Power? Check. Handling? Check. Styling? Check. Versatility? Well... Functionality that matches the competition? Define what you mean by "functionality." As evidenced by the proliferation of people- and cargo-toting crossovers of all shapes and sizes, today's car buyers favor models that sacrifice little on the ride and comfort front while delivering big on usability. The hot-rodding import set is no different, a point that has necessitated Mitsubishi's move to create the five-door Lancer Sportback. Built to satisfy a broader array of owners' needs - and compete directly with popular models already on the market - the 2010 Sportback offers buyers the kind of engineering blend that gets your boy-racer palms sweating while satiating that inner need to haul home-improvement supplies on Saturday mornings.
Love it. Use it. Flog it. Just don't call it a wagon.
Photos courtesy of Mitsubishi
#10. Prices for the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback start at about $20,000.|year:2010:2010|make:Mitsubishi:mitsubishi|model:Lancer Sportback:lancer-sportback|@@ start at about $20,000.
Mitsubishi offers its 2010 Lancer Sportback in two varieties: GTS and Ralliart. The GTS, sold in front-drive guise with a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission, is priced from $19,935. Positioned at the top of the Lancer Sportback hierarchy is the car we tested, a Ralliart model that sports a boosted engine, Sportronic twin-clutch gearbox and all-wheel-drive for a starting price of $28,335. These figures include a $745 destination charge.
Delivered with each Sportback are standard amenities like a sport-tuned suspension and sporty bucket seats, plenty of power features, an auxiliary input jack, and Bluetooth compatibility. The Ralliart adds not only its upgraded powertrain and all-wheel-drive capability, but also an active center differential and a keyless ignition system.
Various packages are available, including the $2,750 Recaro Sport Package that amped up our tester with - you guessed it - Recaro front seats, as well as a 710-watt sound system and high-intensity discharge headlights.
#9. After a slight delay, the Ralliart's engine unloads a bounty of fun.
Boasting 237 horsepower and 253 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart's four-banger is no slouch, though off-the-line response isn't as gratifying as one might expect. Due to the turbocharger's lag and a slight delay caused by the automated manual Sportronic transmission, drivers who plant the throttle when the light turns green will have to wait a second before the 2.0-liter engine unleashes all of its boosted glory. That's when the fun starts, and the gearbox that had been a bit finicky in stop-and-go traffic transforms into a quick-shifting unit, prodded by well-placed steering wheel-mounted paddles or the center gear lever. Drivers can select between Normal and Sport modes, with the latter working to keep the engine in its ready-and-willing rev range.
#8. It won't outdo a Prius, but our Ralliart did provide decent fuel economy.
We could tell you that we drove our 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart with a light foot, abided by all posted speed limits, and spent a week watching cars pass by as we leisurely cruised along in the right-hand lane. Or, we could tell you the truth, a story that includes a lot more full-throttle flogging and what we expected to be dismal fuel economy. To our surprise, however, the high-revving Ralliart delivered an average of 22 mpg. Color us impressed, even if we did have to fill the tank with pricey premium gasoline. The EPA suggests that drivers will see 17 mpg around town, 25 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg overall. So, we beat EPA estimates while driving a hot pocket rocket like we stole it. Nice.
#7. The Sportback Ralliart's stiff ride has a purpose. A very fun purpose.
The 2010 Sportback Ralliart, like all current-generation Lancers, greets the world with what can be best described as one helluva menacing mug. There's nothing cute or friendly about it. The same can be said of the car's ride and handling characteristics. Make no mistake, the Lancer Sportback Ralliart is built to attack curvy roads with intensity and confidence, something this all-wheel-drive five-door does with ease.
While poking around town, the suspension feels undeniably stiff, so if you're looking for a comfy commuter car, you'd best look elsewhere...or perhaps at the slightly less aggressive Sportback GTS. However, shoppers in search of a versatile, all-wheel-drive rig that corners flat, grips with tenacity, and delivers a playful bit of oversteer when the throttle's goosed exiting a turn will be sufficiently pleased with all the Sportback Ralliart has to offer.
#6. Comfortable seats work to offset the stiff suspension.
Despite its taut suspension, the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart does actually offer its driver and passengers a modicum of comfort. Our tester featured the optional Recaro front sport seats, aggressively bolstered buckets that kept us snugly pinned down during hard cornering and even a bit comfy while running errands around town. That being said, our most frequent front-seat passenger, a woman standing five-foot-four-inches tall, criticized what she considered to be an unusually long lower cushion; drivers and front passengers alike lamented the hard-to-reach recline dial and the lack of a height adjustment. To its credit, our Sportback Ralliart did come equipped with a padded center armrest, and a leather-clad tilting steering wheel.
Rear-seat occupants get the best end of the comfort deal with a soft, spacious bench, plenty of head and foot room, and soft front seatbacks that won't hurt the knees of long-legged travelers.
#5. What's that you say? The Sportback Ralliart is loud?
Next up on our point/counterpoint list of attributes to like and dislike about the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart is the issue of noise. Simply put, there's lots of it. Some of it is of the pleasant variety, like the whoosh of the turbo, the sounds of varying revs as you manhandle the engine with the magnesium paddle shifters, and the echoes of rocks pinging the undercarriage when bootscooting your way around a gnarly corner.
That last accolade also deserves to be included under the Not-So-Pleasant heading, since it's directly connected to the Sportback Ralliart's bothersome levels of road and tire noise. While traveling along northern Washington state's I-5, we found ourselves having to raise our voices to be clearly heard, and that was with our passenger sitting about a foot away.
#4. Interior layout and materials are commendable...mostly.
Fitted to the interior of the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart is an array of materials that covers the spectrum from lackluster to impressive. The former includes hard plastics on the dash and primary dials, whereas the latter is an accurate description for the car's upholstery, door inserts, and soft leather-wrapped steering wheel.
There's no such divide when it comes to the Sportback's interior functionality. Though we didn't favor the seemingly cheap dials, the climate control did exhibit simplicity in all its glory with intuitive, straight-forward operation. Our tester's optional Rockford Fosgate audio system also offered easy operation, even if we were disappointed by the absence of a handy USB port. Secondary controls, such as buttons used to operate the power windows and door locks, were all placed in logical locations.
#3. The Sportback's cargo area is roomy enough for large items. Or an extra set of track tires.
What separates the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart from the rest of the lineup is its new-for-2010 five-door design. If you've always favored Mitsubishi's approach to all-wheel-drive turbocharged fun but passed over the Lancer for something with greater utility, consider your automotive prayers answered. With its sloped rear glass, the Sportback doesn't look like a boring wagon yet it boasts 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. That figure increases to 46.6 cubic feet with the second-row split seat folded flat, using either tabs on the seatbacks or latches in the trunk. The bumper is low enough to allow for easy loading/unloading, the rear-door opening is wide and tall enough to swallow large items, and a cubby on the right side lets you hide smaller items under the cargo floor (the left side of our tester's cargo area was home to the optional sound system's subwoofer). With the rear seatback raised, we found enough room in the trunk for a couple of medium suitcases and an overstuffed backpack.
#2. Competition is fierce, and on many fronts, better.
When compared objectively on paper, the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart fails to outmatch its primary competitors, including the Subaru WRX Premium and Mazdaspeed3 Sport. Each of these alternatives delivers more horsepower (though the Ralliart packs more torque than the WRX), greater resale value, and returns better EPA-rated fuel economy around town. They also weigh less than the Sportback, though that's not surprising in the case of the front-drive Mazda. Perhaps more important to buyers specifically considering five-door models is the fact that Subaru and Mazda deliver greater cargo space. Mitsubishi has priced the Lancer Sportback Ralliart below the WRX Premium but thousands higher than the Mazdaspeed3, a model that's not available with all-wheel-drive.
#1. Hard-driving enthusiasts with a need for space will like the Sportback Ralliart.
When all is said and done, the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart delivers on its promise of sports car handling coupled with five-door versatility. Heck, we were even able to lay down our sleeping bags and sack out inside for a few hours. But, to be clear, this is not the best choice for outdoorsmen or drivers who spend the majority of their time stuck in stop-and-go traffic. There are countless other vehicles that better serve such a need. That being said, if you're the person who needs a bit of added utility and works all week simply as a means to pay for a weekend at the track, we're betting you'll find the Lancer Sportback Ralliart to be a rewarding choice.