2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE 2.4L AWC

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

Available in two five versions (DE, ES, GT, Ralliart, SE), the Mitsubishi Lancer has a select following; most seem to gravitate toward the cars’ potential for modification (Ralliart, GT). Our driving impressions were very favorable for the new 2012 Lancer SE, a very comfortable, quiet-riding compact sedan. Equipped with the optional Navigation System Package, including the music server and real time traffic, the Lancer has a solid feel, takes most road surfaces very well and is roomy enough for all shapes and sizes.

Edmunds.com has named it a “Top Safety Pick,” and a sporty alternative to other sedans. While maybe not as “refined” as other competitors, Lancer has come a long way from a not very impressive 4-door sedan to one that offers more for 2012.

Our test Lancer SE (starting at $20,195) falls behind the sportier Ralliart and GT models and shares the 2.4L engine with the GT. Versions DE and ES come equipped with Mitsubishi’s 2.0L MIVEC engine, and an available third engine, the 2.0L turbo. We found the 2.4L with 168 horsepower to be sufficient and responsive enough for most driving.

For 2012, the Lancer receives a few upgrades, including soft-touch materials on the front door panels, a rearview camera (on upper trim models), and minor interior and exterior changes. The new interior materials help to give the Lancer a more solid, upscale feeling, in contrast to the plastic in previous models. The SE trim level offers buyers a selection of midrange engines and all-wheel-drive (AWD). In previous years, AWD was only available on the Ralliart version.

The SE trim gets the more powerful engine, all-wheel-drive and the Alloy Wheel package. Our test SE came equipped with one option, the Navigation System Package ($2,295). The AWD and CVT transmission are the only options available for the SE trim level. If you’re looking to go sportier, you will want to opt for the GT version which comes with a few more goodies, including foglights, sporty front fascia, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, shift paddles, auto-dimming rearview mirror, the Fuse voice-activated electronics interface, color driver information display, Bluetooth and six-speaker sound system, among a few others.

Standard equipment includes the usual in a compact sedan, such as Air conditioning, multi-information display, dual front cupholders, steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, drive mode-selector, ABS with EBD, Eco driver indicator lamp, d6d0/40 split-fold seats, 60-way adjustable driver seat, height adjustable steering column, heated front seats/sideview mirrors, power door locks, windows and sideview mirrors, remote keyless entry, floormats. The SE models are also pre-wired for Bluetooth.

Halogen headlamps are standard on the SE version, and chrome accents added to the front grille and lower front grille add a little sportiness. Mitsubishi’s front end takes a little getting used to, featuring a more squared-off look. The 2012 Lancer is a tad more aggressive and edgy than past models, bringing its look more up-to-date.

With competition the likes of Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze and Mazda 3, Lancer pales by comparison, and doesn’t produce the fuel economy the others do. We would recommend Mitusubiishi’s 2.4L I4 over the base 2.0L.

MSRP: $20,195; destination $795; total vehicle price $23,285
Engine: 2.4L DOHC I4 MIVEC
Transmission: CVT automatic
Fuel Economy: 22/29 mpg.
Tires: 205/60 R16 all-season
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
Final Assembly: Mizushima, Japan
Warranty: 10 yrs/100,000-mile powertrain; 7 yrs/100,000-mile anti-corrosion perforation; 5 yrs/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper; 5 yrs/unlimited roadside assistance.

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