- Improved looks.
- Decent performance to back up its body kit.
- Tossable handling.
- Good all-round visibility.
- Ergonomic interior.
- Excessive body roll for a sporty car.
- Interior looks boring.
- So-so braking performance.
- Handling not as tight as some competitors.
- ABS is an extra-cost option.
Press Coverage :
The lowly Mitsubishi Lancer economy sedan gets a much needed facelift, after just two years in the market. The dramatic facelift sheds the boxy outdated front end of the car for a more futuristic and aggressive design reminiscent of the current Toyota Camry, with triangular headlights and a corporate grille. The rear also gets a minor revision, but the big news is the Ralliart edition of this rejuvenated car.
Ralliart is the name of Mitsubishi's performance arm, similar to Toyota's TRD and Ford's SVT. Ralliart has been tuning Mitsubishis overseas for years, especially the older versions of the Lancer Evolution models. Not to be confused with the Evo, the front-wheel-drive Ralliart-edition Lancer is a compromise between the hardcore Evo and the pathetic OZ Rally Edition. Unlike both the Evo or the OZ Rally, which both have different iterations of a 2.0L engine, the Ralliart has a 2.4L engine, complete with MIVEC, Mitsubishi's version of variable valve timing. Equipped with this engine, the Ralliart Lancer goes head-to-head with the likes of the SVT Focus, Sentra SE-R and MazdaSpeed Protege, based on power and price alone. Horsepower is just adequate, at 162 hp peaking around 5750 rpm, with a respectable torque figure of 162 lb-ft reaching its peak figure at a rather high 4000 rpm. Compared to a Civic Si, these numbers are better, especially in the torque department.
Paired with the five-speed manual transmission, acceleration is in the mid-seven second range, which is about average in this category. The conventional four-speed automatic transmission, even with its adaptive shift control, bogs down acceleration with its conservative shift points. The manual gearbox shifts smoothly, although it is not the best in the business. The engine never feels overworked during normal highway driving. Added performance pieces include stiffer springs and dampers for the four-wheel independent suspension, a front strut tower brace and a larger rear stabilizer bar. Attractive 16-inch five-spoke wheels are standard, with 205/50R16 tires. Also standard are four-wheel disc brakes, but ABS with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) are optional. Handling is much improved over the OZ Rally, with higher turn-in speeds possible at corners, no doubt helped by reduced body roll and larger tires, but it is well below the standards set by the MazdaSpeed Protege. As with all front-drivers, understeer becomes prominent if you try to take a corner too fast, although the chassis is solid and the body does not shake or rattle under stress - a result of sharing its genes with the Evolution. The car can be thrown around like a little sports car, due in part to its light weight and decent steering feel. Braking is improved over the base Lancer, with four-wheel discs, but stopping distances are still only average, with stops from 60 mph taking as long as 135 feet.
The 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is based on the standard four-door Lancer sedan bodyshell. The Ralliart shows off the new front fascia that will be seen on all 2004 Lancers. At the rear, the Ralliart features a revised deck lid and rear wing, along with clear lens taillights.
Inside the Lancer Ralliart are black cloth sport seats lifted from the Japanese-market Lancer Evolution GT-A. Red accents are woven in, and see-through headrests are a prominent interior characteristic. The instrument panel is trimmed with carbon fiber and titanium-colored accents. A Sun and Sound Package that includes a power sunroof and a 315-watt six-speaker Infinity CD audio system with an 8-inch subwoofer will be offered.All-round visibility is good, with a high driving position, thin C-pillars and large glass areas. Standard interior features include air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, and a power sunroof. Also included are remote entry, cruise control and auto-off headlights. Front airbags are standard, but side airbags are optional.
For the first time in the States, Mitsubishi is also introducing a wagon, called the Sportback, with Volvo-style tail lights, and the Ralliart trim features the 160 hp engine, performance bits and body kit, but only comes with a four-speed automatic transmission. The wagon adds a cavernous 42.3 cubic feet of cargo area, compared to the 11.3 cubic feet of the sedan.
The engine resonates with a buzz that is more pleasing than annoying, even when MIVEC switches to the high profile at 3500 rpm or when the needle plays tag with the 6500-rpm redline. Throughout the rev range, the engine demonstrates a smooth, effortless demeanor reminiscent of Honda's 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Animated interaction with the throttle becomes addictive.
A five-speed manual is the standard dance partner to the MIVEC motor, with a four-speed automatic as an option. The manual features a beefed-up clutch, a triple-cone synchronizer for second gear, and linkage borrowed from the Evo. Shift and clutch effort is light, making Mitsubishi's decision to offer only the automatic in the Sportback an apparent oversight. Mitsubishi says the five-speed could find its way into the wagon if demand warrants it.
The Lancer offers comfortable seating for four adults or five passengers in a pinch. Visibility is excellent from ever vantage point as windows are tall, the hood and trunk are short, and the pillars are quite narrow. Seating surfaces are durable cloth. Leg, hip and shoulder room is very good for a compact car, even in the rear passenger compartment. I was surprised to see that neither front seat back had a storage pouch.
The four-spoke steering wheel has a good feel. The dash is well laid out and simplicity seems to be the key element of the design. HVAC controls, vents and other switches all fall within easy reach and perform well. The faux-wood trim from the ES is replaced with a band of metal trim, and sporty white-faced gauges occupy the instrument pod. These look great during the day, but at night they take on a gray hue with glowing red numbers. While passing through urban areas with abundant street lights, the reflection from the outside lighting made the gauges difficult to read, even when cranked up to their brightest setting. The rear seats fold forward for transporting longer cargo, but the opening is relatively small. The trunk itself is a good size for this category.
2002-2003 Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally
2,000 cc / 120 hp / 130 lb-ft / 2701-2745 lbs / 0-60 mph 9.0 sec.