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#35

in 2012 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $11,300 - $19,685
Original MSRP: $15,695 - $27,995
MPG: 25 City / 34 Hwy
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2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The base 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer gets the job done, but isn’t a class favorite. Reviewers prefer the GT and Ralliart models because they have more powerful engines and tighter handling, but bemoan their low fuel economy ratings.

  • “Sedan versions of this compact are otherwise unexceptional, save for the sporty Ralliart. Those Lancers are strong performers, but high-for-the-class fuel consumption and sticker prices limit their appeal." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer DE and ES sedans are powered by a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower. The SE and GT models have a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine that makes 168 horsepower, while Ralliart models get a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine that makes 237 horsepower.

The base DE and ES models come standard with a five-speed manual transmission. Reviewers say that these models aren’t powerful at all, and that performance is particularly dull if you option for a continuously variable transmission (CVT) on ES trims. The CVT is standard on SE models. The GT also has a five-speed manual transmission, though a CVT is available. The GT’s larger engine helps performance significantly, though fuel economy suffers.

The Lancer Ralliart is by far the most fun-to-drive option in the lineup, and comes with a twin-clutch sportronic transmission, which has paddle shifters. One reviewer notes that even the Ralliart is plagued by the same ailments as lower trims, including loud engine noise that permeates the cabin.

Fuel economy varies for the Lancer because there are so many engine and transmission options available. The only model that uses premium gas is the Ralliart; all others use regular. With the base engine and the CVT automatic transmission, expect to get 26/34 mpg city/highway and 23/30 mpg with the larger engine and CVT, according to the EPA. Fuel economy numbers for Lancers with a manual transmission differ slightly. Four-wheel drive is only available on the SE and Ralliart trims, which get about 22/29 mpg.

Sportback models have the same engines as the ES and GT sedans, but Sportbacks only come with the CVT. ES models average 24/32 mpg, while GT models average 22/29 mpg. See the complete fuel economy ratings by looking at the full list of 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer specifications

  • "Wind noise is well-checked, but coarse-surface tire thrum is fairly high in all models. Crude-sounding engine growl is especially intrusive in rapid acceleration or at higher speeds, regardless of model." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The downsides, though, could give you second thoughts. The base 2.0-liter engine lacks power and, if combined with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), leads to rather anemic acceleration. Stepping up to the more powerful GTS and Ralliart engines helps immensely, but an increased appetite for fuel also results." -- Edmunds 
  • "You won't be shoved back into the seat at takeoff, but once underway you'll find a car that can induce a few smiles along country roads." -- MarketWatch (Lancer Ralliart)
  • "But Mitsubishi's CVT did not impress us as much as other examples we've tried in Nissan vehicles. It delivered fine everyday performance, creating smooth acceleration, but manual shifts took about as long as with a standard automatic, showing surprising sluggishness." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

Reviewers agree that if you want the best-handling model in the Lancer lineup, it’s a good idea to bypass the base sedan models, and head straight for the GT and Ralliart trims, which have a tauter suspension. Of these trims, reviewers prefer the Ralliart for its accurate steering, but say that neither can compare with the Lancer Evolution. If you opt for an upper trim, reviewers warn that their firm rides are sporty but very uncomfortable.

If you are considering the base DE and ES models, reviewers say they can’t match class competitors because their unrefined suspensions create a bumpy ride, and their steering isn’t precise. The brakes on the DE and ES trims are strong, but reviewers notice that these models have the tendency to nosedive in abrupt stops.

If you want paddle shifters, the Lancer Ralliart has them, and reviewers say they are great for added control on twisty roads.

  • "DE and ES models trail compact-class leaders, with a clunky feel and poor bump absorption. A solid body structure is what saves these cars from being intolerable. The GT rides more firmly, but not overly so. Ralliart is the tautest of the lot, but stops just short of all-out brutality. … The DE and ES exhibit decent grip in turns, but the steering is not especially direct or communicative. Though the brakes feel strong, nosedive is evident in quick stops. The tauter GT is more agile and fun. Ralliart is less sharp than the high-power Evolution, but it offers more accurate feel than any non-turbo Lancer. Overall, Ralliart feels less high strung around town than the Evolution." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Yet the paddles work rather nicely on twisting back roads. Sometimes you can have the best of both worlds." -- MarketWatch (Lancer Ralliart)

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