2002 Lancer New Car Test Drive
Mitsubishi has renamed its compact sedan the Lancer. All new for 2002 and loaded with luxury, the Lancer replaces the previous Mitsubishi Mirage.
Although Lancer is a new name in North America, the Lancer has been a Mitsubishi staple in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East through six generations spanning three decades. It's also Mitsubishi's robust rally car, racking up victories in World Rally Championship events and other races around the world.
For North America, Lancer comes ashore in a sparkling new format to replace the subcompact Mirage sedan in Mitsubishi's line. It's a bigger car than the Mirage and packs a larger engine, a more substantial unibody structure, and more sophisticated mechanical gear. Lancer also lines a comfortable cabin with plush equipment, even on the price-leader ES base edition.
Lancer OZ-Rally is a model that adds paraphernalia to mimic rally racers, but still keeps the price in line.
Lancer's larger package size, with four more inches in the wheelbase than Mirage, positions it at the center of a crowded field of compacts that includes class leaders Honda Civic and Ford Focus, plus Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda Protege, and Subaru Impreza. Competitively, Lancer has the longest body and its extended wheelbase produces a spacious passenger compartment with best-in-class legroom for front seat riders.
Mitsubishi casts Lancer in three editions: ES, LS, and OZ Rally.
All draw from the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 120 horsepower and links to either the standard five-speed manual transaxle or an optional four-speed electronic automatic ($800).
Lancer ES ($13,897) is the most popular model due to its competitive pricing and generous amount of standard equipment. It comes with air conditioning, a tachometer in the instrument cluster, an in-dash CD player, and power windows, side mirrors and door locks.
Lancer LS ($15,897) is a luxury model that adds cruise control, a remote keyless entry system, a 60/40 split rear seatback, a fold-out armrest with cupholders, carpeted mats on the floor, more speakers for the audio system, and variable intermittent windshield wipers. Exterior enhancements to the LS include body-colored door handles and mirrors, and larger, 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 195/60R15 tires.
Lancer OZ Rally ($15,487) takes its name from OZ Racing wheels (pronounced oh-zee), an Italian company that makes top-quality competition wheels for Formula 1, CART, and World Rally Championship race cars. Lancer OZ Rally wears sporty body work inspired by the rally cars, including bumper extensions front and rear, and side skirts. It comes only with a five-speed manual gearbox. White-faced gauges and a cockpit trimmed in black with plastic panels that resemble brushed aluminum give the interior a racy look.
Options include the ES Convenience Package ($500), which makes some of the LS features available to the ES, such as remote keyless entry, the split/folding rear seatback, floor mats, and color-keyed door handles. The LS Preferred Equipment Package ($800) adds ABS and dual side-impact airbags, and we highly recommend these safety features. An optional rear spoiler ($360) is available for the OZ Rally.