2015 Mitsubishi Lancer

Starting MSRP: $17,395 - $29,495

Estimated MPG: 25 city / 34 hwy

2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Review

Compliant handling and an attractive exterior help give the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer a fighting chance in the compact car segment. However, the Lancer falls short with poor overall driving dynamics and a noisy interior that lacks the polish that many competitors offer.

By Chris Brewer
Last Updated 05/03/2016

The Mitsubishi Lancer remains relatively unchanged for the 2015 model year, minus some nice new standard features and feature packages. The base Lancer ES is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that’s paired with a five-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is optional. Lancer SE AWC models receive a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a CVT and all-wheel drive, while the Lancer GT employs same engine, but arrives with front-wheel drive and the choice between a standard five-speed manual transmission and an optional CVT.

The top Lancer Ralliart AWC is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a twin-clutch automated manual transmission. The performance-oriented 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is covered in a separate review.

Exterior

Exterior
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The rally car inspired exterior of the Lancer is attractive and well proportioned, with a signature front bumper and grille that set the Lancer apart from the majority of the compact sedan competition. The aggressive, lean and sharply pointed lower chin spoiler gives the front of the Lancer an authoritative stance that lets you know it means business, regardless of whether you spot it in a crowded parking lot or see it rolling up behind you on the interstate.

The design has held up well considering that the current iteration of the Lancer was first launched as 2008 model. 

A testimony to the timeless design, the Lancer avoids trendy for tried and true. That said, a refresh would serve the Lancer well heading into the future.

Interior

Interior
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The open and clean design of the Lancer’s interior is impressive. With plenty of room for front and rear passengers, the Lancer’s 93.5 cubic feet of passenger volume is generous, but a little shy of what the segment leaders offer.

Unfortunately, being “a little shy of segment leaders” becomes a theme with the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer. Even with considerable upgrades from Mitsubishi to bring the 2015 model’s interior up to snuff, the Lancer falls short of delivering a cabin that is in line with expectations. That isn’t to say that the interior doesn’t work well or provide a nice environment, it is more of a testimony to the progress of chief competitors from Honda, Toyota and Mazda.

The dashboard is nicely organized and the gauges are easy to read. The center console provides plenty of little cubbies for electronics and a pair of well-placed cup holders. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is attractive and positioned just about right, but the inability to telescope seems out of place, especially for the price.

The Lancer’s seats are supportive and comfortable. My GT review vehicle included a $5,150 Touring package that adds leather seating surfaces, but even at my review vehicle’s final price of $27,555 they remained manually adjustable.

Rear cargo space is competitive with the segment at 12.3 cubic feet, even with the large subwoofer in place. That space does shrink significantly to only 9.3 cubic feet in the Ralliart trim level.

A true bright spot in the Lancer GT is the amazing steering column mounted paddle shifters. I’ve driven high-end luxury sports cars that would envy the gloriously oversized paddle shifters in the Lancer GT. It’s unfortunate that they are attached to a CVT that doesn’t really shift.

The best way to describe the interior is familiar. You’ve seen it before and it works well, but does little to inspire. It isn’t bad, but it simply isn’t enough anymore.

Performance

Performance
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The base Lancer ES has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that creates 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual is standard and a CVT is optional. The base model is the gas mileage guru of the group, earning 25/34 mpg city/highway. The CVT option gives you an extra mile per gallon in the city.

The Lancer SE AWC steps up to a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and drops the five-speed manual in place of a standard CVT. Power is rated at 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque. The all-wheel drive system makes the model an affordable choice for folks living in colder climates, but fuel economy suffers at 22/29 mpg city/highway.

The Lancer GT uses the same engine, but comes with front-wheel drive and a standard five-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy is slightly better at 22/31 mpg city/highway. If you opt for the CVT, like the one in my review vehicle, fuel economy is about the same at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

The top-trim Ralliart AWC model is the enthusiast pick of the group. The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is attached to a six-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The resultant power equates to 237 horsepower and 253 pound-feet of torque.

Handling is the strong point of the Lancer. The chassis feels more than up to just about anything that the meager engine choices can throw at it. Steering is precise and if the base and GT engines offered more power, the Lancer would be great fun to drive. The Ralliart AWC model remedies this in part, but the tax on fuel economy and stiffer suspension tuning make it more of a one trick pony than most consumers are likely willing to pay for. Moving into the far more expensive Lancer Evolution is a great option if you have the resources, but it is a driver’s car that will do very little to win over back-seat passengers.

Technology

Technology
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The base Lancer ES is equipped with a 140-watt audio system with four speakers. Auto-off headlights, remote keyless entry and electric windows and door locks are also standard.

Customers who order the base ES model with the CVT are eligible to purchase the new-for-2015 Value package that includes 16-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes and some interior cosmetic goodies. More importantly, this package also adds Mitsubishi’s voice-activated Fuse system, Bluetooth, a USB port and a color multi-information display within the gauge cluster.

The standard technology features improve greatly in the SE AWC model. The infotainment system is anchored by a 6.1-inch touch-screen display. The upgraded audio system includes six speakers, HD Radio, satellite radio and the aforementioned Fuse system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

My GT review vehicle included the optional $5,150 Touring package, which includes a 7-inch touch-screen navigation system with real time traffic alerts and 3-D mapping. The package also includes a nine-speaker, 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system. A trunk-mounted subwoofer is impressive to look at and provides excellent bass, but unfortunately the system lacks the clarity that I would want in an expensive option package. While a great upgrade to the stock audio system, I’m not sure if it warrants the additional cost.

Safety

Safety
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The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer earned four out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its overall performance in crash tests. The Lancer earned top scores of Good in most crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The only exception was IIHS’ small overlap front test, where it earned the second-highest rating of Acceptable.

The Lancer utilizes Mitsubishi’s proprietary reinforced impact safety evolution construction and includes dual-stage front air bags, front seat-mounted side air bags and side curtain air bags. Anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control are standard.

A rearview camera is standard on all but the base Lancer ES. Unfortunately, the Lancer is not offered with features like blind spot monitoring, which is available on many other vehicles in the segment.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer ES starts at $17,395, which is quite reasonable for a capable compact sedan. However, the base Lancer lacks many of the standard features that the competition offers at a similar price. Still, if you like the exterior styling and find the base Lancer’s no-frills interior meets your needs, the Mitsubishi compact offers good value.

My test Lancer GT with optional Touring package is another quandary altogether. At $27,555, it seems overpriced for the segment. Comparable offerings from Toyota, Mazda and Ford will be less expensive. 

They’ll also carry more standard features and available active safety technologies. While an argument could be made for the top Ralliart trim’s unique skill set, the $29,495 base price is enough to scare away consumers who may be better served by the more powerful and less expensive Subaru WRX, or the less powerful but more utility-minded Volkswagen GTI.

Overall

Overall

Although it’s a great handling compact sedan, the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer suffers from a noisy and unrefined interior. The Lancer’s starting price and mediocre fuel economy do not help matters, making the underpowered engine choices less appealing than they should be.

While the vision of the 2008 Lancer was fresh and distinctive, the excitement and appeal has dwindled over what many perceive to be seven of the fastest moving years in the automotive industry’s history.

Although nothing blatantly stands out as a reason not to purchase a lower trim level as basic transportation, I would be hard pressed to recommend the Lancer above many other models in the segment. Of course that is more of a comment about the amazing progress that other manufacturers have made over the past seven years.

On a positive note, Mitsubishi’s warranties are among the best in the industry. The 10-year/10,000-mile limited powertrain warranty and five-year/60,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty are pretty hard to beat.