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Mitsubishi Lancer 2.0 di-d GS-2 Sportback

Super-reliable five-door brings some rally-bred glamour

Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi is famous for its firebreathing Lancer Evo supersaloons, but the regular Lancer hatchback shouldn’t be overlooked. It benefits from a sprinkling of glamour from its performance brother, and offers strong practicality and top value.

At the front is the same aggressively gaping grille and swept-back headlamps as on the Evo X, while a large roof spoiler adds to the visual menace. Sadly, these additions fail to disguise the car’s awkward proportions and slightly dumpy looks.

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It’s more attractively styled inside. The dashboard design is refreshingly simple and features chunky controls for the air-con, together with sporty-looking instruments. But it’s let down by the cheap-looking dot-matrix display between the dials, plus the basic stereo, scratchy plastics and dated rocker switches.

Finding a comfortable driving position is tricky, as the steering wheel offers rake adjustment only, while the seats are flat and unsupportive. In the rear, there’s plenty of legroom, but the sloping roofline means taller occupants will find their head brushing the ceiling.

The Lancer also has the smallest boot of our trio, with a disappointing 344-litre carrying capacity. At least the neat false floor allows you to hide valuables out of sight, as well as creating a flat load lip. From the moment you start the 2.0-litre diesel, it’s clear the Lancer isn’t as refined as the Skoda or Chevy. The VW-sourced engine clatters at idle and sounds rough all the way through the rev range, while harsh vibrations can be felt through the pedals and wheel.

The notchy, imprecise six-speed manual box doesn’t help, and is made worse by the sharp clutch. Short gearing helps boost acceleration, although motorway progress is less relaxed as a result. There’s also noticeable torque steer when accelerating hard on bumpy roads, while the steering suffers from kickback in corners.

Plus, the suspension causes the Lancer to crash uncomfortably over poorly surfaced roads. And ESP is a £400 optional extra – it should come as standard on a family hatchback.

The Mitsubishi returned 31.3mpg in our hands, trailing the Skoda by 2.3mpg. But it was way behind both rivals with its filthy 163g/km CO2 output. The trade-off is a great-value £450 three-year pre-paid servicing deal, plus 37.5 per cent residuals.

Distinctive looks, a flexible load area and value price stand in the Lancer’s favour, but a range of flaws threatens to consign it to the bottom step of our podium.

Details

Chart position: 3
WHY: Japanese giant is better known for its firebreathing Evo models, but sensible Lancer is well worth a look. Eye-catching styling and roomy interior are highlights.

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