Space utilisation; strong engine; well optioned; good looks
Wind, tyre & road noise; initial CVT lag; poor fuel economy
– by Matt Brogan
I remember a time not so long ago when the Lancer hatchback was one of the most basic, ugly and poorly equipped examples of budget motoring available – and let’s not mention the drive – it seems a lot has changed since I’ve been driving.
Now I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and though that’s a nice sentiment, this is my review and I say the Sportback is a good-looker. I think a lot depends on the grade chosen and colour choice therein, but still, it’s handsome, has a sporty look most cars this side of $50,000 can’t stretch to, and turns heads with young and old alike.
On top of the stunning body, the VRX grade also picks up 18-inch alloy wheels, side skirts, rear spoiler, revised front and rear bumper styling, front fog lamps, rear mud flaps, and a chrome exhaust tip.
Inside, things are much the same as any other Lancer, what else would you expect? Although the good people at Mitsubishi had been kind enough to spread a bucket of ArmourAll around this particular vehicle’s innards, the vast areas of black plastic were still just that, albeit somewhat more slippery.
Left: As shown with optional Satellite Navigation
Right: Rockford Fosgate Premium Audio – as tested
Despite this, the VRX does receive a great level of kit inside, which when you consider the target demographic is about as tech-savvy as you’re likely to come across, is a very clever thing. Even if the car was below average – which I hasten to add it isn’t – it would sell quite well based on the equipment list alone.
MP3 compatible six-CD tuner with iPod connectivity and optional sub-woofer, steering wheel mounted audio and cruise control switches, paddle-shift CVT gearbox, climate control air-conditioning, sporty front seats, multi-function trip computer, power windows, power mirrors, dusk sensing halogen headlamps, alloy pedals, Bluetooth connectivity, auto wipers and key-less remote central locking.
Our test car was also fitted with a tilt/slide electric sunroof and the Rockford Fosgate Premium Sound System which let me tell you is an awesome little package (amplifier and nine speakers consisting four mid-range, four tweeters, one sub-woofer). It’s well worth the extra coin, even if you chose it ahead of the optional sunroof and sat-nav.
Safety hasn’t been left by the wayside either with Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body, seven airbags, ABS with EBA and EBD plus ESP with Traction Control all included as standard equipment earning the VRX five from a maximum five-stars on the ANCAP scale – try getting all that in Lancer’s nearest competitor.
Up back, the Sportback is best thought of as a compromise between a hatch and a wagon with a generous 288-litres of cargo area on offer with the seats up and parcel shelf in place. This can be expanded to 344-litres with the floor pushed down, or even further with the 60:40 seats dropped and shelf removed (capacity not available).
While up front, the VRX has seen an engine upgrade since release with the inclusion of a 2.4-litre, four cylinder now making a serious impression in the power stakes for the category. With 125kW developed at 6000rpm, the sexy hatch is a strong performer with the INVECS III CVT gearbox doing a good job at keeping the car humming under heavy acceleration.
The 226Nm of torque on offer too is reasonably strong and there aren’t too many situations where the gearbox has to change ratios when cruising at highway speeds, even with four adults and their luggage on board. It is however a little slow off the mark which takes some time to adjust to, though after a week you’ll barely notice.
The only trouble seems to be that come fill up time the ADR results seem to be telling fibs. The claimed 8.9 litres per 100km (combined) is unrealistic with my week returning 10.4, a peculiar result given I spent the majority of the time on the open highway with the cruise on, which brings me to my next point.
Despite all the niceties on offer the Lancer Sportback has one very evident flaw on the open road, one I’d personally walk away from the car on because of – and that’s road noise. It truly is atrocious. Wind, tyre and road noise are all evident, and all at the same time, even on well sealed roads I’ve travelled quite regularly the noise was simply unacceptable. Good thing the premium stereo was optioned.
The drive though is a laugh and the Sportback handles really well. The strut front, multi-link rear is well set up and therefore a lot of fun, and being so enjoyable you need to be mindful that the bigger engine really does throw the pace on rather quickly, and not to get too carried away.
Understeer will push in to the equation at the silly end of the scale – as with most front wheel drives – though the ESP makes short work of any off road dalliances, and with strong brakes offering a very positive feel to stopping, should see any one not being too stupid quite able to keep it on the black stuff.
Steering is reasonable, offers enough feedback to keep you informed, though I’d have like a little more. It’s light enough at car park speeds to make manoeuvring a cinch, though I’d have thought reverse parking sensors should have been included standard on the gadget list – especially given the restricted rearward vision (available as a dealer fit cost option).
So it’s comfortable enough, competitively priced, it’s very well specced, drives well, is safe as houses and very attractive – but when you consider the road noise and fuel consumption fall well short of expectations, I’ve had to knock half a steering wheel off the total offering. Four out of five.
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How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go: