Subaru Impreza (left) and Mitsubishi Lancer AWC
Subaru Impreza (left) and Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC. Click image to enlarge
Test Drive: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS
Test Drive: 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i TouringManufacturer’s web sites
Mitsubishi Motors Canada
Subaru Canada

Review and photos by Michael Schlee

Photo Gallery:
Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC vs Subaru Impreza Touring sedan

In 1993 Subaru introduced the compact, all-wheel-drive turbocharged Impreza in Japan to battle the similarly equipped Mitsubishi Lancer. Since then, these two vehicles have been fighting head to head in a hotly contested automotive battle that is the Japanese equivalent to the “Mustang vs Camaro” rivalry south of the border. As the feud approaches its 20th anniversary, competition between the two nameplates heats up in 2012 as Mitsubishi enters the previously “Subaru-only” segment of all-wheel-drive compact sedans in Canada. Think of it as round three of a three-round fight or the rubber match of a three-game series. All bragging rights are on the line here.

Why? Well simply put, and in the most un-scientific way possible, I score the match tied right now. In the top tier of Lancers and Imprezas reside the Lancer Evolution and WRX STI (which has nominally dropped the Impreza prefix). Here, the Lancer is the victor as it features a mechanical rawness and responsiveness not matched by the WRX STI as proven in a previous comparison test. At the mid-level there is the Mitsu Lancer Ralliart versus the Subaru WRX. Here, the tables are flipped and the WRX is the more appealing vehicle of the two as described during a back-to-back drive last fall. So, who will break the tie?

Subaru Impreza (right) and Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC
Subaru Impreza (right) and Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC. Click image to enlarge

Assembled for this test are the 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Touring Sedan and the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC. For years Subaru has played alone in the sandbox of compact, entry-level all-wheel-drive cars. However, for 2012 Mitsubishi has decided to take Subaru on head to head. How do you compete against an established player in a niche market? Copy Match them on every detail. Separated by a MSRP of only $103, both vehicles come equipped with CVT transmissions, all-wheel drive, four doors, nearly identical amenities and 16-inch alloys with 205 width Yokohama Avid tires. The only real difference between the two was in the engine bays (and Mitsubishi’s massive wing). Subaru goes the fuel-efficiency route with a 2.0L flat-four while Mitsubishi goes the performance route with a 2.4L inline-four.

It should be noted that our entire comparison test almost fell apart right from the start. Unfortunately, the Lancer arrived for the test on winter tires while the Impreza had temperature appropriate all-season rubber. Knowing the belittling and bashing we would receive in the forum if we had the audacity to attempt the comparison this way, we kindly asked Mitsubishi if we could please, please get all-seasons back on the Lancer. They came through in the crunch and two days later it was game on! Read on to see how things turned out.

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