2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWD Review

Basic transportation goes all-wheel drive

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWD Review

In 2007 Mitsubishi sold nearly 129,000 cars in the United States – their best year ever.  Since then the Japanese automaker hasn’t reached the 100,000 mark. But they are making an effort, however small, to change that by introducing the Lancer SE model for 2012.


1. New for 2012 the Lancer SE adds the brand’s All-Wheel-Control AWD system.

2. Also included in the package are 16-inch wheels, plus heated seats and mirrors.

3. A 4WD Lock mode sends 70 percent of the torque to the rear wheels.

4. Pricing for SE models starts at $20,195.

This model is designed to appeal to the large cold and snowy mid-section of the country by adding the brand’s sophisticated and proven All-Wheel-Control AWD system to the standard Lancer. The model also gets heated seats, and heated mirrors, and is priced at a very reasonable $20,195. 

The SE is powered by the company’s 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with a solid 168 horsepower at 6000 rpm, and 167 lb-ft of torque at 4100 rpm. Those numbers won’t produce neck-snapping acceleration for this rather hefty 3,120 lb sedan, but it is adequate to keep up in traffic. The engine is, however, somewhat noisy when pushed hard.

Fuel economy is rated at a decent 22 mpg city, and 29 highway, thanks in part to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).


2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE 2.4 engine

The All-Wheel-Control system is controlled by the Drive Mode Switch rocker next to the gearshift lever. For normal driving and the best gas mileage just leave it in 2WD. Flip the switch for 4WD and the well-balanced all-wheel drive mode offers improved traction in all driving conditions. 

There’s also a 4WD Lock mode designed for slippery surfaces from snow to sand or mud. This setting automatically directs up to 70 percent of the engine’s available power to the rear wheels for a more engaging driving experience.

The Mitsubishi Lancer SE is a sensibly sized car, at 180-inches long and just over 69-inches wide, riding on a 103.7-inch wheelbase. There is good head room for front and rear seat passengers, and there is decent leg room in the rear for adults, as long as the front seats are not pushed all the way rearward.  The middle seat is best left for children.  Trunk space is limited with 12.3 cu-ft coming in below the industry average, though with the 60/40 split folding rear seat, cargo space becomes more generous. 


The interior is, how shall we put this . . . basic. Nothing fancy here. Lots of hard plastic everywhere, including the doorsills, armrests, console, dash and door trim. The headliner is just a bit plusher than cardboard, and the car feels and sounds tinny, when opening or closing the doors or trunk. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of sound deadening materials, and the cabin is noisy on the road. 

The driver looks at your basic two round gauges, with an info screen offering limited info, and just a few brightwork trim bits to break up the look on the dash. Our car had the $2,295 optional and overpriced Nav system and radio package with no knobs to control anything, just rocker switches, which are more complicated than necessary. Fortunately, the heat and air conditioning controls are a three knob affair and quite easy to operate.

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE parked

A 12-volt outlet on the base of the center stack with a cubby to hold any device you’ll plug in is welcomed and redundant radio controls are located on the steering wheel in addition to the cruise controls.  We will give high marks for the comfort of the front seats, and the cloth fabric is both handsome and pleasant to the touch. The heated seats also work very well.

The car soaks up bad pavement reasonably well and corners decently without too much body roll, or protest coming from the 16-inch wheels and tires. Steering feels a bit numb, and while the brakes are good, there is a fair amount of front end dive when applied hard.


2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC badge

The base price is $20,195, and with the Nav System, and destination, the bottom line is $23,285. Should you want to tart up the exterior, or add some amenities, there are many other options available including a stylish Exterior Package ($850) that includes rear wing, front air dam, exhaust finisher and fog lights; an LED Illumination Package ($335) with blue-colored floor illumination and interior lamps; and the FUSE Hands-free Link System with USB port ($395) that allows the vehicle’s occupants to operate the sound system (CD/MP3 player, radio iPod) and a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone simply by the use of voice commands.


The Mitsubishi Lancer SE with All-Wheel-Control was designed specifically to offer 4WD to Snow Belt customers at a bargain price. And that is just what you get. A bargain priced car, with bargain priced interior, appointments and feel, that will hopefully make you forget those drawbacks when the snow flies. It does everything competently and nothing exceptionally.  It won’t turn heads with its styling, and won’t make anyone jealous of its driver.  It won’t impress, and won’t repel anyone. It’s an appliance of a car.

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE Rear View

If this vehicle is on your short list, you should definitely shop a Subaru Imprezza as well. Updated for 2012, it’s now more refined, though also increasingly more of an appliance.

Related Reading
2012 Subaru Impreza Sedan Review
2012 Subaru Impreza Hatchback Review
2012 Honda Civic Review
2012 Mazda3 Review
2012 Ford Focus Review

  • Dbriden10

    It won’t turn heads with its styling, and won’t make anyone jealous of its driver.  It won’t impress, and won’t repel anyone. It’s an appliance of a car…… I wanna know who is on crack when they wrote that statement. the car is beautiful

  • Krasivsy

    The guy who wrote this article is definitely one of those rats that get paid by big companies to write some jebrish nonsense

  • Mike

    Not only is the car great looking, but what the writer forgot to mention is Mitsubishi offers a 5 year 60k mile bumper to bumper and 10 yr 100kmi powertrain warranty. (Reason Being..their stuff dosent break) I have had three Mitsu’s in the last ten years. Love them! 

  • http://lancergts.net/ Andrea @ Lancer GTS

    I’ll take a VIII or IX over the X. The 4G63 is established and battle tested. Also, I want the MR which has the 6 speed gearbox. I wasn’t really in favor of dropping the 6 speed manual in the X but that’s just me. Plus, the X is hideous to look at with the blacked out grill. It looks like a black hole in the middle of the front.

  • http://speedcarz.com/ Matt

    The design is interesting but not on top of my preferences…

  • Torredo

    I purchased an Outlander Sport AWD.. and love it.. we have tested it many places and did great..The Outlander Sport AWD has made me want the Lancer SE.. They are great cars, I love the style. You can always tell when someone was paid to test a car.. and report on it.. the above article was done just that way.

  • mikk

    This is a good honest review that sums things up nicely. These new Mitsubishis are safe sellers. They aren’t going to set any sales records, but Mitsubishi is still in recovery mode after nearly completely closing its car business not that long ago. Bland and unexciting, these cars are made to appeal to the boring consumer. Boring styling, boring performance and boring sales. It definitely is a non-standout appliance to get around in.

  • winifred hottot

    so far really satisfied way better performance that general motors

  • sassy

    absolutely satisfied at least I got to drive it for a year without sitting in a garage all the time

  • sassy

    beats driving a death trap aveo

  • Arsh

    Depends which SE you get. i have the one with the upgraded exterior and fog lights and I have turned heads. And the interior may be dull compared to other new cars but its an upgrade over the cardboard interior of my last car. plus come snow its epic!

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