Mitsubishi sweetens the pot this year for snow-country buyers on a budget.
This year, its compact Lancer — At $20,000, the most affordable AWD sedan in the U.S. — adds a host of new standard features. All Lancers are now equipped with automatic climate control, alloy wheels, foglights, infotainment system voice controls and a revised center console with USB port.
A new design for the front fascia incorporates LED daytime running lights, there are now disc brakes at all four corners and a new color driver-information display debuts.
These updates add to what was already a long list of standard features, including full power accessories, automatic on/off halogen headlights, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, remote keyless entry, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat and Bluetooth connectivity.
The Lancer is available in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard on AWD models. It’s redesigned this year, for improved performance and efficiency.
The new year also brings a new trim. The AWD SEL trim gets leather upholstery, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic headlights and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The turbocharged Lancer Ralliart is discontinued this year but, with its sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels, spoiler and up-sized brakes, the FWD-only GT trim nods in the direction of sport. It can be had with the stick or the CVT and Mitsubishi throws in a sunroof for good measure.
Let’s remember that the humble Lancer platform is sufficiently sophisticated and sturdy to have supported one of the era’s great performance cars. Though it’s now in its final year of production, the 300-horsepower AWD Lancer Evolution has long been the ultimate under-the-radar supercar.
It’s doubtful that Mitsu will ever again serve up a dish as sweet as the Evo. In the U.S., the company is placing its bets not on sedans, but on its crossovers. Both the Outlander and Outlander Sport easily outsell the Lancer.
Nevertheless, the Lancer platform — it’s now a full decade from inception — remains a good one. The Lancer isn’t a sport sedan, but it handles confidently, with acceptable amounts of body lean in corners. Ride quality is generally quite good.
Cabin amenities reflect Mitsubishi’s commitment to an appealing price-point. Hard plastics prevail and materials quality strikes an entry-level note. The infotainment interface — a 6.1-inch touchscreen system backed by Fuse voice controls — lacks the visual sophistication and intuitive operation of pricier options.
Seat quality is quite good, though tall drivers may find the cushions too short for adequate high support. The steering column tilts but doesn’t telescope. Back-seat passengers will enjoy excellent head- and legroom.
The Lancer’s base 148-horsepower 2.0-liter four can be paired with a five-speed stick or the CVT. The up-level choice, a 168-hp 2.4-liter four, is available with the manual gearbox on the GT trim, but otherwise teams with the CVT. The base engine gets the job done, though noisily; the quieter and smoother 2.4L is standard on AWD trims.
All-wheel-drive, a $2,400 option, brings the larger engine and the CVT.
Whether you regard AWD as requisite for wintertime driving, or simply a better-safe-than-sorry proposition, Mitsubishi’s Lancer offers an affordable response to the impulse.
2016 Mitsubishi Lancer 2.4 SEL AWC
Vehicle base price: $17,009
Trim level base price: $22,805
Optional equipment: Our SEL AWD tester came with no optional equipment.
EPA ratings: 26 combined/23 city/31 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified