2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

Discuss this story in the forum at CarTalkCanada

Find this vehicle in Autos’s Classified Ads

Photo Gallery: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer

Santa Barbara, California – The attention-grabbing Concept X car that Mitsubishi has been schlepping around the auto show circuit since 2005 is pretty obviously a Concept Lancer. That was no secret. The question was, “Would the new Lancer actually look like this?”

The answer, happily, is “yes,” although Mitsubishi designer Dan Sims does allow that it took a bit of convincing to get some of the more conservative Mitsubishi executives in Japan to sign on to the new design. “The styling is aggressive for Mitsubishi,” he explained at its launch in Santa Barbara. “But in the end they went with it.”

Good thing, too. From the side and rear you have something of the popular Acura TSX, and at the front, the provocative grille of the Concept X. From any angle, this is one of the nicest new designs of the past few years, and just the thing that Mitsubishi needs to make itself visible in the competitive compact segment (and if you’re wondering about the legendary Lancer Evolution, we’ll finally see that in Canada toward the end of this year, or in early 2008).

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer. Click image to enlarge

The 2008 Lancer ranges in price from $16,598 to $24,798, and is based on the same platform as the company’s new 2007 Outlander (this is a “global” platform, developed in conjunction with DaimlerChrysler and Peugeot Citroen).

Under the hood is a 2.0-litre, all aluminum, dual overhead camshaft, four-cylinder engine that makes 152 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 146 foot pounds of torque at 4,250 rpm. Three transmission options are available, including a five-speed manual, CVT automatic and CVT “Sportronic” with paddle shifters.

Similarly, three levels of trim – DE, ES and GTS – determine the equipment, appearance and driving dynamics of the new Lancer. Wheels range in size from 16-inch steel to 18-inch, 10-spoke alloys, and the sporty GTS supplies front and side air dams, fog lights, a rear spoiler and chrome tailpipe tip.

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer; photos courtesy of Mitsubishi Canada. Click image to enlarge

The sporty GTS is not just air dams and spoilers, though. Although the full line of new Lancers is tuned for ride and handling, the GTS suspension receives different stabilizer bars and spring/shock damping rates, along with front brakes from the larger, heavier Outlander SUV (294 millimetre vented discs in front, versus 274 mm, with 302 mm solid discs at the rear for all trim levels). Consequently, it will reward drivers who want more responsive handling when the opportunity presents itself.

The 2008 Lancer is a little shorter than the model it replaces, but has a longer wheelbase, wider track and greater overall width. The result, in combination with its stiffer chassis and European-tuned suspension, is a better handling vehicle with more interior room than the outgoing model.

The Lancer is built around Mitsubishi’s Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) unibody design, which disperses energy loads during side and rear crashes, and enhances occupant protection. Front seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard, as are side curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag. Anti-lock brakes are standard on the ES and GTS models, and optional on the DE.

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer. Click image to enlarge

Interior appointments look and feel expensive throughout the range. The GTS features an optional Sun and Sound package that combines a sunroof and 650-watt Rockford-Fosgate premium audio system, with audio jack for an iPod or similar media player. Bluetooth cell phone interface with voice recognition is also available for the GTS and ES, and the GTS is exclusively available with Mitsubishi’s FAST Key entry system (the keyfob can remain in your pocket or purse while unlocking the door and starting the vehicle).

While the five-speed manual provides crisp shifts and snappy acceleration, the CVT is more interesting because it’s available with paddle shifters that simulate a six-speed gearbox. This “Sportronic” version of the CVT addresses a concern some people have (me included) with CVTs, which is their tendency to drone when accelerating. With the paddle shifters you can make this gearbox behave and sound like a sporty manual transmission when accelerating, with the added benefit that when traveling at highway speeds, you get quietness and fuel economy that typifies CVT transmissions. Of course, you don’t have to shift at all if you don’t want to.

Our short drive in the Lancer ES from Pismo Beach back to Santa Barbara was enough to whet the appetite for much more seat time in this eye-catching vehicle. Steering is sharp, with good “on-centre” feel from its hydraulic power steering assist, the ride is smooth and the cabin quiet and roomy.

2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
2008 Mitsubishi Lancer. Click image to enlarge

Fuel economy is rated at 9.7/7.0 litres per 100 kilometres for the five-speed manual, 9.5/7.0 l/100km city/highway for the CVT and 9.6/6.9 l/100km city/highway for the Sportronic CVT. Regular grade fuel is recommended.

As far as looks go, design may not be everything, but it’s a great start. This affordable small car has terrific lines, so why not have a little character with your compact? As mentioned earlier, look for the Lancer Evolution late this year or early next year, and also look for a Ralliart version once the new Lancer is established in the marketplace.

The 2008 Lancer is a leap ahead for Mitsubishi, reminiscent of the Mazda’s introduction of the Mazda3 to replace its aging Protegé. This Lancer emphatically replaces and redefines the outgoing model.

At a glance: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer

  • Available: March, 2007
  • Mitsubishi Lancer DE 5MT: $16,598
  • Mitsubishi Lancer ES 5MT: $19,698
  • Mitsubishi Lancer DE 5MT: $23,698
  • CVT transmission adds $1,100

Related articles on Autos

Manufacturer’s web site

Connect with Autos.ca