The Everyman Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer SE

The Everyman Test Drive: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer SE

The famous rally car wins on the course but loses in the city.

I’ll be the first to admit that my experience with the 2013 Lancer SE was based on incorrect colloquial excitement while in high school. The Mitsubishi Lancer is an award-winning, rally-dominating sedan that was the envy of many guys I hung around with. A high-performing import that was the ‘cool’ alternative to the Eclipse among young board sport enthusiasts.

So imagine my surprise when I’m expecting a week of fun with a renowned rally car, and end up with what is essentially a mid-level Honda Civic. See, the Lancer that my high school friends were pining over is the Mustang Boss of the lineup, the Lancer Evolution. A $38,000 tuned sports sedan engineered for performance. What I got was the real-world entry-level Mustang, the one people buy because they can afford it, not because it’s the one that they actually want. A sheep in a wolf’s clothes, if you will.

As I’ve come to find in my test drive and research, comparing the Lancer SE to the Honda Civic isn’t that crazy – it’s actually in the same compact sedan class.

Pre-conceived notions aside, considering the Lancer’s place as an efficient sedan also leaves something to be desired. Despite its aggressive styling for the category, its acceleration and handling performance don’t match the packaging. The Lancer SE, the 2nd best of the 4 options in the line-up (not including the Lancer Evolution) has 168 hp and only gets 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Hell, my first car, a ’99 Chevy Cavalier Z24 got that.

The Lancer SE comes with the standard equipment we’ve come to expect like a cd changer and keyless entry, with the nice bonus of a sunroof, but the plastics in the cabin, the knobs on the dash, and the lining of the trunk all felt cheaper than they should.

The Lancer SE’s real advantage is its all wheel drive. The SE trim was designed for the snowbelt states, and in this regard is an affordable and durable entry-level AWD contender. But if you’re expecting thrills on the road for under $23,000, you’re better of with something like the Mazda 3 that I reviewed previously.

Perhaps my sense of the car is best summed up by a friend I picked up in it. She didn’t know why I had the car, and when I asked her what her thoughts were, she said, “It’s nice I guess, feels like a rental.” That’s the perfect way to describe it.

All in all, if the combination is what you’re looking for, it’s a fine vehicle that will take you where you want to go, and will likely last you a long time.

Andrew is the founder and editor of Primer. He's a graduate of American University and currently lives in Los Angeles. Read more about Primer on our About page.

  • http://www.facebook.com/justin.moore.1610 Justin Moore

    I bought my wife the Mitsubishi SE in 2007. I can tell you by looking at the pictures in the last 6 years Mitsubishi hasn’t changed a thing about the design. Inside or out.

  • http://twitter.com/Chris_Staton Chris Staton

    As of 2013 Mitsubishi has abandoned its Lancer Evolution lineup of vehicles. As a strong automotive enthusiast I can tell you that this was the only car left in Mitsubishi’s lineup that, not only was remotely exciting, but that most people could even conjure the memory of when it comes to their modern lineup. I personally feel as though this is essentially an obituary for the company in itself. What will be the big seller for Mitsubishi in 2013? The Outlander? I have personally driven one of these. It was so, for lack of better words, “meh” that I cannot even remember what it looks like. Mitsubishi will need a game changer to stay competitive in an ever increasingly “blah” car market. The base model Lancer however is not going to be a game changer in any way.

    • Allen

      Chris,
      Judging by the number of Mistubishi Outlanders and Monteros in Central America and the business diversity of the Mitsubishi Group, I’d say Mitsubishi won’t have to write it’s obituary anytime soon.

  • Ricardo

    Meh-tsubishi.

    There’s absolutely nothing special about that brand anymore.

  • Ian

    You know, everyone should just test drive a Tesla… even if are in no way going to buy it, it will change everything about what you knew about automobiles. And you’ll have stronger goals to buy it.

    But yea driving that car next week, can’t wait.

    the downside is you have to be older than 25 to test drive it… or put a 5k deposit down…….