The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2010 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS

SEE ALSO: Mitsubishi Buyers Guide

"The Lancer GTS should be a strong contender on your sporty car short list. "

A Surprisingly Slick Little Machine
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

I’ve been reviewing cars for quite a few years now and I usually know what to expect when one arrives in my driveway. This little orange Mitsubishi Lancer GTS, though, got my attention right away as unexpectedly good in terms of just about all of my usual criteria – looks, performance and value.

Let’s start with the looks.

The Lancer is a small car, front-wheel drive, 4-door, 5-passenger, on par with Civic, Corolla, Cobalt and that ilk. It looks larger, I thought, both inside and out. Lancer visually projects an aggressive image right from the gaping, air-gulping grill back. Standard 18-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels with low profile (45-series) all-weather tires make it look grippy. A rakish, low front, high tail, profile with modestly sharp contour lines give it an up-to-date look as well. The bobbed tail sports a large, tuner-car-style wing mounted up high. My pretty blonde had trouble seeing through it when she drove the car but it didn’t restrict my field of view at all. A function of our various torso lengths, I suppose. To top it off this one’s premium ($150 extra) “Rotor Glow” (orange) paint just accentuates the already bold look.

An aside from Steve: Do you suppose that color name is hinting at the color your rotors might turn if you overheated them on the racecourse? Mitsubishi got my accolade for best paint color at the Detroit Auto Show a few years ago with their concept car color called “Melting Header Orange.” The PR guy explained that it is the color your headers would turn just before they melt. Cool!

Particularly surprising is the vigor of the 2.4-liter four-banger powering the Lancer GTS. Normally aspirated, it only generates 168 horsepower and 167 pound-feet of torque but it feels like more. It revs effortlessly and complains not a bit at high rpms, but it cuts off harshly when we hit the rev limiter.

Rated by the EPA at 20-mpg in the city and 28 on the highway we managed over 29-mpg according to the car’s computer – and I understand from my engineer pals that the onboard computers are mighty accurate. Our experience this week involved about a third freeway, a third suburban driving and a third good country two-lanes where I was averaging about 50-mph.

Part of the reason it feels so quick, I’m convinced, is the influence of the 5-speed manual transmission with ratios that seem to be just perfect. The clutch is light but decisive and the shifter is as smooth and gratifying as any I’ve manipulated recently. With a nice short throw it nearly sucks itself into the next gear and we felt not a hint of resistance into second gear starting out on a cold morning, as we seem to feel in most manuals.

Another reason the GTS feels so quick is that it only weighs a tad over 3,000 pounds, which contributes to exceptional agility as well. The chassis is remarkably stiff. The suspension is of conventional design – McPherson struts in front and a multi-link system in the rear with sturdy anti-sway bars at both ends – but it is tuned for sportiness. The suspension is stiff enough but not harsh – like its meatier sibling EVO – and we feel very little lean pushing hard through our cloverleaf freeway entrance. Steering is quick and precise but not especially communicative.

Inside, the Lancer GTS presents an attractive and comfortable environment. The standard driver’s information system is actuated by one simple button to the left of the steering wheel. It just has “INFO” stamped on it. HVAC controls are as simple as they come and the premium audio system was easily managed and sounded great to this non-audiophile.

Our leather package includes, of course, leather seats and these are dark gray with very light gray stitching. The contrasting stitching is often found in up-scale cars, not often in the more entry level ones like we think of the Lancer being. My favorite part of the whole car, the stubby, leather-wrapped shifter, also has the contrasting stitching.

The rear seating space felt larger than expected and seat backs fold 60/40 with an easy release button mounted considerably inboard making it a long reach, and the seat padding is thick enough that they don’t fold anywhere near flat. But, the utilitarian advantage of a full pass-through is appreciated.

The trunk feels large for a car this size with a reasonably large opening. It releases by a remote trigger by the driver’s seat or by the key fob, and it closes with a tinny sound. Not much insulation there. And, because of the big wing, it’s mighty heavy to lift. Perhaps they ought to add a strut to the trunk lid when that wing is installed.

ABS, traction control and stability control are all standard as are a full compliment of 7 airbags. Crumple zones are designed into the chassis. NHTSA has awarded the maximum of five stars for driver crash protection and four stars for rollover and front passenger protections. It has not yet been rated for side impacts.

Warranty coverage is among the best in the business with 10-year, 100,000-mile protection for the powertrain and 5-years, 60,000-miles for the basic bumper-to-bumper protection.

Content matches up well with other cars in its class. For the base price of $18,990 (including the $720 destination charge) the GTS includes all the expected power stuff, and the sporty suspension and trim, the abovementioned 18-inch wheels and tires, steering wheel-mounted controls, MP3 and auxiliary jacks, remote keyless entry and a good list of other features. Our test car has the premium paint described above, along with the $1,500 Touring Package (leather seats, HID headlights, rain sensing wipers, heated front seats and sound resistant windshield) and the $1,900 Sun & Sound Package (premium Rockford-Fosgate sound system with 9 speakers including 10-inch subwoofer, Sirius Satellite radio, 6-CD in-dash changer, power glass sunroof and fast-key entry system). The sticker shows a bottom line of $23,260.

Not a bad price for what you’re getting, I contend. Compare it with comparable models from the other manufacturers and this will be contender for your sporty car dollars.

My friend and colleague at AutoWeek, Bob Gretzinger, said of the Lancer GTS when he reviewed the car, “This is the little sedan for the enthusiast in the know, for the kind of economy buyer who harbors real driver tendencies.” I think he summed it up perfectly.

I would only add that there are certainly many good little sporty cars we could buy anywhere within five-grand either way from the Lancer GTS. But this one ought to be on your shopping list if you’re browsing this market segment.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved