A compact sedan with available all-wheel drive, the 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer might seem appealing at first. Just last year, it received a front-end styling refresh, updated tuning for its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and several new standard features. And this year, Mitsubishi has made the previously optional 6.1-inch touchscreen and rearview camera standard as well. But in our opinion these updates are just glossy updates on what is a fundamentally outdated car.
Compare it to the competition in the compact sedan segment and you'll see how the Lancer is well behind the curve. Daily driving is one of its biggest shortfalls as both of the Lancer's available engines are tough to live with, especially paired with the CVT. The optional 2.4-liter motor is strong, sure, but it really only performs well when you've got the gas pedal pinned — real-world acceleration lacks the urgency of many competitors. Poor fuel economy and a lack of desirable tech features are also notable drawbacks.
For a superior small sedan, check out the Honda Civic. It offers stellar fuel economy, class-leading acceleration and midsize sedan-like levels of comfort. Other refined and fun-to-drive competitors include the sporty Mazda 3 and the well-equipped Ford Focus. We also highly recommend the redesigned Hyundai Elantra and the updated Kia Forte. If you're looking for all-wheel drive, we'd point you in the direction of the Subaru Impreza, which has a more modern interior and a superior driving experience.
There are a few tricks up the Lancer's sleeve, including the aforementioned all-wheel drive and quick acceleration with the optional engine, but if you're looking for good value in a modern compact car, we'd recommend going elsewhere.
Standard safety features on all 2017 Mitsubishi Lancers include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, a rearview camera, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Rear parking sensors are optional on all trim levels, but other advanced driver aids, such as blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning, aren't available.
In government crash tests, the Lancer received four out of five stars for overall crashworthiness, including four stars for frontal protection and four stars for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Lancer its top score of Good in moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact, roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests. In the small-overlap front-impact test, the Lancer earned the second-highest rating of Acceptable.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer is a small sedan available in three trim levels: ES, SE and SEL.
The entry-level ES comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, LED running lights, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, remote keyless entry, automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-only steering wheel, power accessories, cruise control, a 6.1-inch touchscreen interface, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, voice controls, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and a USB port.
The SE adds 18-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats, and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and HD radio.
Step up to the SEL trim level and you get the SE's equipment plus automatic headlights, automatic wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, upgraded interior trim, leather upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
Optional for the ES with the CVT and the SEL is a Sun and Sound package that adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system with satellite and HD radio.
Optional on every Lancer trim is a Navigation System package that includes navigation and a 7-inch touchscreen. Accessory options include LED foglights, a rear spoiler, chrome accents and rear parking sensors.
The base-level 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer ES is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission or an optional CVT. EPA-estimated fuel economy for 2017 wasn't available at publishing time, but last year's car earned 28 mpg combined (24 city/33 highway) with the manual transmission and 30 mpg combined (27 city/35 highway) with the CVT.
Optional on the ES and standard on the SE and SEL is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (optional on the ES) that makes 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. The SE and SEL come exclusively with the CVT and all-wheel drive, and the ES also gets the CVT-AWD pairing when optioned with the larger engine. This powertrain achieves an EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined (23 city/31 highway). Most compact sedans do much better. The Civic for example, a class leader, is rated as high as 35 mpg combined and one of the Mazda 3's powertrains is right up there at 32 mpg combined.
During Edmunds performance testing, a Lancer SEL with all-wheel drive and the 2.4-liter engine accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds. That's pretty quick by class standards.
Equipped with the 2.4-liter engine, the Lancer is one of the quicker small sedans available. Unfortunately, fuel economy suffers. We're not fond of the CVT, either; it is slow to respond when you want to merge or make a pass on the highway. The engine also sounds loud and boisterous during hard acceleration, which is another drawback.
The Lancer goes down smooth roads just fine, but driving over potholes and broken pavement causes plenty of unsettling shock and impact shudder to enter the cabin. It's just not a very comfortable car to drive. The Lancer can zip around turns with a pleasing amount of stability, especially with the sport-tuned suspension on the SE, but the trade-off is an even greater deficit in ride quality. The SE's larger wheels and tires generate more noise on certain types of pavement too.
Simple, plain gauges and controls populate the interior of the 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer. While that isn't inherently displeasing, many of the surfaces you come in contact regularly are made from cheap, hard plastics. As a result, it all feels a bit bare-bones, even at higher trim levels. Mitsubishi's voice activation system, Fuse, makes it possible to control the audio and navigation systems, but it doesn't respond as quickly to commands as competing systems. The same is true of the newly standard 6.1-inch touchscreen this year, which also suffers from poor graphics.
Up front, seat comfort is generally good, though tall drivers will likely wish for more thigh support and a telescoping steering wheel. The backseat is spacious, at least, and provides quite a bit of legroom. By class standards, the trunk is relatively small, with just 12.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity, a number that drops to 11.8 cubic feet with the Rockford Fosgate audio system's subwoofer installed. The 60/40-split rear seatbacks fold down to help with carrying longer items.
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.