Mitsubishi Lancer : LX Sportback / Ralliart Hatch Road Test
Review by Tristan Tancredi - 9 January 2013
If there was one point highlighted during the launch of Mitsubishi's 2013 range it was the emphasis on refined style and performance at a cheaper, industry competitive price.
Latest figures suggest that new car buyers are tending to ditch the small car segment and opt for the smaller SUV. Mitsubishi's answer: Drop the price of the Lancer throughout the range, yet maintain their philosophy of "providing a car for all lifestyles and budgets".
As part of their restructure of the brand, Mitsubishi have included a Luxury model (LX) which is strategically priced between the base (ES) and VRX models. The Lancer Ralliart has also had a price cut, yet remains the most expensive of the Lancers.
We were granted the pleasure of test driving both the Lancer LX Sportback and the Ralliart Hatch, so let's check out how they stack up.
The Lancer has been an integral part of Mitsubishi's development, and surprisingly to some, holds 13% of small sedan sales (as of mid 2012). But has this latest revamp of the pricing structure and upgrades to on-road performance done enough to boost sales for the flailing small car market?
Let's start with the The Lancer LX which is a solid all round performer. We gave the 6-Speed CVT a weeks worth of grueling testing (unfortunately we didn't get a crack at the 5 Speed Manual) and it provided us with very little to complain about. A settled, comfortable on-road performance, with accurate gear changes and a smooth, relaxing driving environment to work with.
Adequate on all driving conditions (off road, city, suburbs, freeways) the LX remains true to it's objective of magnifying comfort and performance at a very respectable and competitive price. Although, it must be said, the LX is a long way off breaking any sprint records, reaching 0-100km/h in 10.5 seconds. But hey, this is the Luxury. If you want speed, the Ralliart is more to your liking.
The Ralliart Sportback reaches 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds and it is capable of reaching decent speed throughout every gear interval. Yet, unlike the Lancer LX, the Ralliart struggles in day-to-day driving.
The Ralliart, despite being impressively quick, can't seem to relax and potter along when required. The best analogy we can come up with is similar to restraining a little kid on red cordial. A slight touch on the accelerator and the vehicle surges forward in rather jerky movements, unlike the fluidity of the LX.
Often we found (when pottering along in congested traffic) the 6-speed twin clutch sports shift will remain in lower gears for far too long before automatically gearing up. This required the driver to manually chuck the gears up, just to lower the rev count.
But hey, the Ralliart is a fun car to drive, it's just not entirely practical for day-to-day use.
The LX shares the same engine that sits in the base model ES Lancer. So, to put it bluntly, you are basically paying the extra $4,000 for interior luxuries. Utilising a 2.0 litre 4 Cylinder DOHC 16 Valve Mivec Engine, the Lancer LX is a smooth, settled machine, with adequate engine performance.
The 2.0 litre engine delivers maximum power of 110kW at 6,000rpm at maximum torque of 197Nm at 4,200rpm. Hardly breathtaking figures, yet entirely appropriate and fitting for such a vehicle.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the Lancer Ralliart. Designed to be driven with more urgency than the LX, the Ralliart is fitted with a 2.0 litre 4 Cylinder 16 Valve Intercooled Turbo MIVEC engine. Unlike the LX, the Ralliart pushes out decent figures. Maximum power sits at 177kW at 6,000rpm, and (more impressively) maximum torque figures are 343Nm at 2,500-4,750rpm. This results in higher performance, right from the get-go.
Disappointingly, the engine note of the Ralliart is quite tamed and underwhelming. Rather than emitting a meaty growl, it is tuned to deliver an electric whirr. But we're biased, we want everything to sound like the Toyota 86!
As you would expect, the Ralliart burns through a tad more fuel (9.8l per 100kms) than the LX CVT (7.3l per 100kms). Those are the figures given by Mitsubishi and after cruising around in both vehicles for a couple of weeks, we can vouch for these numbers.
A few physical tweaks and upgrades are on show with the 2013 Lancer range. Throughout the range, Mitsubishi have cleaned up the exterior and made it more aesthetically pleasing. A classy, modern, efficient design.
The Ralliart Hatch comes standard with an aluminium hood, rear spoiler, chrome grille surround, front fog lamps, privacy glass, chrome side window garnish, dual exhaust pipe and a chrome exhaust tip. The Lancer LX Sportback lacks the depth of exterior features seen on the Ralliart, but still holds its own with a rear spoiler and a chrome grille.
The 2013 Lancer range is an eye-catching, improved model range, the Lancer LX Sportback measures in at 4,585mm long, 1,760mm wide and 1,505mm tall. The Lancer Ralliart Hatch measures in at 4,585mm long, 1,760mm wide and 1,515mm tall.
Safety is paramount to the success of new car sales. So it's of no surprise that most (if not all) new cars these days are awarded a 5-Star safety rating before they reach the market.
The Lancer range is no exception to this rule as they maintain a 5-star safety rating and a strong history of high safety standards.
Standard safety features for the Lancer LX and Ralliart include; driver and front passenger SRS airbags, driver and front passenger side SRS airbags, curtain SRS airbags, drivers knee airbag, ABS, EBD, Active Stability Control, Active Traction Control, Hill Start Control (CVT only), RISE body, reverse parking sensors and a reverse camera.
There are a few notable differences inside the Lancer LX Sportback and the Lancer Ralliart, the most obvious of which is seating. The Luxurious LX is fitted with full leather interior, whilst the Ralliart settles for a mesh/fabric finish. Both very capable and appropriate and come with lumbar and side support (Despite being bucket seats, they are not as snug as the Focus ST).
Both models offer sufficient space for a family of 5 (A suitable boot compartment, with back seats folded down, was more than adequate when helping a friend move house).
Both cars utilise the same Bluetooth technology which is best described as temperamental. The technology managed to connect to "iPhones" without an issue, yet was very picky with any other phone variety (Android Included). Add to this a confusing interface and accessing Bluetooth can become quite a nuisance.
Also, if there is an AUX input (which the user manual suggests) we must be blind. Throughout our 2 weeks with the Lancer, we failed to locate an AUX input thus arriving at the conclusion that it simply doesn't have one. We're pretty sure it's as important to have an AUX input as it is a CD player (even more so) and this should be a no brainer for car manufactures. Poor form Mitsubishi. However USB and iPod Controls are standard.
A display screen sits prominently on the centre console and provides access to music, settings and navigation (if installed). Overall, it's quite a pleasant, well designed interior, with a few obvious (and silly) flaws.
Lancer LX Sportback - 4/5 -
Lancer Ralliart Hatch - 3/5 -
If you tend to enjoy long drives on open roads and indulging in the occasional burst of speed, then the Lancer Ralliart is more for you (Although we'd recommend the Focus ST for about $6,000 less). However if you need a practical day-to-day car, head towards the Lancer LX.
MMAL's President and CEO Mutsuhiro Oshikiri best described the latest addition to the Lancer range, "The introduction of the Lancer LX offers customers an attractive and economically priced vehicle with high quality safety and a long list of features".
Prices start at $26,240 for the Lancer LX CVT and $44,490 for the Lancer Ralliart. Head on down to your local dealership and check out these cars today.
* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Mitsubishi dealer.
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