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2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Test Drive Review

The Lancer looks sportier than it is but holds up well with plenty of value and technology features.

6.3 /10
Overall Score

The Lancer has been a part of the Mitsubishi lineup for quite some time, and the car was overhauled for the 2007 model year. Now in its ninth generation, Mitsubishi is marketing the car as a compact sport sedan instead of the economy car that we were all thinking. It’s a handsome car with sporting intentions in all trims, but how does it stand up against more established and well-known competitors?

Look and Feel

6/ 10

The Lancer Evolution is a hotted-up answer to the Subaru Impreza WRX, but even the more pedestrian, non-Evolution versions look the part of hardcore rally racer. The car's nose is aggressively pointed down, and large vents accent the front fascia. Higher trims like the GTS get fog lights set into the lower bumper and aero bodywork to complete the racy look.

Though the lower trims get hubcaps and more pedestrian bodywork, the Lancer’s rising beltline and smooth lines give a sleek look to all versions of the car. Larger wheels on the top trims fill the Lancer’s wheel wells and make it appear truly aggressive, especially with the addition of the optional rear decklid spoiler.


5/ 10

Just one engine appears under the hoods of every 2008 Lancer. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 152 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque, which is enough to make the Lancer a solid commuter, but not enough to live up to its sporty styling. Acceleration off the line is limp, but once up to highway speeds, the Lancer can pass with ease.

That lonely engine comes paired with either a 5-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the latter of which seems to suck the power right out of the engine under acceleration. The 5-speed manual has a solid feel and quick shifting action.

Form and Function

5/ 10

Compared to competition from Nissan, Volkswagen, and Honda, the Mitsubishi feels more spacious. But it still leaves much to be desired in the headroom department. Tall passengers will find decent legroom, but people nearing the mid-six-foot range will find that there are limits to the Lancer’s abilities.

The Lancer excels with materials quality, but some cheap bits show through. Build quality is strong for the segment, but the cabin allows more than a little road noise to seep through.

Cargo space and storage are generously spread throughout the Lancer’s cabin. There are useful and roomy spaces in the doors, glove box, and center console, though the optional subwoofer drastically cuts into the 11.6 cubic feet of trunk space. Without the subwoofer, the trunk is spacious, but taller cargo and longer cargo will run into conflict with the Lancer’s low trunk opening.

Tech Level

7/ 10

The Lancer is one of the most tech-forward cars in the segment. Higher trims get a combination navigation and music storage system with a 30-gigabyte hard drive that allows users to download and store a significant amount of music in the car. The touchscreen system is easy to use, and the screen allows for customization in the interface that makes it a personal system.

The optional, upgraded audio system supplies too much bass, and the stereo is too loud for such a small car, Combined with the Lancer’s lack of sound-deadening materials, the audio system can sound washed out and thin, despite its overall powerful volume levels.


6/ 10

The 2008 Lancer missed a Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIH)S, but picked up “Good” ratings in all crashworthiness categories except for the driver's side small overlap front test. The Lancer has a long list of standard safety equipment that includes full-length head curtain airbags and knee airbags for the driver. That said, the Lancer does not come standard with anti-lock brakes, so buyers will need to step up to the mid-level ES trim to have that benefit.


9/ 10

The Lancer’s sub-$15,000 starting price tells a value story that may betray some buyers’ expectations. The lack of features considered to be the most basic of equipment means that the entry-level Lancer won’t hit the right notes for most owners. Stepping up to the mid-level ES trim adds $2,000 to the Lancer’s price tag, but brings the creature comforts and operational features that most people expect. The range-topping GTS trim starts at $18,590 and includes all the bells and whistles. This is where the Lancer’s value proposition is strongest, and the price is still well within most peoples’ budgets.

Updated by Chris Teague

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