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Mitsubishi Lancer

A new car, and a new car company to Canada. This week on Test Drive it's the all-new Mitsubishi Lancer.

After an aborted run at the Canadian market a few years ago, Mitsubishi is back and they mean business. Leading the charge is the Lancer, a car expected to be 40% of all Mitsu sales. Now while Mitsubishi's tenure in Canada does not hinge on the Lancer, if it flops, well you get the picture. Powering the Lancer is a 2.0-litre single overhead cam four that pushes 120 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque through the front wheels. While the numbers don't look like much on paper, in practice they are good enough to give this 2,700-pound car a peppy launch off the line and enough power to pass a slower moving vehicle safely. Only at the top end does the power trail off and just as the engine begins to get a touch noisy.

This particular car is separated from the rest of the Lancer range by quite a number of things. You get a few items inside, which includes white-faced gauges. You also get a body kit, which includes side sill and front and rear bumper extensions. You also get a rear spoiler, a very loud paint job, but the icing on the cake is these OZ Rally rims that are shod with Yokohama tires. The whole package really does come together very nicely and speaks to the rally inspired evolution: the car that hopefully we'll see in Canada one day.

Married to the engine is a standard manual transmission or an optional automatic. The stick works well bringing a light and progressive clutch and a clean gate; it is the unit of choice. Simply the automatic takes too much off the overall performance. So unless absolutely mandatory, stick with the do-it-yourselver, it'll serve you much better in the long run.

Inside the Lancer is very nicely finished. You get a very good set of comfortable seats that gives you decent lateral support and all the controls that are logically layed out and by that I mean: the radio sits above the climate controls. You also get steering wheel mounted cruise control, but there is a drawback when you get to the OZ rally. Everything is predominately black, other than the white-faced instrumentations. It really does make for a very drab look. Ironically if you go for the Lancer LS, well it gets a very cheerful colour combination.

The Lancer rides on MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link design in back with anti-roll bars at both ends. The spring and damping characteristics bring a decent balance between ride comfort and handling. Through the pylons, the Lancer tracked a true line with understeer only entering the fray when the 195/60R15 Yokohama's reach the limits of their considerable traction. Considering the Lancer's station in life, the ride and handling are exemplary.

Normally when you talk about compact cars you think of very tight backseats but nothing could be further from the truth with the Lancer. You get plenty of foot space, plenty of knee room and enough headroom. However you want to think of this as a two-passenger back seat, primarily because the centre is divided and the arm rest, well it forms the backrest for the centre occupant. However for two people, you get two-cup holders and plenty of space. And around at the back the good news continues because the trunk, well it gets a low lift over, a good opening, 70/30 split rear folding seats and 11.3 cubic feet of cargo space. All in all the back half of the Lancer is very generous.

Stopping power comes from a front disc/rear drum design, with anti-lock brakes being an option. When equipped with this important safety device, the stops are short, straight and predictable. Elsewhere, the Lancer gets dual front airbags, three-point belts for all occupants, those up front employing pretensioners and force limiters as well as a strong body structure designed to absorb and redirect any impact forces.

This new Lancer is a balanced car, you get good handling, enough power and plenty of room and provided you select the right model: a good buy. The reason I say select the right model: when it comes to anti-lock breaks, on the Lancer LS they are a $730 option. On this OZ Rally, they are $730 plus you have to buy the sunroof, which will set you back another $1,168 plus taxes. Now that sounds to me like daylight robbery and that is enough to cross the OZ Rally off my shopping list but I would however consider the Lancer LS.

Tire Tally
Performance 3
Ride/ Handlind 3.5
Interior 3
Touchy-feely/ Cargo 3
Safety 3
Bang for $$ 2

Immediate Competition
Honda Civic
Mazda ProtegÔø‡
Nissan Sentra
Toyota Corolla

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