Big name, small car.
Mitsubishi recently announced that over the next three years, they plan to axe three of their models: the Eclipse, the Galant, and the Endeavor. Luckily, the Lancer was spared. And I couldn’t be happier. The Lancer is a brilliant little car. The 2011 Lancer Sportback GTS is different. It’s like a hatch but with a smaller rear end. Clearly, the designer spent countless hours carefully sculpting the sedan version, meticulously massaging its lines; perfecting its look.
Strangely, the Sportback doesn’t look so carefully crafted. It appears to have been lazily thrown together. It looks as if the designer simply drew a line from the end of the roofline to the tip of the trunk and called it a day’s work. Normally, this kind of laziness drives me up the wall. But this time, it’s some how worked.
The Lancer Sportback is different enough looking to make me smile. It’s not pretty, that’s for sure, but it’s unabashedly Japanese. I like being able to intuit a car’s country of origin and its heritage simply by looking at it.
To my surprise, I found the Lancer Sportback tester unit was the base model with absolutely no options. Typically automakers want to ‘wow’ journalists with bells and whistles. Mitsubishi didn’t, I guess. A five-speed manual transmission, cloth seats, power windows, and for whatever reason hands-free Bluetooth with streaming audio capabilities –all standard features–were all it had.
At first, I wasn’t a fan. The back end wasn’t big enough for my dog, the motor seemed anemic and whiney, and its drivetrain is a dreaded front-wheel-drive layout. But by the second day, I warmed to the Lancer.
The GTS model I drove has the 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder MIVEC motor putting out 168-horsepower and 167-footpounds of torque. I found that below 3,200-RPM the motor performed like an average four-cylinder. But above 3,500-RPM it came alive. It was shockingly quick. It was as peppy as turbo-charged four-cylinders of the early 2000s. Goose it and it goes; it was very responsive. It was so much fun, I found myself chuckling and praising it out loud by myself in the car.
I talk a lot about Bluetooth in my reviews because at first, it was a novelty. But now every automaker includes Bluetooth. And once again, it has become a topic of interest for me. What fascinates me about Bluetooth technology is that it should be easy. But every automaker has decided to practically reinvent the wheel. Push-button this and voice command that. Few work smoothly and some not at all. It boggles my mind.
To my delight, Mitsubishi has gotten it right. Without a big, fancy satnav screen and without a million buttons, Mitsubishi has implemented the best phone pairing system on the market.
Push the voice command button on the steering wheel, and a soothing female voice calmly outlines your options. Push the button again, speak your command, and the moment you’ve stopped speaking, the Lancer voice recognition system moves on. Almost instantly the female voice delivers the next option. It worked perfectly and the way it ought to work. Then every time I jumped into the car, within a few seconds, it recognized and reconnected with my iPhone4. It began streaming my iTunes library again from where I left off without provocation. I was in hog heaven.
When I first drive a car, I don’t like to look at the monroni (the window sticker). I assess a vehicle’s worth or value based upon its performance, not from what the manufacturer says it’s worth.
After a few days behind the wheel of the Lancer Sportback, I pulled the monroni out of the glove box and gave it a glance. To my shock, the 2011 Lancer Sportback has a total MSRP of $20,455. “That’s silly cheap!” I thought. Then I looked at the warranty: 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper, and 100,000-mile powertrain. That’s one hell of a value.
The Lancer Sportback is so good, so cheap, and such a bang for your buck, I can proudly say that it is the only vehicle currently on the market under $24-thousand for which I would actually plunk down my hard-earned dollars. It really is everything I want in a car.
It has distinctive looks, it’s sturdy, its hatch makes it useful for hauling stuff, and it does all that neat-o iPhone tech stuff that we’re all growing dependent upon. Plus, it’s got X-factor up the yin-yang and that’s hard to find under $40-thousand. I am now eagerly awaiting the next few years of Mitsubishi products. Remember those three Mitsubishi models that are being sent out to pasture? New, Lancer-based models will replace a couple of those, which will make for some fun motoring indeed.
I am now eagerly awaiting the next few years of Mitsubishi products. Remember those three Mitsubishi models that are being sent out to pasture? New, Lancer-based models will replace a couple of those, which will make for some fun motoring indeed.