Unless you live where the snow flies, we find little reason to pick the latest Lancer over most of the competition in the compact sedan segment.
All wheel drive
Interior noise levels
Performance and handling
With the Evolution gone, the top trim in Mitsubishi's Lancer lineup is what we have here. Unfortunately the 2.4 SEL AWC does not begin to fill the void left by the Evo.
The current Lancer represents the ninth generation of the nameplate and, in terms of longevity, matches that of the Honda Civic. But while the Honda introduced the tenth-generation of its compact last year, the current-generation Lancer continues to soldier on as it enters its ninth year.
2017 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC
That isn't to say that Mitsubishi has totally ignored the Lancer. Not totally.
2012 marked the first year for the AWC variant – packaging Mitsubishi’s sophisticated All Wheel Control (AWC) all-wheel drive system into a very affordable sedan.
For the 2016 model year, the Lancer was given a mild update. The headlamp covers were reshaped and the upper grille is smaller and is now bracketed by larger swaths of chrome trim. The lower air intake is taller and more aggressive, while the fog light housings are more pronounced and, on our SEL, contain vertical LED daytime running lights.
Along the sides, the only change that was made was to replace the fender-mounted white reflectors with some kind of faux chrome exhaust duct, while the rear fascia remains unchanged.
Everything else looks neat and tidy, but its only distinguishing features are lower body side sills and handsome 15-spoke, 18-inch alloy wheels. It looks good for a nine year old design, but so much has happened since 2007.
Inside, it's the same old thing. Granted, Mitsubishi has attempted to liven things up a bit by replacing some of the cheap-looking door and dashboard metal trim with some kind of faux carbon fiber, while adding more cheap-looking metal trim to the lower center stack.
And while we understand that offering an all-wheel drive system in a $21,000 compact sedan probably meant cutting a few corners here and there, the interior, despite the fact that it's trimmed in leather, still feels decidedly low rent.
For one, the plastic on the doors and dash both looks and feels cheap. Ditto the steering wheel which, though it tilts, does not telescope. And while those front chairs may look supportive, the side bolsters are only for appearances sake and easily give in when called upon to serve.
The good news is that a rearview camera is now standard across the lineup as is the 6.1-inch touchscreen. A single USB port was added in 2016, as was a color display in the instrument cluster.
On the other hand, the infotainment system is nearly as outdated as the plasticky interior while a cargo volume of 12 cubic feet is well below the segment average.
Standard equipment on all Lancer models, in addition to that previously mentioned, includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a rudimentary automatic climate control system, Bluetooth, auto-off headlights and heated outside mirrors. Electric power steering is standard on the manually-equipped ES, while all other models feature a hydraulic setup.
The ES automatic trim adds Mitsubishi's All Wheel Control system. Stepping up to the SE adds a sport tuned suspension, heated front seats, 2 more speakers, Sirius XM satellite radio and 18-inch alloys. Finally, the SEL trim adds auto on/off headlights, a leather-trimmed interior, shift knob and steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror.
Under the hood
Only the base ES is available with FWD. Mated to either a 5-speed manual or CVT automatic, that model comes equipped with an all-aluminum 2.0 inline-4 that produces 148 horsepower and 145 lb.-ft. of torque. All other models are equipped with an all-aluminum 2.4-liter normally aspirated 4-cylinder that produces 168 horsepower and 167 lb.-ft. of torque coupled exclusively to a continuously-variable transmission.
EPA estimates for an AWD Lancer are 23/30/26 city/highway/combined mpg, while our own observed fuel economy was 21.5, predominantly in FWD mode in the city – pretty disappointing for a vehicle this size.
The major components of Mitsubishi’s All Wheel Control (AWC) system include a transfer case, electronic control coupling between the front and rear wheels, a stability control and ABS unit that works in conjunction with a 4WD controller as well as a 3-position Drive Mode Switch located on the center console.
2WD mode obviously offers the greatest fuel efficiency. Switching to 4WD AUTO balances the power between the front and rear wheels. The third mode, 4WD LOCK, is designed for the most adverse of road conditions. In 4WD LOCK, up to 70 percent of the engine’s available power can be sent to the rear wheels.
On the road
All that electronic goodness will certainly come in handy if you live in a state like Michigan where the white stuff flies, but it does come at a price. The suspension does a nice job of soaking up most road imperfections and pointing it into a corner elicits very little in the way of body lean. On the other hand, the hydraulically-assisted steering only managed to supply us with average feedback. Topping things off, you might even enjoy all this except for the fact that you're always aware of the copious amounts of road, wind, road, tire and engine noise that enters the cabin.
In addition to the lack of insulation, putting your foot into it elicits a cacophony of coarse engine sounds mixed in with the ever-present groaning of the CVT. Whatever sporting pretensions the Lancer might have are drowned in a constant ebb and flow of this aural assault on the senses.
2017 Mitsubishi Lancer prices
2017 Lancer prices, including an $835 destination charge, start at $18,630 for a manually-equipped FWD ES and can top out at close to $28,000 for a fully equipped and accessorized AWD SEL. Our Mercury Gray SEL tester had a base price of $22,095. Its only option was the $1,500 Sun and Sound package that added a glass sunroof and 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system. This meant that, with the destination charge, its' as-tested price came to $24,430.
The Bottom Line
Given its sporty looks and the option of an all-wheel drive system, the 2017 Lancer should be at the top of the list for many compact car buyers – especially those who live where the snow flies.
Unfortunately, a noisy cabin adorned with hard plastics, less than stellar fuel economy and only average handling relegate the current Lancer to the backwaters of the compact class.