Mitsubishi Lancer ES & Outlander LS

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

Well, short answer is yes. You can’t expect gold at tin prices, but that’s not to say either of these new base models are disappointing.

I will admit though, the Lancer ES’ saviour here is its attractive $28,590 price tag. Mid-recession, a crisis-stricken Mitsubishi NZ claimed “New Zealand car prices are much lower than they used to be” as some kind of consolation for the significant price hikes they were forced to introduce against unfortunate foresight against the yen. Now they’re offering one of the least expensive compact cars on the market. And while the Lancer has never been my first pick of the compact fare, this one grew on me until I looked a little closer at the sales brochure.

The Lancer looks smart, is practical enough and doesn’t drive too bad. But it’s heavy on the plastics and the sportier you go, the louder the road noise gets. That’s why the ES is actually pretty great. It still looks good, even with just 16” steel wheels, retains the spacious interior, 400-litre boot and, thanks to those softer tyres rides better than any other Lancer. There’s less grip of course, but an acceptable compromise for this price. All the cheap plastics remain, but while I couldn’t live with these in a $33,000 SX Lancer, I can overlook them in this. It essentially brings perfectly capable, practical and safe motoring to audiences that once may have struggled to get a new car of this size, and I’m all for that.

Key features are a bit barren though, which I wouldn’t take issue with ordinarily. After all you still get cruise control, mp3 audio, and stability control. But disappointingly you do miss out critical safety components in side and curtain airbags; I would slate the omission of these features in a passenger car $10,000 less expensive than this. In this age, there is simply no excuse for excluding them in our market and I loathe the fact Mitsubishi New Zealand sell the Lancer range on the strength of a 5-star NCAP crash rating, technically that’s misleading.

While SX models and above get the 5-star tick of approval, lacking side and curtain airbags, this ES spec only achieved a 4-star rating in the same test regime. Such a shame, I quite liked the honesty of the car otherwise, but for the lack of the vital pyrotechnic side impact protection alone I would have to recommend looking at something like the Subaru Impreza 2.0R. Short story, the sub $30k Lancer ES is a backwards step for the industry. It’ll save you money, but may not save your life in a side on impact.

Another backward step is the Outlander LS 2WD ($38,990), but this one is much more palatable.

The LS retains the past Outlander styling rather than the current one, but that’s not a bad thing. The old Outlander was the smartest-looking Mitsubishi on the books when it launched and to be fair, still looks great.

Unlike the Lancer you don’t feel like you’re missing anything. You don’t get the all-wheel drive, but as Nissan’s Qashqui and Mitsi’s own ASX prove, there’s a genuine demand for front-dragger crossovers. Inside is blessed with all the safety kit to keep me happy: front, side and curtain airbags, as well as stability control.

But comfort features are also plentiful with audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, seven seats (two extra for little ‘uns in the back), ISOFIX and tether strap anchors for kiddie seats, climate A/C, Bluetooth phone and a USB audio input.

Same deal with the Lancer in driving stakes: less grip from the 16” wheels, but not a significant blight on the otherwise playful chassis and nicely-tuned dampers.

A conventional auto would be my preference over the CVT transmission, that would keep the 111kW / 200Nm 2.0 litre engine from shouting at you every time you want to accelerate quickly, it wouldn’t be as efficient though (the LS achieves just 7.6 l/100km). But with CVT now the norm, I do begrudgingly appreciate my opinion stands for little with car manufacturers. Philistines.

So there you go; they’re not all winners, but sometimes the poverty pack can actually be the one to go for. Lancer ES: Er, no thanks. Outlander LS: Top notch. Simple.

See the Mitsubishi Lancer for sale.

See the Mitsubishi Outlander for sale.