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The Mitsubishi Lancer earned a reputation for quality and reliability right from its first introduction into Australia in 1974. It has always been a fully imported vehicle and as such has enjoyed a level of quality which has been a cut above the Australian average. Price and availability are among the items that have prevented its popularity in the past, although these may cease to be a hindrance as they are brought into line with other makes.
The 1996 Lancer is available in Coupe, Sedan and Wagon form with two basic equipment levels of GLi and GLXi, as well as the sporty MR Coupe model about to be released. Engine choices are 1.5 and 1.8 litre with all models available in automatic or manual transmission.
Pricing for the Lancer begins at $18,960 for the base GLi Coupe manual and rises to the top of the line GLXi wagon automatic at $26,920. Our road test GLXi manual sedan with standard air conditioning is targeted at the small family sedan purchaser and is priced at $24,520.
The most significant feature under the bonnet is the change in the engine configuration from west/east to east/west. This has enabled improved engine construction and mounting.
The 1.5 engine retains its basic format with an upgraded intake and exhaust manifold and multi point fuel injection replacing the carburettor. This has improved power, torque and driveability.
Only minimal improvement has been gained by minor changes to the 1.8 engine through upgraded manifolding.
New transmissions have been designed to cope with the east/west engine position. The manual transmission has upgraded synchronisers and shift linkage for smoother selection and the clutch is now hydraulically operated on the 1.5 models in line with the 1.8 series.
The automatic transmission version is equipped with Smart Logic technology which enables the computer to learn a driver's style and map out a shift pattern to suit. This is an on going function that can alter the shift pattern to suit varying moods and drivers.
MacPherson strut suspension units are employed front and rear, being located by single lower suspension arms and a stabiliser bar at the front and a multi-link system on the rear. To enhance the vehicle's handling, rack and pinion power steering is fitted as standard across the Lancer range.
Lancer incorporates many safety features whilst increasing rigidity and strength in its body shell. Concentration has been centred around the impact absorption ability of the body structure during front, rear, side, offset, diagonal and rollover impacts. The cabin area has been made safer with the addition of reinforced door locks, emergency locking retractable seat belts, upgraded dash and door trim padding along with fire retardant trim materials. Driver and passenger air bags are additional safety feature options which are available if desired.
The Magna electronic engine immobiliser requiring the matching of codes via a transponder in the ignition key and lock has been adapted to the Lancer.
Mitsubishi has made extensive use of recyclable plastic body parts such as dash panels, door trims, bumper bars, seat cushions and steering wheel pads and where components weigh in access of 100 grams, they are coded for ease of identification.
The styling department of Mitsubishi has successfully created a body style which is unmistakably based around the current Magna sedan and yet it has provided Lancer with an identity of its own. The styling has a definite European flavour with a rear treatment that features large readily visible rear lamps whilst the deep contoured front bumper takes on a bold and more powerful appearance.
The body panels are well formed and fitted together with consistent margins and are flush fitting at all panel edges. The overall aerodynamics are pleasing to the eye whilst achieving a low co-efficient of drag.
Anti corrosion measures have been taken by using corrosion resistant steel sheeting in forty percent of the body panels and by applying a heavy primer to the lower body panels and injecting wax into the sills.
Two new colours, along with the excellent paint finish on the Lancer, should make it more attractive to the younger generation.
Comfortable seating for four is provided in the Lancer and although seat belts are provided for five, the centre position in the rear is really for short trips only, due to the seat cushion shape. The front seats give good support with good head room and only the taller than average driver would find difficulty with the amount of leg room provided. As would be expected in a car of this size, the leg and head room in the rear seats is suitable for only those of average height making access into this area somewhat difficult for taller persons.
Mitsubishi has achieved a good balance of comfort and ride with seats that are firm but comfortable and a suspension that provides a comfortable ride without sacrificing the vehicle's handling ability.
Cabin ventilation is quite adequate under normal conditions and is further enhanced by the standard air conditioning system.
The Lancer has quite a reasonable size boot with good storage area, although hampered by the large lip at the rear and the large intruding hinges which would restrict the carrying ability and entry of some larger items. I did manage to fit our standard lawn mower and golf clubs into the boot at the one time, although one side of the rear seat had to be folded down to accommodate the esky.
A reasonable size non lockable glove box and centre console glove compartment provide sufficient cabin storage to satisfy most needs. This is further enhanced by a narrow pocket in each door, three pockets in the centre console and a compartment in the right side of the dash panel large enough to hold sun glasses.
Being seated behind the wheel of the Lancer is quite a comfortable experience with good vision in all directions and a minimum of obstruction from body pillars.
Exterior mirrors are electrically operated enabling quick and easy adjustment for a clear view to the rear.
All controls are clearly marked, easily identified and readily accessed from the driving position, although those with broad feet could find the left foot area somewhat restricted. The height adjustable seat and steering column allow the steering wheel to be positioned for a clear view of the instruments, regardless of the driver's height. I did find it a little annoying not being able to view the odometer and the trip meter readings concurrently.
Positioning of all controls is fairly standard making familiarisation a short process. Because all the driver's controls in the Lancer are well placed and are light and easy to operate, driving this car is a pleasurable experience.
The 1.8 litre engine in our test vehicle provided a spirited performance with brisk acceleration, hill climbing power to spare and good low speed torque. Safe predictable handling is a feature that most manufacturers attempt to achieve in ideal vehicle design and Mitsubishi have certainly achieved this in the CE Lancer with all these features making it an excellent touring car.
The power assisted front disc and rear drum brake system on the Lancer is a proven system which results in good brake performance requiring only medium pedal pressure to obtain good results with no fade evident during our performance testing.
The newly designed five speed manual transmission is well matched to the 1.8 engine enabling easy and smooth gear selection and a choice of ratios to suit all conditions.
Mitsubishi claims to have upgraded the insulation in the CE Lancer and to have undertaken considerable Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) work in this latest model. However, in my opinion the level of road noise evident in the cabin of our test vehicle was little if any less than I have experienced in other vehicles of this size.
Fuel economy is one of the Laser's best points, with our test returning a respectable overall figure of 7.9 litres/100 km.
Servicing on the CE Lancer has been extended to 15,000 km or 12 month intervals and the number of items requiring regular servicing has been reduced, with the overall effect of cutting service costs. All items requiring regular service are readily accessible making the engine compartment service friendly.
Manufacturers warranty on the Lancer is two years or 50,000 km on the whole of the vehicle. The engine, transmission, driveline components, emission controls and electronic control units are covered for a further twelve months with a three year or 100,000 km warranty. In addition to the above, the sheetmetal panels are warranted against perforation corrosion for a period of five years.
Cars of this size are not ideal for towing but can obviously two lighter trailers on occasions. Mitsubishi has wisely limited the maximum towing mass for the Lancer to 750 kg for a trailer with brakes and a maximum ball mass of 60 kg. A weight distribution system is recommended when towing in the vicinity of the maximum allowance.
A number of years of rally successes have assisted Lancer sales and when driving the street versions it is not difficult to identify the basic handling and performance traits on which the rally cars have been built.
The CE Lancer sedan is a sound performer which does everything required of it with a minimum of fuss in a degree of comfort that would satisfy all but the most fastidious. Its bold appealing style is in keeping with its sprightly performance and predictable handling characteristics.
Anyone in the market for a small four door sedan should certainly check out the Lancer's features and determine if it would satisfy their particular needs.
Test vehicle supplied by Mitsubishi Motors Australia.
By NRMA Motoring, October 1996.
Odometer & tripmeter
|Warranty||Two years, 50,000 km|
GLi Coupe: $18,960
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||1.8 L|
|Induction||Electronic multi-point injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||86 kW @ 5500 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||161 Nm @ 4500 rpm|
|Wheel size||5.0 x 13 "|
|Type||Power assisted rack & pinion|
|Turns to lock||2.8 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||10.8 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1690 mm|
|Fuel capacity||50 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||750 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||70|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||4.7 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||6.5 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||6.8 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||10.6 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||7.5 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||8.8 L/100km|
|Average on test||7.9 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||32.2 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||68.5 dB(A)|