There’s more than one way to create temptation among potential car customers. You can offer more features for the same price or you can tempt by offering less for a discounted price. At Car and SUV we often review high-spec, bells and whistles cars but for this road test that’s all changed and we got some seat time in the cut-price cruiser Mitsubishi Lancer ES. The ES is Mitsubishi’s base-model Lancer that has achieved an attractive price point that will give it strong appeal to fleet customers and budget conscious consumers alike. But creating true temptation is about more than saving money, especially in the hard-fought compact sedan segment. We spent a week with the Lancer ES to uncover its allure.
In terms of price the Lancer ES is scalpel sharp at undercutting its direct Japanese competition. Costing $27,990 for the manual and $29,990 for the CVT auto, the base spec Lancer is $3-5k cheaper than its rivals. The lowest model Honda Civic ($33,800) and Subaru Impreza ($32,990) can’t match the Lancer ES, while the Mazda3 ($30,895) comes closest but only in hatch form. You would have to go Korean and consider the Kia Cerato LX with its $28,990 price as the specification is higher and the Cerato is arguably as good looking.
However, if the Mitsubishi is your preference, there are no short cuts under the bonnet where the Lancer ES makes use of the same 2.0-litre MIVEC engine found in its mid-level stable mates. It’s a competent unit that puts out a healthy 115kW of power and 201Nm of torque. Power is delivered constantly and while it can’t compete with the sportier Lancers it does have enough grunt to be a capable motorway cruiser. However, it isn’t the quietest engine on the market and sound deadening may be an area where production costs were cut with both engine and road noise entering the cabin.
Shifting power to the front wheels on our test vehicle was Mitsubishi’s CVT auto transmission. While CVT transmissions aren’t to all tastes this unit serves up smooth shifts and is rarely erratic in its gear ratio selection. That said, there is a slight tendency for the transmission to let the motor surge before changing gears and also a slight whine is audible. It’s not the most advanced CVT on the market but it functions well and if manual changes are required there is a ‘sports mode’ sequential floor-shift option that opens up six pre-selected gear ratios. Fuel economy is a respectable 8.2l/100km combined but large stretches of open road driving will lower this substantially.
On road the Lancer ES makes for a comfortable and compliant ride with its Macpherson strut front and multi-link rear set up. It stays flat during cornering and has impressive handling abilities considering its low price. Grip is generally good with minimal torque steer and on twisty roads the Lancer is predictable and very easy to control. The steering is light but precise and combined with the Lancer’s smallish dimensions makes for excellent urban manoeuvrability.
Aesthetically the ES does make some small concessions, most noticeable are the 16-inch steel wheels with 7-spoke plastic hubcaps where all other Lancer models receive alloys. There are no fog lamps in the front bumper and no boot spoiler at the rear, but the stripped down Lancer ES is still a handsome machine. The distinctive high-waist and jet fighter grille are ultra-modern and really set the Lancer apart from more conservatively designed competitors. The door handles and side mirrors are colour coded and the elaborate rear light clusters look dapper. The ES does hurt a little from lacking the alloys and body kits of its more expensive siblings, but fans of the current Lancer’s aggressive exterior styling still have plenty left to admire.
In the cabin it’s a dark understated look all round, with charcoal cloth seats and an uncluttered black dashboard lightened only by silver accents. The general interior styling remains the same throughout the Lancer range but the ES uses some cheaper plastics and has no lid on its central storage bin. There’s a base-model feel in the overall fit and finish but it looks smart is very functional and has good space for a compact sedan. The missing centre storage bin isn’t a major problem with plenty of small storage offered elsewhere. The urethane steering wheel houses cruise controls but not audio buttons. Elsewhere, standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows all round, tilt adjustable steering wheel, trip computer, remote central locking and a 4-speaker CD stereo. The real strength to the ES Lancer interior is in its practicality value with its durable cloth seats, capacious 400-litre boot space and the handy drop down rear seatback.
When it comes to safety credentials the Lancer ES is covered by a driver and passenger front airbags (dual-stage) and a driver’s knee bag. Side and curtain airbags are reserved for the more expensive Lancers. An active stability control system is standard as is ABS brakes and 3-point seatbelts for all occupants.
The Lancer ES may not look quite as sharp as the other Lancers and it may not offer quite the same level of refinement but there is still a lot of value in this vehicle. What it can offer is entry into a new compact sedan at a price that its competitors can’t match. It’s underpinning mechanicals, hardy interior and modern styling should stay good for many years of motoring. To back it up the Lancer ES is covered under Mitsubishi’s groundbreaking 5-year/130,000km new vehicle warranty with an additional 10 Year/160,000km powertrain warranty. If you want a Japanese compact sedan for under 30k and thought you would have to buy second-hand, now you don’t, take a look at the Lancer ES.
Price: from $27,990, as tested $29,990 (CVT)
What we like:
- Crisp styling
- Excellent price and warranty
- Handling and ride
What we don’t like:
- Interior plastics
- Engine and road noise
- No side or curtain airbags
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
To find out more about the Mitsubishi Lancer ES, click here to visit the Mitsubishi NZ website.
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Mitsubishi Lancer ES (2010) – Specifications
Displacement (cc) 1,998
Max power (DIN) kW @ rpm 115 @ 6,000
Max torque (DIN) Nm @ rpm 201 @ 4,250
Bore and stroke (mm) 86.0 x 86.0
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Fuel consumption – l/100km 8.2
CO2 g/km 191
Fuel tank capacity (litres) 59
Fuel type regular unleaded 91
Dimensions / Weights
Overall length (mm) 4,570
Overall width (mm) 1,760
Overall height (mm) 1,490
Wheelbase (mm) 2,635 2,635
Track front (mm) 1,530
Track rear (mm) 1,530
Turning circle (m) 10.0
Kerb weight (kg) 1,335
GVW (kg) 1,850 1,850
Head room – front (mm) 950
Head room – rear (mm) 895
Trunk volume by VDA (litres) 400
Towing capacity with brakes (kg) 1,000
Towing capacity without brakes (kg) 550
Front Macpherson strut with coil spring & stabiliser
Rear suspension multi link with stabiliser
Wheels and Tyres
Front and rear tyres: 205/60R16 92H