Written by James Hamel
Sometimes a car comes along that restores your faith not only in the simple joy of driving but also in everything that truly makes life worth living. And to be honest I didn’t think that this reminder would come to me by way of an economical 4-door Mitsubishi Lancer GT. But boy did it. And let me tell you I am in love with this car.
My mid-level Mitsubishi Lancer GT (there are turbo-charged Ralliart and EVO models above) came with a standard five-speed manual that shifts cleanly and has such a simple clutch actuation that it is nigh on impossible to stall. This is important when you are moving slowly through McDonald’s drive-thru lines waiting for your hot French fries (not that I ever do that).
Muscular in appearance with a vaguely angry looking face, the Lancer GT is a real styling home-run especially when you compare it to the jelly-bean like appearance of competitors like the Toyota Corolla. The other benefit of the Lancer GT is the fact that it looks near-identical to a much more expensive car (EVO, Ralliart) with only true Mitsubishi aficionados able to tell the difference.
Interior Styling and Feel
To paraphrase William Shakespeare sometimes much ado is made about nothing and the interior of the Lancer GT is proof of that. In reviews of this car that I had read previously many stated the interior was seriously lacking in style, build quality and soft touch plastics. While there isn’t much soft touch plastic this interior is ergonomic and stylistic perfection thanks to its simplicity.
All of the seats are comfortable and covered in surprisingly high quality cloth upholstery with leather optional. After miles of driving I never had a backache and even with a very clumsy 70 pound dog riding around in the back seat, the plastic took a beating and kept on looking fresh. I know some Toyota products whose plastic is far more scratch prone.
Mitsubishi products usually excel in this area offering all manner of connectivity even in their least expensive products–case in point would easily be the upcoming 2017 Mirage which will have CarPlay as standard. Our Lancer GT comes standard with a simple, easy to use touchscreen center display to control the audio and Bluetooth phone functions.
As an aftermarket add-on, we plan to have Mitsubishi’s similarly easy to use head unit with navigation installed once we settle on how to upgrade the audio system. But as it is, the Lancer GT infotainment integration is so simple and easy to use you wonder why everyone else makes their cars so complicated.
Mechanicals and Driving Experience
This is the true meat and potatoes of the Mitsubishi Lancer GT that makes it such an example of automotive engineering excellence. The 2.4 liter 168 horsepower 4 cylinder is punchy and smooth all the way up to its 6500 RPM red-line and rowing the five speed manual is never anything but pure joy. I haven’t had this much fun shifting since I last drove a Mazda Miata or its sedan/hatch twin the Mazda3. That is high praise indeed as the Mazda3 is more expensive even if it may be worth the money if you have it.
So even if your commute involves heavy traffic you needn’t worry about ordering the manual transmission in this car as the clutch is light and very easy to modulate. I have yet to feel any fatigue in a heavy traffic situation of which there are many here in Southern California. And while the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer GT is not as quiet inside at cruising speeds as models like the Ford Focus, it does absorb bumps nicely while maintaining the ability to corner and steel with sporty verve. Not an easy trick and part of what makes us really, really like this Mitsubishi. So much so that….
Value for Money and Did We Just Buy One?
Starting at just $20,595 as standard with the GT trim level, 168 horsepower 2.4 liter MIVEC variable valve-timing 4 cylinder, five-speed manual transmission and all of the necessities this car qualifies as a true bargain. Especially for me since I bought this vehicle tested here over Thanksgiving when Mitsubishi was having a very generous clearance sale at a local dealer. No car with this amount of utility and features comes close with an engine this size mixed with a continuously transferrable 10 year/100,000 mile warranty package. And it’s fun to drive? That’s how I got sold on buying this car. Smiles per miles.
So If you are in the market for an economical commuter you owe it to yourself to give the Lancer GT a test drive, preferably equipped with the manual gearbox but that is purely your call. I guarantee you won’t see yourself coming and going on every street corner and for 2016 the car has been given a styling refresh with an even higher feature count as standard. Our car may not have come equipped with optional leather, Mitsubishi’s impressive Rockford Fosgate audio or navigation but InfotainmentExperts.com has plans to add all of these features and more as this is the site’s new project car. And my car so stay tuned for updates.
(I first road tested this model five years ago for a week as an auto journalist and its strengths continued to appeal to me until 2015 when I decided to make a Mitsubishi Lancer GT in Rallye Red my own personal daily driver. Well, sort of daily.)
- The Exterior Styling has not changed much since 1998 nor should it.
- Manual Transmission has mechanical, easy to master shift action
- Growling Engine Note from 2.4 liter MIVEC 4-Cylinder in GT
- Tenacious Handling even in bad weather
- Simplicity of interior control layout
- Terrifically communicative steering feels traditional.
- An affordable, efficient, fun to drive bargain with a real 10-year warranty
- Some May Complain of a Lack of Interior Soft Touch Plastic
- Standard GT audio system is perfectly adequate but I still long for better sound and power as the Rockford Fosgate Audio could not be ordered in 2015 with a manual gearbox in GT trim. For 2016 it can, however.
- Standard cloth seats are comfortable and feel durable but I tend to always have an adopted boxer dog in the family and leather seats are easier to clean