2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Hatchback - FROM $18,395
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer is a fairly sporty hatchback, but it doesn't deliver when it comes to refinement or fuel economy.
What's New for 2012
For the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback, the high-performance Ralliart trim level has been retired. The GTS is also gone, though it's been effectively replaced by the GT.
Like many manufacturers, Mitsubishi reckons having a little fun in your practical everyday car is a good thing. Based on the Lancer sedan, the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback expands on that notion with its hatchback design, offering additional cargo capacity over the sedan. Aggressively styled with its chiseled body and available cosmetic upgrades, the Lancer Sportback looks as if it came straight from Europe -- which it originally did.
Sadly, there's little actual performance to back up those sporty looks this year, as the turbocharged, all-wheel-drive Ralliart version has been dropped for 2012. What remains is a competent hatchback but not much else. While the car's handling is better than average and its features list is fairly comprehensive, it's letdown by a sluggish continuously variable transmission (CVT), unremarkable fuel economy, substandard interior materials and limited actual cargo capacity due to the car's raked rear window.
As such, we think most buyers will be happier with a competing small hatchback. Compared to models such as the Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza or Volkswagen Golf, the Lancer typically comes up short in terms of cargo capacity, fuel economy and performance.
Unfortunately for Mitsubishi, small hatchbacks are better than ever, and the 2012 Lancer Sportback has been left near the back of the pack.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback is available in ES and GT trim levels.
The base ES comes with 16-inch steel wheels, front disc and rear drum brakes, automatic headlights, air-conditioning, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, full power accessories, a trip computer, a 60/40-split rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player with an auxiliary audio jack.
The GT gains a more powerful engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, foglamps, a sport-tuned suspension, aero-style bodywork pieces, keyless entry/ignition, automatic climate control, sport front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles, Bluetooth, the Fuse voice-activation system and a six-speaker sound system with a USB/iPod interface.
Many GT features are also available on the ES as stand-alone options or as part of bundled packages. A Touring package is available for the GT and features a sunroof, automatic wipers, automatic bi-xenon headlights, leather seats, heated front seats, a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system (with an in-dash six-CD changer and satellite radio) and a rearview camera in the rearview mirror. Also optional on both trims is a navigation system with digital music storage and a rearview camera in the display.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback ES is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. The GT upgrades to a 2.4-liter four that makes 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. A CVT and front-wheel drive are standard for both engines. The CVT features simulated gear ratios that can be operated via the GT's shift paddles. There is no manual transmission for 2012. The Lancer ES achieves an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined. The GT earns 22 city/29 highway and 25 combined.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback comes standard with front-seat side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and stability control. Antilock brakes are also standard, with four-wheel disc brakes on the GT and rear drums for the ES. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Lancer Sportback its highest rating of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
While the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer's chiseled exterior lends an air of aggression, its interior design and materials tend to drag down the vehicle's overall appeal. On the whole, the cabin design is a bit uninspiring, and is rife with hard plastic elements. Taller drivers will likely bemoan the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and the lack of under-thigh support.
The rear seats are quite comfortable, with a generous amount of legroom. The 60/40-split seats fold flat to accommodate bulky items, expanding the 13.8 cubic feet of storage to a maximum of either 46.6 cubic feet with the rear cargo floor in place or 52.7 cubes with it removed.
The clumsy operation of the touchscreen navigation unit looks to have been remedied by Mitsubishi's Fuse voice activation system. Much as with Ford's Sync system, selecting a destination or choosing your favorite music is only a voice command away. Fuse is not quite as sophisticated as Sync and lacks a few of the latter's features and voice commands, but we still prefer it to the tricky layout of the touchscreen.
The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback ES's 148-hp output makes it just fine for the daily commuter but will probably disappoint drivers with more spirited leanings. The GT model is an enticing choice for buyers on a budget who are looking for more performance than in the typical economy car. Its 2.4-liter engine has adequate low-end power and a smooth, willing nature, as well as unusually sharp handling for this class.