Drive – Mitsubishi Lancer Wagon Review

18 Jul 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Mitsubishi Lancer Wagon Review
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Wagon

Jonathan Hawley

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Compact wagons roll

Anyone looking for an obvious victim of this country’s infatuation with compact four-wheel-drives and their amazing popularity need look no further than the decline in the numbers of small station wagons available.

Up until a month ago, the only four-cylinder, compact two-wheel-drive wagons on the market were the Toyota Corolla and the more expensive Peugeot 307, since the likes of the Hyundai Lantra and Daewoo Nubira disappeared. Seems the small 4WDs, a range of hatchbacks – including the distinctly wagonesque Subaru Impreza hatchback – and even compact people-movers are sexier.

Nevertheless, Mitsubishi has re-entered the fray with a wagon version of its Lancer. It’s a body option that hasn’t been available in the range since 2002, although there have been various Lancer wagons on the market since 1988. This latest CH model has been given the moniker of Sportswagon to spice it up.

It’s an utterly conventional small station wagon all the same, using the Lancer sedan’s basic mechanical components with a box-shaped cargo area grafted onto the rear. That’s not to say it’s a plain-looking car; quite the opposite. With widely spaced goggle-eyed headlights similar to the larger Magna, and a flat tailgate between enormous vertical tail-lights, the Lancer wagon is certainly distinctive, if not entirely pretty.

Two models are available, starting with the $21,990 ES model that Mitsubishi admits is aimed at fleet markets. The more upmarket VR-X tested here, from $28,440, could tempt private buyers wanting a racier look, thanks to its 16-inch alloy wheels, lowered suspension, body kit, tinted glass and a few leather-trimmed components in the cockpit. Other than slightly reworked suspension, however, the VR-X carries the same mechanical components as the ES.

That means a 2.0-litre engine with 16 valves but just a single overhead camshaft instead of two. It produces 92 kW of power and 173 Nm of torque, neither of which are above average for the size of the engine.

Despite that, the VR-X is a solid performer, even with the optional four-speed automatic fitted to our test car. The engine is noisy and none too smooth but develops good power low in the rev range, making it more suitable for an auto than some higher output but peakier power plants.

Acceleration is acceptable, and helped by the low 1300 kg-odd kerb weight.

The automatic has a separate gate for manual shifts, and the VR-X also has gearshift buttons on the steering wheel. They’re useful for holding lower gears on a twisty road or heading up or downhill, but in most driving conditions the transmission works well enough in set-and-forget mode.

Mitsubishi Lancer Wagon

Even with its slightly wider tyres and lower suspension, its manners could hardly be described as sporty. Acceleration in lower gears produces a twist of torque steer (or wheel tug) from the steering wheel, the front tyres can struggle for traction in the wet, and the handling balance is biased towards a gentle lean on the front end through corners. The ride is quite compliant, however.

The tailgate is almost vertical, meaning if you’re carrying something tall, such as a big box, it will fit quite easily, and the suspension towers aren’t overly intrusive.

The rear seat can fold down with a 60/40 split, but this doesn’t give anything like a flat floor, which compromises its carrying ability.

Equipment levels are quite reasonable, with air-conditioning, power windows, height-adjustable driver’s seat and a single-disc CD player standard. Anti-lock brakes are a $1000 option when they should be standard on the VR-X. Side and curtain airbags can be added for another $1500.

In some ways the Lancer wagon makes sense for buyers looking for a compact family car without the added weight, expense and compromised dynamics of most soft-roader 4WDs. It performs all right even if refinement is lacking. Any sporting additions offered by the VR-X model are mainly visual so the cheaper ES model might be a better buy.


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