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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Overview

Bigger Than the Average Small Car in More Ways Than One

There are plenty of small sedans to choose from, both domestic and foreign. By all standards, today's cars are relatively problem free and most have pretty decent warranty coverage should something fail. So how do you pick the right car for you? Price is important, but so are safety, craftsmanship and comfort; and with the ever-spiraling cost of gasoline, economy certainly must rank high on the list as well. Mitsubishi has built a car that just might meet all your needs and surprise you with a few perks you might not expect in this price range: the Lancer sedan.

Mitsubishi has built a car that just might meet all your needs and surprise you with a few perks you wouldn't expect. The Lancer is the newest small sedan to join the Mitsubishi line up and it brings to the market many of the qualities found in Mitsubishi's larger sedans. Among the most noticeable is the Lancer's generous rear seat legroom, which at 36.6 inches is an inch longer than the Corolla and nearly 3 inches greater than the VW Jetta; front seat legroom is also very generous, giving the long of leg a reason to celebrate car pooling.

In addition to its roominess, the Lancer's interior is a genuinely attractive prospect. Fashionable two-tone color combinations adorn the dash and doors, punctuated by a standard simulated wood appliqu that spans the length of the dashboard. The center door panels and seats are trimmed in the same luxurious cloth fabric that is as soft to the touch as it is attractive to look at. The seats are firm and you'll find your seating position to be tall and upright, like sitting at the living room table; the driver's seat gets an extra set of adjustments that allow you to raise or lower the seat height. From this position the Lancer's dash design appears simple and straight forward, with the audio and heating controls placed center stage and angled slightly upward to make viewing them easier for the driver.

Available in three trim levels—ES, LS and OZ—the Lancer comes so well equipped you may mistakenly compare its base model to some other company's mid to top-of-the-line cars. Standard equipment on every Lancer includes power windows with a one touch auto down driver's window, air conditioning, power door locks, tilt-steering wheel, 8-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, 140-watt AM/FM stereo with CD and four speakers, rear-window defroster, full wheel covers, power side-view mirrors and a full set of gauges including tachometer, temperature and fuel: for a car with a base price of just over $14,500. The options get a bit more luxurious on the upscale LS model that adds cruise control, keyless entry, a 60/40 split folding rear seat and 15-inch alloy wheels and a bit sportier on the OZ rally model. For those of you in the know, you're probably wondering where does the all-new Lancer Evolution fall in this group? The answer is that even though it shares the same platform as the Lancer sedan, given its all-wheel drive mechanicals, high performance engine and driving enthusiast interior the Evolution really is an entirely separate vehicle, which we'll cover as such in another article.

If you're not looking for the asphalt-scorching moves of the Evolution, we think you'll find the Lancer's performance features to be most agreeable with the average driver's daily needs. You don't have to worry about which engine works best with what model since Mitsubishi provides the same power plant for all three. The Lancers' smooth-reving 2.0-liter engine makes 120 horsepower and has a good amount of torque that comes on low in the engine's rpm band. Translated, this means that though the Lancer's four-cylinder engine is frugal on gas, it does not punish you with poor acceleration or anemic passing power. A nicely tactile 5-speed manual transmission is standard and really is the best way to make the most of the engine's power. However, if you prefer an automatic, Mitsubishi supplies one of the best in the business; its electronic adaptive 4-speed transmission. The adaptive feature allows the transmission's computer brain to learn your driving habits and then modify its shift points to better meet your needs. Whether you enjoy jackrabbit starts or miserly fuel-sipping acceleration, the Lancer's automatic will be sure you get exactly what you want.

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the ride and handling of this car, which is surprisingly agile for a compact economy sedan. The Lancer's smooth ride is deceiving at first, lulling you into the feeling that this soft suspension is going to lean and bob with the advent of the first s-curve. Nothing could be further from the truth, which you'll learn as you toss the Lancer into curve after curve and feel the responsive steering move the car exactly when you tell it to. Fairly level cornering, quick turn in and excellent road feedback are the Lancer's secret weapon in the battle of the compact sedan; these characteristics are befitting of the sportier OZ model but come as an unexpected bonus on the ES and LS models.

In the competitive class that the Lancer plays in, Mitsubishi has made sure that its little sedan can hold its own and then some. We think you'll agree they have done an excellent job of preparing the little Lancer for its first day of school.

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