> Mitsubishi’s new five-door Sportback coupe offers a shape that looks a little different and with more power
BY Y.S. KHONG
THE MARKET is already buzzing with rumours about the Proton Waja replacement model that will be based on the existing Mitsubishi Lancer.
No one has seen the actual unit, but whatever slight modifications that are put onto it to make it a Proton, as opposed to it being a Lancer, will not change the silhouette significantly.
Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia will, of course, continue selling the Lancer, but sales numbers will drop, as the locally-built Proton will be selling at a much lower retail price.
With that in mind, Mitsubishi Motors Malaysia will be bringing in a new model, the Lancer Sportback. This is a five-door coupe version of the Lancer, which Mitsubishi elected to call a Sportback instead of hatchback or fastback.
In Japan, there is a FWD version and a 4WD version, and two engine variants – a 1.8-litre DOHC and a 2.0-litre DOHC – both with MIVEC, Mitsubishi’s very own variable valve-timing system.
The 4WD version comes with a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox while the FWD version comes with a CVT with six virtual ratios.
What we are likely to get here is yet another variant, a 2.4-litre DOHC MIVEC engine with FWD and a CVT.
The 2.4-litre engine delivers 170PS of power, compared to the 150PS of the 2.0-litre engine, and has a maximum torque rating of 226Nm at 4,100rpm versus the 197Nm at 4,200rpm from the 2.0-litre engine.
A new feature found in the Sportback, and not in the 2.0 Lancer is ASC (acceleration skid control). This is Mitsubishi’s equivalent of traction control, which applies braking on the outer wheels to stabilise the car should it start to go into an oversteer position, that is, during a rear skid.
In the case of an understeer problem, the ASC activates the rear inner brakes to negate understeer.
The Lancer Sportback shares the same platform as the current lancer, but instead of a boot, there is an additional hatch at the rear that extends from the rear edge of the roofline all the way to the rear bumper, in the typical way a hatchback does.
Aesthetically, it depends on what shapes you like. If you like sedans, then the Sportback will not appeal to you but if you like hatchbacks, then there you go!
The test cars we had were dressed up with various body kits, principally a rear-roof spoiler, side skirts and a front lower lip.
At this moment, we do not have details of what exactly is coming as standard accessories, but I would not look at one without the rear-roof spoiler.
The test units we had were shod with 18-inch low-profile tyres on alloy wheels, and these look good on the car.
Inside, the Lancer Sportback comes with leather seats, and a leather steering wheel. Paddle shifters add to the sporty character. The rear seats split and fold for additional versatility – you can also get both of them to fold flat simply by pushing a button in the boot, a useful feature if your arms are full of stuff.
We had a short stint with the Lancer Sportback at Mitsubishi’s Tokachi Proving Grounds in Hokkaido, Japan.
On the high-speed test track, which is in effect a huge oval with banked turns, the Lancer Sportback could hit a top of 200kph.
In a follow-up test on a test circuit that has been built to simulate driving through normal roads, with corners, brows and dips built in, the Sportback performed very well.
To be totally honest, there wasn’t enough road time given to us for a full test. What we have here is just the initial impression – the actual test findings will have to wait until the actual car comes in and we are given a chance to drive it over a longer period and distance.
However, our short test drive is enough to give the Lancer Sportback a thumbs up, at least for the time being.
The Lancer Sportback would make a superb car for the Mitsubishi lover who wants a shape of car that looks a little different, and wants more power.
Updated: 10:47AM Thu, 09 Sep 2010