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2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
by Matt Brogan

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review & Road Test

Handsome, sporty and feature packed

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Mitsubishi CJ Lancer VRX Sportback 2.4-litre ,CVT automatic – $32,290 (RRP)


  • Metallic paint $350 (fitted); premium audio package $750; sunroof & premium audio package $2350 (fitted); satellite navigation, sunroof & premium audio package $4750

Space utilisation; strong engine; well optioned; good looks
Wind, tyre & road noise; initial CVT lag; poor fuel economy

CarAdvice Rating:

– by Matt Brogan

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review

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

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review

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.

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review


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).

Next page…

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.

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review

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).

2009 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback Review

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.

CarAdvice Overall Rating:

How does it Drive:
How does it Look:
How does it Go:


  • Engine: 2,359cc DOHC four-cylinder (16 valve)
  • Power: 125kW @ 6000rpm
  • Torque: 226Nm @ 4100rpm
  • Induction: Multi Point
  • Transmission: CVT
  • Driven Wheels: Front
  • Brakes: Disc with ABS, EBA & EBD
  • Top Speed: Not tested
  • 0-100km/h: 7.9 seconds
  • 0-400m: Not tested
  • CO2 Emissions: Not available
  • Fuel Consumption: 8.9 litres/100 km
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 59 litres
  • Fuel Type: 91RONpetrol
  • ANCAP Rating: Five star
  • Airbags: Front, side, knee & curtain
  • Safety: ESP with Traction Control
  • Spare Wheel: Space saver
  • Tow Capacity: 1000kg (Tare)
  • Turning Circle: 10.0 metres
  • Warranty: Five year/unlimited kilometre
  • Weight: 1435kg (Tare)
  • Wheels: Alloy 18 x 7.0-inch

Road Test the Rivals:

  • o

    The interior looks amazing whne the sat nav is optioned but dowdy without

  • driver

    good looks? very subjective assessment there, i prefer the impreza hatch – this one looks a bit ‘elongated’.

  • Phil

    Which model of the lancer’s has the crome ring around the grill at the front? There’s one in the basement of my building – I think they look really nice. Also, 0-100 in 7.9s? That’s pretty quick for a hatchback.. would be nipping at the heels of a GTI

  • Motorhead

    I had a Lancer Aspire for a week & I was shocked at how much fuel it guzzled, more then my V8 daily driver so I’m glad it wasn’t just me they are thirsty little buggers.
    Nicely equipped car but you could tell it was a cheapy underneath & the throttle lag scared the hell out of me, if you floored it & then got off the throttle it would take far too long for it to register & stop accelerating.

  • Wheelnut

    I saw a new VRX sportback on the weekend and I was very impressed with the level of features etc .. so much so that if I was going to replace my 02 Subaru Impreza RS; I would be tempted by a fully optioned Lancer [with both sat nav ans the awesome RF ICE System if possible]. The new Lancer range – designed by Aussie Adrian Arcidipane looks s–tloads better than the current Subie.

    although i’d most likely go for either the Lancer Evo MR-SST or the Ralliart Lancer.. Subaru have lost their way ATM

  • Blahhhh

    The steering wheel looks familiar. It is from the current Accord Euro.
    But the hand brake is on the wrong side! I hate that in cars.

  • Reckless1

    Phil, I presume you mean a Swift GTi.

    You can’t possibly be referring to the Golf GTI. Why ?
    1) this is 100kg heavier
    2) this has 125kw @ 6000 vs 147kw @ 5000
    3) this has 226nm @ 4100 vs 280nm @ 1750
    4) this has CVT auto vs DSG

    Doesn’t matter how you do your sums, this can not nip at the heels of the Golf GTI. More weight, less torque, less power, and both torque and power coming in at much higher revs can not be overcome by wishful thinking.

    I doubt that Mitsubishi sees this as a competitor for the GTI anyway.

    It’s a riced up $20,000 car, not an engineered $40,000 car, not even engineered for its own price bracket.

  • Phil

    Reckless1, I was just referring to the quoted 0-100 time. Nothing else. You have to admit thats quick compared to its competition (SP23, Corolla Levin etc..)

  • Duck

    I’d still prefer the VRX Sedan over the Sportback.

    What about you guys?

    A sedan lancer or sportback?

  • Andrew

    Have recently test-driven this & SP23 & Impreza RS. Pretty impressed with the VRX – found it very quick with the 2.4L engine, grips on hard corners nicely, and plenty of gadgets inside. Downside for me is the annoying right armrest on the side – far too low (I’m 6’2″), and really hard & uncomfortable. Does anyone know if this could somehow be modified? Didn’t personally notice much in the way of road noise – less quiet than the Impreza but quieter than SP23. VRX’s interior is fine with me – low priority in my decision-making. Does have a ‘drony’ engine on hard accelerations, but this doesn’t bother me. Seems a reasonable balance between the SP23 and Impreza RS. More roomy and more compliant ride than the SP23 (SP23 rides too hard for me). Much quicker than the Impreza’s sluggish 2.0L engine, but lacks the class-leading handling of the Subie. None of them are perfect – if Impreza came with a gutsier engine I’d get it without hesitation.

  • Wheelnut

    Andrew: I agree the RS needs a better more powerful engine.

    Infact the Impreza RS used to have a 2.5 Litre Boxer engine. I can’t understand why Suabru stopped putting the 2.5 litre in the RS after the 02 Bug-eyed model [which I currently own] and reserved it exclusively for the WRX – because despite having 1/2 a litre more they have only increased the power of the WRX by a couple of Kws.. compared to what it had with the 2.0 Litre engine.

    I mean i’ve added a few moderate enhancements to my Subie such as a K&N air filter and it produces almost as much power as a Rex. which is why I call my RS a “non turbo” Rex

  • Trump

    The hand brake on the left of the center console does scream out of a shodding right hand drive conversion. Was this supposed to be a euro version?

    Peugeot are famous for these half ditched attempts, like indicators still on the left side of the wheel, which are a real pain to use when driving a manual, or windscreen wipers that pivot to the left and leave a big unwiped section for taller drivers.

    Surely they would fix this for the Evo and ralliart editions where more spirited use of the handbrake is common.

  • Andrew

    Thanks for the info Wheelnut. So is it possible to modify a 2.0L impreza RS to increase the engine’s power? If so, please explain in very simple terms as I am very ignorant with these sort of things. If I could modify the 2.0L so that it would perform to an equivalent of 2.3L then I would be happy.

  • http://funnytuning.blogspot.com funnytuning

    I don’t like it. Now it looks like a Subaru.

  • Flying High

    Saw a rally art version of this hatch in the city the other day. Front looks good. The rear and side profile is ho-hum. Terrible really. Matt Brogan – subjective opinion or not – you need to get your eyes checked if you really think this is a looker. Got to be one of the worst hatch designs I have ever seen. What were Mitsubishi thinking when they approved this monstrosity of a design?

  • nutty

    sedan lancer more more more more amezing then sportback..i agree with u duck

  • http://mitsubishipajero.com NEBANGU


  • llereva

    I wonder why some people like powerful car, Whats the point? You’ll only end up either having an overspeeding fine,in a hospital or in hell!!!!

  • llereva

    I think one of the global warming contributor are the car manufacturers that build huge engine or this what we called high performance car, whats the point of using this type of car. Just to impress other people? well, im not.

  • Ben

    @Llereva – You keep telling yourself that buddy. Have fun driving around in your Nissan Micra.