2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sedan Review | Edmunds.com

2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Sedan

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Mitsubishi Lancer Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.0 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 148 hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 25/34 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer

  • The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer is a sporty alternative to conventional and more conservative economy sedans, but lacks the refinement and fuel economy that most shoppers are looking for.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Strong engines in upper trim levels; confident handling; edgy styling.

  • Cons

    Power-sapping CVT; weak and noisy base engine; no telescoping steering wheel; high price of Ralliart model.

  • What's New for 2012

    The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer gains a new midrange SE trim level, while new features include optional soft-touch materials on front door panels and a rearview camera (standard on upper trims). The Lancer also receives minor interior and exterior styling enhancements.

Full 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Review

What's New for 2012

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer gains a new midrange SE trim level, while new features include optional soft-touch materials on front door panels and a rearview camera (standard on upper trims). The Lancer also receives minor interior and exterior styling enhancements.


There was a time when owning an economy sedan resulted in being consigned to a dull and lifeless experience. For years, the Mitsubishi Lancer bucked that trend, infusing the segment with a much-needed dose of driving excitement and aggressive styling. Unfortunately, these admirable traits also came with drawbacks and in the face of new rivals, it is no longer unique among sedans.

A few improvements to the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer lineup bolster its standing, but only slightly. Most notably, a new Lancer SE trim allow buyers to select the midrange engine with all-wheel drive. Previously, AWD was only offered in the sporty range-topping Ralliart model. Furthering the Lancer's cause is the addition of optional soft-touch door panels, which partially addresses our prior complaint of too much interior hard plastic.

Sadly, many of the Mitsubishi Lancer's faults are left untouched. The base 2.0-liter engine lacks adequate power and the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) further compounds this issue. Upgrading to the more powerful engines helps, but the penalty in fuel economy may be enough to scare some shoppers off.

Most people, we suspect, will be happier with one of the newer choices for a small sedan. The Mazda 3, for instance, is similarly fun to drive but gets better fuel economy. We would also steer buyers toward the popular Chevrolet Cruze, the refined Ford Focus and the stylish Hyundai Elantra. For those who need all-wheel drive, there's also the redesigned Subaru Impreza to consider.

Unfortunately for Mitsubishi, the small sedan segment is better than ever, and the 2012 Lancer has been left near the back of the pack.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer is a compact sedan available in DE, ES, SE, GT and Ralliart trim levels (the Lancer Evolution and Sportback are reviewed separately).

The base DE comes with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, a tilt-only steering wheel, full power accessories, a trip computer and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player. The ES comes with all the aforementioned items and adds chrome exterior accents, air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry, upgraded cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split rear seat, front and rear center armrests, a height-adjustable driver seat, steering-wheel audio controls and an auxiliary audio jack. The Alloy Wheel package adds 16-inch alloy wheels to the ES trim along with rear disc brakes (instead of drums) and a rear stabilizer bar.

The SE trim gains a more powerful engine, all-wheel drive and the Alloy Wheel package. The GT is similar to the SE, but is front-wheel-drive only and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a sporty front fascia, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, upgraded sport upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, shift paddles (with the CVT), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rearview camera, the Fuse voice-activated electronics interface, a color driver information display, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a USB jack.

The all-wheel-drive Ralliart ups the performance ante with a turbocharged engine, an automated dual-clutch manual transmission (with shift paddles), hill-start assist, front and rear limited-slip differentials, additional sport exterior treatments, a sport-tuned suspension, a sport steering wheel, unique upholstery, aluminum pedals and satellite radio.

Some features listed are also available on lower trim cars as stand-alone options or as part of packages. Several cosmetic and aerodynamic enhancement options are also available for the DE and ES trims.

A Touring package is available for GT and Ralliart trims and features xenon headlights, a sunroof, a smaller rear spoiler, rain-sensing wipers, leather seats and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with an in-dash six-CD changer and satellite radio. Also optional on GT and Ralliart trims is a navigation system that features a 40GB hard drive capable of storing digital music files and a larger rearview camera monitor relocated to the touchscreen display (versus the rearview mirror). A new Deluxe package for the SE trim adds most of the GT's interior upgrades, along with soft-touch door trim panels.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer DE and ES are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual is standard, while a CVT is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, the combination of the base engine and five-speed delivered a time of 8.8 seconds to 60 mph, which is a tad slow for the class. The CVT delivered a slower performance of 9.1 seconds, but this is actually average among automatic-equipped cars. In terms of fuel economy, the 2.0-liter achieves an EPA-estimated 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined with the automatic transmission, an average rating for this class of car.

The Lancer SE and GT upgrade to a 2.4-liter four that makes 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. The SE comes standard with a CVT and all-wheel drive, and it is the only choice for the SE (optional on the ES and GT). The GT gets front-wheel drive and the five-speed manual standard, while its optional CVT features manual mode with simulated gear ratios operated via shift paddles on the steering wheel. In Edmunds testing, a GT with a manual transmission accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, which is quick for this class. The 2.4-liter gets 23 city/30 highway and 26 combined with the automatic. The manual transmission delivers nearly identical fuel efficiency.

The Ralliart features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that thumps out 237 hp and 253 lb-ft. Power is sent to all four wheels through an automated dual-clutch manual transmission with shift paddles and an active center differential. The Ralliart dispatches the 0-60 dash in a sizzling 5.8 seconds. It has notably poorer fuel efficiency, with a rating of 18/25/20.


Standard safety features on all 2012 Mitsubishi Lancers include front-seat side airbags, full-length head curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Antilock brakes and stability control are standard across the board, but four-wheel disc brakes are standard only on the SE, GTS and Ralliart. The DE and ES trims get by with rear drum brakes. In Edmunds brake testing, a Lancer GT stopped from 60 mph in an excellent 115 feet. Surprisingly, the Ralliart and its summer tires delivered a disappointing stop of 126 feet.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Lancer a top score of "Good" in the organization's frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.

Interior Design and Special Features

While the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer's chiseled exterior lends an air of aggression, its interior design and materials drag down the vehicle's overall appeal. On the whole, the cabin design is uninspiring and rife with hard plastic elements. This year's addition of optional soft-touch door panels helps, but the lingering downmarket feeling persists.

Taller drivers will likely bemoan the lack of a telescoping steering wheel and the lack of under-thigh support. On the other hand, the rear seats are quite comfortable, with a generous amount of legroom. These 60/40-split seats fold flat to accommodate bulky items, which is advantageous considering the Lancer's rather small 11.6-cubic-foot trunk.

Much like Ford's Sync system, Mitsubishi's Fuse voice-activation system assists in selecting a destination or your favorite music. The Fuse system lacks some of  Sync's functions and commands, but for the most part it works pretty well.

Driving Impressions

With a decent amount of comfort and a quiet cabin, a 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer equipped with the base 2.0-liter engine is fine for the daily commute. Unfortunately, this engine seems to generate more noise than horsepower, especially when saddled with the CVT. For those seeking a bit more excitement on a budget, the SE or GT are better alternatives thanks to more low-end engine power and a suspension that responds better to spirited driving.

The Ralliart bridges the gap to the high-performance Lancer Evolution model with turbocharged power, sharp handling and rapid-fire gearchanges from the dual-clutch transmission. Mechanically, the Ralliart provides plenty of fun around corners, but in our testing we've found its tires to be a bit too economy-minded considering the car's strong performance potential.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

Great value!

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer ES 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl CVT)

I have been the go to guy to buying cars for my family so in the past 4 years, I have bought 3 new cars and one used car. I was worried about the CVT transmission because i read online it was a bad transmission with no power. Wow, these "expert" reviewers must be test driving too many turbo mustangs and super cars. The CVT is just fine in power! If you are not used to driving one, it may feel different. So in a with a regular auto transmission, a sign of an underpowered car is when u push the gas hard, you will see the engine RPM go way up but the speed lags until it up-shifts a gear. The CVT sounds just like that so u THINK like it's underpowered but it's not true. Test drive one.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

I love my lancer

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer ES 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl 5M)

I am a 60yr old man and i have owned many many cars and trucks in my day.The MITSUBISHI LANCER is the best of all of them.I like to drive again,thanks to the Lancer!the handling, ride, fun to drive,good mpg,room,10yr 100,000 powertrain,5yr 60,000 bumper to bumper.how can you go wrong?this car is for young and old plus a great family car to.please drive one and see for yourself.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

Another mits in the family

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer SE 4dr Sedan AWD (2.4L 4cyl CVT)

We have had several Mits's. Eclipse, Spyder, several Galants, Monty Sport. All excellent purchases and very dependable and they run forever. Our daughter is now of driving age and we went out on a limb am bought her a new car. Lancer SE. Was originally looking at an ES but the 2.0 is noisy. Drove the SE just to see if the engine was quieter and it was. This is the same engine my first Galant had in it. Very, very good car. With the warranty, the safety ratings, and the quality they offer - well I would say it was an easy decision.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

The lancer is an excellent

by on
Vehicle: 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer ES 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl CVT)

The editor's review does not do the Lancer justice - it is an excellent car for the money, in almost all respects. I am particularly perplexed by their commend regarding the engine/CVT transmission combination, which in reality is smooth, quiet and powerful considering the excellent gas mileage (over 33 on the highway). You can buy cars with better mpg, but it will come at the expense of power. I have not problem going up steep hills at speed, with very little noise coming from the engine/transmission.

Talk About The 2012 Lancer

Read more about the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer

Gas Mileage


  • 25
  • cty
  • 34
  • highway
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Identifix Reliability Ratings

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