Used 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer Review

Edmunds expert review

No Mirage here. The Lancer is a well-rounded economy sedan that deserves attention from consumers.

What's new for 2002

The '02 Lancer is Mitsubishi's replacement for its Mirage economy car, though the Mirage continues this year in coupe format only. The chief reason for the new name (for the U.S., as the car has always been called the Lancer elsewhere) is Mitsubishi's desire to emphasize that the Lancer is more upscale, larger and better-engineered than the old Mirage.

Vehicle overview

Mitsubishi has traditionally been a bit player in the American economy sedan market when compared to the likes of Honda or Toyota. With its new Lancer sedan, the company hopes to land, while perhaps not a starring role, at least a bigger part with a few speaking lines.

Built on a 102.4-inch wheelbase (4 inches longer than the Mirage sedan it replaces), the attractive Lancer has one of the biggest passenger cabins in its class. It offers more front and rear passenger room than a Civic, and backseat legroom is virtually equal to that of many larger midsize sedans, such as Mitsubishi's own Galant.

Compared to the Mirage, the Lancer's structural integrity boasts increases of 50 percent in torsional rigidity and 60 percent in bending rigidity. What this means is that flexing of the body structure (such as when the car is driven over pothole-strewn roads or cranked into a corner at speed) is reduced, allowing a solid foundation from which the suspension can do its job. Another design goal was a high level of crash protection in all types of collisions. Though U.S. crash tests have yet to be conducted, Mitsubishi claims that the Lancer scored high marks in European tests. Improved safety will be very important, as the Mirage fared poorly in previous crash tests.

Unlike most of its competitors, which often have two or three different engines available, all Lancers have a 2.0-liter SOHC 16-valve inline four with 120 horsepower and 130 pound-feet of torque. This powerplant was tuned to provide more low- and mid-range power, which is often more useable than a more powerful engine that doesn't come alive until the tach is showing at least 3,500 rpm.

Transmission choices are a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The automatic features driver-adaptive technology, an unusual feature in this class that tailors shift points according to the driver. Fuel mileage for a manual-equipped car is said to be 29/41 mpg city/highway and cars sold in California are certified as ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV).

Realizing that hardly anybody buys a new car without air conditioning, a stereo and power windows, Mitsubishi doesn't offer a strippo version of the Lancer. There are just three well-equipped trim levels: ES, LS and the swanky O-Z Rally edition. The ES has air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, a tilt steering wheel, a multi-adjustable driver seat and a 100-watt stereo with a CD player. LS models receive 15-inch alloy wheels (versus 14-inchers with wheelcovers), cruise control, keyless entry, a split/fold rear seat with a center armrest and floor mats.

Though lacking any mechanical enhancements, the O-Z Rally edition is the most visually sporting of the trio, with 15-inch wheels, ground effects, white-faced gauges and embroidered floor mats. There are only two Lancer options packages: one for the ES that adds a couple of LS features (such as keyless entry and the split rear seat with center armrest) and another for the LS that adds antilock (ABS) brakes and front side airbags. The lone O-Z option is a rear spoiler.

Taking into consideration all factors, the Lancer is a well-rounded effort that deserves attention from small sedan shoppers. It has the features. It has the looks. Now all it needs is an audience and a power upgrade.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.