Test Drive: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart car test drives mitsubishi
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the front Recaro seats are comfortable, but only if you’re small in the behind. And even if you do fit between the prominent bolsters, there’s the issue of humping over them to get in and out of the car, which more than one front-seat passenger complained about. Once you’re in, though, lateral support is terrific, as I discovered on a three-hour, backroads drive to the cottage.

But my biggest complaint about the seats has to do with the lack of seat cushion adjustment. The seating position is low, so if you’re short, this car’s going to feel a little claustrophobic. The seat cushion angles down to toward the rear, too, which became uncomfortable on a three-hour drive to the cottage. I realize these seats are meant to complement the Ralliart’s (and Evo’s) sporting nature – and they do that, for sure – but my 40 grand wants the car it buys to have a fully-adjustable driver’s seat.

The low seats make for great front-seat headroom, and that sense of spaciousness is enhanced by a cabin that feels wide. Rear seat space is average, but in a sporty car like this, the ability to seat normal-sized people in the back is a real plus compared to a coupe.

Test Drive: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart car test drives mitsubishi
Test Drive: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart car test drives mitsubishi
Test Drive: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart car test drives mitsubishi
2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart. Click image to enlarge

Same goes for the Sportback’s hatchback body style; the large cargo opening enhances the car’s practicality, and its actual cargo capacity – 390 litres – is a decent increase compared to the Ralliart sedan’s 309 litres (the base Lancer sedan can carry 348 litres). A more upright back window angle would help even more; as it is, the depth of the trunk isn’t much more than the sedan’s. The back seats fold down, naturally, and fold nearly flat, at that; put it all together, and this is a sporty car that doubles as a great daily driver.

Interior fit and finish are okay, but only that. While the uninspiring plastics that make up the dash and other interior surfaces are okay in the bargain-basement Lancer DE, the Ralliart – and even more so, the Evolution, with its nearly $50,000 price – deserves a little more flair for its accommodations. That said, I’m sure many shoppers will agree with me when I say I’m glad for the effort Mitsu put into this car’s chassis and powertrain, rather than prettying up the interior at the expense of performance.

Some might call the range of powertrain, trim and bodystyle choices offered in the Lancer range excessive. I’d tend to side with Goldilocks, though, and call the Ralliart the just-right blend of the Evolution’s performance with a more palatable price.

Pricing: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart
  • Base price: $33,498
  • Options: $5,000 (Premium Package, which includes hard-drive based navigation; a stereo upgrade that includes a 30-gigabyte music server, satellite radio and an audio/video auxiliary input; power sunroof; Recaro seats; Mitsu’s FAST-key system; Bluetooth communications connectivity and automatic headlights and wipers.)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,310
  • Price as tested: $39,908
    Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

    Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer

    Competitors
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)