With its huge rear wing, Mitsubishi's Lancer is something of a legend to UK buyers with an eye for performance. The rally-replica Evo VIII has spawned a family of acclaimed high-power specials, including the mighty 400bhp FQ-400.
However, with the introduction of the all-new Lancer, which the Evo IX will share a platform with, Mitsubishi is looking to change all this, offering smaller-engined versions as well as an estate. The cars will be sold alongside the rally-bred saloon, aimed at customers seeking value for money and practicality.
Sharing some of the Evo VIII's styling, although with new-look lights and a scoop-free bonnet, the load-lugging Lancer is a well proportioned compact family car. At the front, it carries Mitsubishi's split grille, while alloys and side skirts add substance to the design, without making it too aggressive.
The high-set tail-lights have enabled designers to provide a full-width tailgate, while split-fold rear seats boost load-carrying ability further. With the chairs down, the boot has a 1,079-litre capacity, and the virtually flat floor includes a hidden storage compartment. Rear seatback adjustment also gives the option of increased comfort or more luggage space, adding to the Lancer's versatility.
From the driver's seat, the Mitsubishi continues to earn respect. The seating position is quite high, but the chair provides sufficient comfort, although side support could be greater. While the lack of steering wheel reach adjustment and the flimsy CD tuner are a letdown, the interior is otherwise well built and clearly laid out. The marble-effect trim lifts the dark plastics, although the black leather gives the Elegance cabin a sombre feel.
Equipment is generous, with all cars getting air-con, four electric windows and remote central locking. Fire up the 1.6-litre petrol engine and it is impressively quiet. The four-speed auto box is slick and easy to use, and if you press on, the Lancer revs to the red line without too much drama. The transmission also has a sequential mode, allowing drivers to shift ratios with a flick of the lever - but with only 96bhp to manage, fully automatic is usually sufficient.
While its Evo sibling has tremendous cornering powers, the humble Lancer Elegance is not as capable. The steering is light at all speeds, but it can be rather lacking in feel during cornering, with a dead spot around the straight-ahead position. This Mitsubishi can cope with enthusiastic driving, but is much more happy when providing a controlled ride, with the maximum of comfort. While it will never thrill in the same way as its Evo siblings, the Lancer fulfils its role as a bargain load carrier with ease.