Like many athletes, if you have to leave, you want to go out on top. Unfortunately for the Mitsubishi Lancer, it went out with a fizzle instead of a bang. Disappointing, particularly since it was off to the races, literally, in the early years.
An impressive run for the Mitsubishi Lancer
Debuting in 1973, the Lancer was lightweight and boasted a 1.6L twin-Mikuni GSR coupe, translating to 169 hp. Soon, a young Lancer owner named Andrew Cowan would show the world what it could do.
According to Road & Track, he entered it in the Southern Cross Rally in New South Wales, Australia, a notoriously grueling international race. It not only made an impressive showing, but Cowan won the rally for five consecutive years.
Over the years, the Lancer went by different names in different markets. By the early ’90s, the Lancer name had returned, bringing 244 hp along with it. By 1995, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III came with a 16G turbocharger and 270 hp, and we commemorated it by including it in our list of the best cars Mitsubishi ever built.
In another sweep, Finnish racer Tommi Mäkinen kicked off a record four consecutive world championship victories from 1996-1999 in his Lancer EVO III and set the stage for his namesake 1999 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition.
It would seem that the Lancer had cemented itself as a performance beast and solid money-maker for Mitsubishi. The introduction of the impressive 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII FQ-400 was notable not only for its 405 hp but its staggering $86,000 price tag. Alas, within 10 years, the end would be imminent.
The Mitsubishi Lancer’s disappointing swan song
While 2015 was the end of the road for the Evolution, 2017 marked the demise of the Mitsubishi Lancer. Instead of lauding it for its long run of impressive performance and notable milestones, U.S. News and World Report soundly slammed the 2017 model, calling the cabin noisy and “low-rent.” It got worse from there.
Despite Mitsubishi’s efforts to tout the Lancer as sleek and dependable with an extended 10-year/100,000 mile warranty on social media, U.S. News’ dismal 6.4 rating was the culmination of many features that came up short in their assessment.
The 2017 Lancer came with a choice of four trim packages. U.S. News found the base model ES 2.0 to have “few features and an unrefined engine.” They soundly rejected the top end SEL 2.4, stating that it wasn’t worth purchasing as it only added rain-sensor wipers and upgraded leather upholstery. Instead, they recommended that the SE 2.4 trim was more desirable with the best combination of tech and performance features.
The cabin didn’t fare any better in the less-than-stellar review. While acknowledged for seating five people reasonably comfortably, the 2017 Lancer ultimately lacked headroom or adequate thigh support. The reviewer called the interior cheap and dated, with an abundance of chintzy materials and plastic covering most surfaces.
At only 27 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, the 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer didn’t fare well against its class competitors, coming in at the bottom in fuel economy. According to the U.S. News Best Cars team, the base engine is noisy under hard acceleration, although the 2.4-liter engine seemed to have more power.
Safety and Dependability
While it received a 4 out of a possible 5-star rating for safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Lancer’s 2017 model had fewer safety features than most in its class.
However, it still garnered a respectable 8.7 in the U.S. News scorecard. The dependability didn’t hit the mark, though, rating only a 6 on the same scorecard. Consumer Reports seems to echo the anemic sentiments, giving the Lancer only a 2/5 for braking and a 3/5 for emergency handling.
It would be nice to dispute the harsh reviews, but facts are facts. The Mitsubishi Lancer had a good run for a long time. It’s just too bad that they seemed to give up on it by the final year.