honours.

by RICHARD AUCOCK
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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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