Full 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Review
What's New for 2011
The Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback makes available an entry-level ES model for 2011, along with the Fuse voice-activation system and a few rearrangements of features between trim levels.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback attempts to blend performance with utility in an affordable package, just like the hatchbacks we're used to. Based on a sporty version of the Lancer sedan, the Sportback certainly has the performance side of the formula wrapped up. And there's a fair amount of utility here, with the hatchback design offering more cargo space than the sedan. It also looks the part, with an aggressive face and a sleekly styled rear.
A new entry-level model, the ES, drops the base price by more than $2,000, making it more competitive with other hatchbacks. This also brings the trim level count to three (including the GTS and higher-performing Ralliart models) to broaden the car's appeal. Another new item this year is Mitsubishi's optional Fuse voice-activation system; it helps to alleviate some of the frustration we encountered when operating the navigation and audio controls.
There are still a few areas where the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback trails the competition, though. Interior design is the car's main weaknesses, with a rather dreary cabin that has an abundance of hard plastic pieces. And while luggage space is substantially larger than that of the Lancer sedan, it's also worth noting that the amount of available space isn't as large as you might expect because of the raked rear window.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback is a good car in concept. But when compared to competing hatchbacks like the Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen GTI, it typically trails in terms of performance, cargo capacity and value. In the final analysis, the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback is worthy of consideration because of its styling and admirable performance, but we definitely suggest shopping around.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback is a compact four-door hatchback available in ES, GTS and Ralliart trim levels.
The base ES comes with 16-inch steel wheels, rocker-sill bodywork extensions, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, a tilt-only steering wheel with audio controls, full power accessories, a trip computer, a 60/40-split rear seat with a center armrest and a four-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary audio jack.
The GTS gains a more powerful engine, 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, aero-style bodywork pieces, chrome exhaust tips, keyless ignition/entry, full power accessories, automatic climate control, sport front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, manual driver-seat height adjustment, Bluetooth, the Fuse voice-activation system and a six-speaker stereo with a USB port. The Ralliart ups the performance ante with a turbocharged engine, an automated dual-clutch manual transmission (with shift paddles), all-wheel drive, satellite radio and keyless ignition/entry.
Many features listed are also available on lower-trim cars as stand-alone options or as part of bundled packages. The Alloy Wheel package adds 16-inch alloy wheels to the ES trim along with rear disc brakes (instead of drums). Several cosmetic and aerodynamic enhancement options are also available for the ES trim.
A Touring package is available for GTS and Ralliart trims and features xenon headlights, a sunroof, automatic wipers, leather seats, heated front seats, a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer and satellite radio. Also optional on all trims is a navigation system that features a 30GB hard drive capable of storing digital music files. Some Touring package features are also available on the ES by way of the Deluxe package.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback ES is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. The GTS upgrades to a 2.4-liter four that makes 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard for both engines, but a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is available as an option. The CVT features simulated gear ratios that can be operated via shift paddles on the steering wheel.
The Sportback Ralliart features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 237 hp and 253 lb-ft and this engine is matched with an automated dual-clutch manual transmission with shift paddles and all-wheel drive. In our Edmunds acceleration test, a Sportback Ralliart went from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, which is about average for this class.
The Lancer ES achieves an EPA-estimated 25 mpg city/32 mpg highway and 27 mpg combined with the automatic transmission. The 2.4-liter gets 23 city/29 highway and 25 combined with the automatic. In both cases, the manual transmission delivers nearly identical fuel efficiency. The Ralliart is rated at 17/25/20 mpg.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback comes standard with front-seat side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and stability control. Antilock brakes are also standard, with four-wheel disc brakes on the GTS and Ralliart and rear drums for the ES.
In government crash testing the Lancer Sportback was awarded a perfect five-star rating for driver protection in frontal impacts while front passenger protection was rated at four stars. Side impact tests scored five stars for the driver and four for the rear passengers. In Edmunds braking tests, a Sportback Ralliart stopped from 60 mph in 129 feet, a slightly longer distance than average for this class.
Interior Design and Special Features
While the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer's chiseled exterior lends an air of aggression, its interior design and materials tend to drag down the vehicle's overall appeal. On the whole, the cabin design is a bit uninspiring and is rife with hard plastic elements. Taller drivers will likely bemoan the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and the lack of under-thigh support.
The rear seats are quite comfortable, with a generous amount of legroom. These 60/40-split seats fold flat to accommodate bulky items, expanding the 13.8 cubic feet of storage to a maximum of either 47 cubic feet with the Ralliart or 52.7 cubes with the GTS, as the latter features an adjustable rear cargo floor.
The clumsy operation of the touchscreen navigation unit looks to have been remedied by Mitsubishi's Fuse voice-activation system. Much like Ford's Sync system, selecting a destination or choosing your favorite music is only a voice command away. Fuse is not quite as sophisticated as Sync and lacks a few of the latter's features and voice commands, but we still prefer it to the tricky layout of the touchscreen.
The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback ES's 148-hp output makes it just fine for the daily commuter but will probably disappoint drivers with more spirited leanings. The GTS model is an enticing choice for buyers on a budget who are looking for more performance than in the typical economy car. Its 2.4-liter engine has adequate low-end power and a smooth, willing nature as well as unusually sharp handling for this class.
The Ralliart adds some spice to the mix with turbocharged power, sharp handling and rapid-fire gearchanges from the dual-clutch transmission. Mechanically, the Ralliart could provide plenty of thrills in the curves, but in our testing we've found its tires to be a bit too economy-minded considering the car's performance potential.