2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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With the possible exception of its arch-rival, the Subaru Impreza, the Mitsubishi Lancer spans a range that few other models can match. At one end of the scale, it appears as the grocery-getter ES, with its 2.0-litre cranking out 130 horses; at the other end, the legendary Evolution sends 286 ponies out to all four wheels.

But the “Evo”, as it’s known, suffers a fatal flaw for Canadians: its gnarly front-end design puts the intercooler front and centre, and that means a fascia that won’t pass Transport Canada’s bumper standards. I’ve driven both the current and previous generations of Evo, and can report that it’s more fun than a human should be able to have on four wheels. But until the Evo makes its way here, if ever, the Ralliart is the Lancer you want.

(There’s also an O-Z Rally Lancer available, but don’t be fooled — it’s just a pricey trim package on the base ES. The wheels are sweet and the rear spoiler looks go-fast, but it’s still only got the 130 hp 2.0-litre, and is a sheep in wolf’s clothing.)

The Ralliart, the top-of-the-line Lancer in Canada, carries a 2.4-litre, SOHC four-cylinder that uses MIVEC (Mitsubishi Innovative Valve timing and lift Electronic Control) to make both 162 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. A four-speed automatic with adaptive shift control is available, but that would have you missing out on the standard five-speed manual, which is borrowed from the Evo and features a close-coupled shifter and stiff clutch that’s in line with the Ralliart’s tuner-car heritage.

Should you go for the stick-shift, you might want to drop by the aftermarket shop for better pedals. The Ralliart package includes spiffy aluminum pedals that get too slick when they’re wet; when I got caught in the rain and drove with wet sneakers, my foot kept slipping off the clutch.

2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
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In contrast to the sensuous Eclipse, the Ralliart’s styling is mundane, and unless you opt for one of the hotter colours like Phoenix Red or Lightning Yellow, you’ll pretty much blend into the crowd. It isn’t bad looking, it just isn’t anything special. The skirt package works well with the design, though, and the rear spoiler adds a bit of pizzazz that offsets the visibility it steals.

The Ralliart comes with several features that must be ordered separately on the base Lancer ES, including six speakers with the standard CD player, side-impact airbags, anti-lock brakes, folding 60/40 rear seat, air, power windows and locks with keyless entry, and cruise control. My tester also came with a six-CD changer and a “Sun & Sound” package, which added a sunroof and seven speakers, including a subwoofer. Since the six-CD is an add-on, separate from the stereo head and tucked into the centre stack where you’d normally expect to find an ashtray, you can actually stash seven discs.

2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
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The performance-oriented Ralliart also adds a 26 mm front sway bar (one mm larger than the ES and O-Z Rally), front strut-tower brace, 13 mm rear sway bar, and four-wheel disc brakes, to the ES’ smaller front discs and rear drums. The result is a car that has somewhat twitchy steering on the highway and just a touch of torque steer, but can be thrown confidently into corners and fearlessly pushed to its limits; it corners almost flat, and its four discs bring it to a smooth, quick halt.

The punchy engine delivers lightning-fast throttle response, and the shifter’s short throws can get you up to operating speed in a hurry. If you’re not the type to build your own at the aftermarket speed shop, this is a great package right out of the box.

The downside of tuner cars is that they’re rough and noisy, and while the Ralliart’s ride is considerably better than the average low-budget backyard conversion, you still feel every road imperfection, and the ride is choppy over rough pavement; drive along a series of highway expansion joints and you risk getting seasick. Much of the noise comes from the exhaust note, and it’s the good kind, with a nasty growl that makes you want to push it hard. I did just that, and got a return of 9.4 L/100 km.

2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
Click image to enlarge

Inside, the Ralliart contains a lot of plastic — this range is entry-level, after all — but it’s put together fairly well, and metallic accents give it a smooth, polished look. All controls are easy to reach and simple to operate, but they need more backlighting: the cigarette lighter has its own illuminated ring, but you have to fumble in the dark to find the door locks. The cluster lights up red at night, but not enough; even at the brightest setting, the instruments are far too dim, and difficult to read.

2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
Click image to enlarge

The heater warms up very quickly, and gets deliciously hot, while the wiper coverage was a bit too good, and my tester suffered from a blade that kept hitting the window frame.

The Ralliart’s sporty-style seats are quite good for this price point, with adequate side bolsters and see-through head restraints; the rear seat is economy-car tight, but there’s enough room under the front seats to slip one’s feet, which allows for a little extra comfort. With the seats in place, the trunk is 97 cm long; fold the two-piece rear seat, and it extends to 170 cm, with a trunk light to make cargo-loading easier.

Mitsubishi’s slogan is “Best backed cars in the world”, and the warranty is enticing: five years or 100,000 km comprehensive, and powertrain coverage that stretches to ten years or 160,000 km,

2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart
Click image to enlarge

along with five year/unlimited coverage on Roadside Assistance. The major drawback might be finding someone to repair any problems, as Mitsubishi’s dealer network is sparse, and it’s not unusual to hear of longer-than-average waits for fairly common parts to come in.

I’ll always remember that spring day when I left Mitsubishi’s head office in an Evo, put it through its gears in less than a city block, and thought it was a lot of noise and fuss for 80 km/h — until I remembered that it was an American car, and those weren’t kilometres on the speedo. The Ralliart is no Evo, of course, but the heritage is there, and it’s still a great deal of low cost, pseudo-tuner-car fun that comes ready-made and ready to go.

Technical Data: 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart

Base price $22,778
Options $2,097 (Sun & Sound $1,750; six-CD changer $270; wheel locks $35; cargo net $42)
Freight $1,095
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $26,070 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 2.4-litre 4 cylinder, SOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 162 @ 5750 rpm
Torque 162 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual (opt. 4-speed auto.)
Tires P205/50R16
Curb weight 1325 kg (2922 lbs)
Wheelbase 2600 mm (102.4 in.)
Length 4585 mm (180.5 in.)
Width 1695 mm (66.8 in.)
Height 1365 mm (53.7 in.)
Cargo capacity 320 litres (11.3 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 10.1 L/100 km (28 mpg Imp)
  Hwy: 7.4 L/100 km (38 mpg Imp)
Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 10 yrs/160,000 km

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