I bought my car in 2005 with 12000 miles on it. I am now crossing the150k mark. I have not had any major issues.
I have performed all recommended maitaince.
The only major repair so fair was a LF inner wheel which was done last year at 125K miles.
I am now routinely making 1200 mile round trips to another state and this car powers through the drive.
Pretty good for it's value, not the prettiest car on the road but if you are looking for good value for your money then this is it.
I still get an average of 25 miles in town.
On my last trip out of state I did 30miles/gallon on highways.
A nice alternative to the run of the mill Civic, Corolla, Sentra. Much better car than the Korean "run em' til they die" Hyundai and Kia's. A quality made in Japan vehicle. And yes, sorry America, they do build better cars than us. This is our 3rd Mitsubishi, my wife has had a Mirage and a Outlander Sport, I got this one for our daughter who's in the military and then off to college. I owned a 2002 Hyundai that I drove for work, and will never own another Korean car, they're fine new cars when they are under warranty; in the case of this Lancer I shopped for a used one with around 100k on it so I knew I wanted Japanese.
When you buy one with 100k miles on it get it for a price that will allow your budget to pay for a new Timing Belt and Water Pump Kit($600 at most shops) and replace the Spark Plugs and put a new Valve Cover Gasket on it($150). People get rid of their cars at 100,000 and they hardly ever pay out for a Timing Belt Replacement(manual states 100k), if they break your engine is totalled(interference engine = valves and pistons collide). And if you cant afford OEM Mitsu parts, get a GMB brand kit.
Good acceleration, handling, braking; at least for an economical 4 door basic sedan. Engine design is proven and somewhat simple. The biggest complaint with this car, as with most "Mitsu's", is the interior controls are fairly cheap and break easily. Don't worry, you can find replacements on Ebay or at your local salvage yards. Overall, I consider the 02 to 07 Lancer's a 4 out of 5 star car. I bought mine for $3600, put $800 into it, now have a $4400 car that my daughter informs she likes driving.
So here is the deal. I have had a slew of other cars and non of them can match up to the reliability and fuel mileage of this car. I have owned it for about 3 years and I have only had to do the basic maintenance stuff (Brakes, tires etc). I also get 38 MPG at 65 mph on the highway and about 30-32 around town. Not sure why anyone who wants a small car would spend thousands more on a civic or corolla when this car is just as good or better in some regards.
This car is practical and sporty. The four doors are nice to have, I have no problem taking four friends anywhere. I have had it for two years now and haven't had a single problem yet. Its gas mileage isn't even that bad, with about 24 mpg in the city. It handles pretty well with upgraded tires. I don't like how high the RPM's are at highway speed, 3,000 at about 100km/h.
I bought this car in 1yr after it came out and it only had 12miles on it. I've had it for 6yrs now and never had a problem with it. (During those 6yrs my spouse went through 2 cars). It is the most reliable car ever. Just keep up with regular maintenance and you should have no problems.