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).
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.
BASIC INTERIOR, OVERPRICED OPTIONS
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.
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.
DOLLARS AND CENTS
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.
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.