SOMETIMES you end up getting a bit more from a situation or experience than you ever imagined you might.
That was exactly the situation when one drove the latest Mitsubishi Lancer on the block, the new diesel version, which is a long overdue addition to the range.
The Lancer was twice a winner of the World Rally Championship. It is one of the most popular vehicles in the Mitsubishi stable, and while the latest petrol version has been with us for some time, loyalists of the car – over 6,000 have been sold in Ireland – and especially those with a leaning towards a diesel drive, have had to wait until now for their preference to be served.
The latest Lancer is powered by a cracking 1.8-litre common rail direct injection diesel engine. It is the same clean diesel that powers the ASX cross-over and the Outlander, and boy, does it pack a driving punch.
Prod your right foot towards the floor and the 150ps unit delivers an almost explosive, definitely racy response. This is up, up and away motoring, the kind of punchy diesel drive we seldom get to enjoy.
For me, the Lancer diesel drive was all about enjoyment. Sure, it met other important criteria too – annual road tax 156 Euro; over 55mpg; a good spec sheet, including cruise control – but here was a car with a bit of bite in the drive, something different from a lot of the rest, most certainly in the small family saloon sector.
Of course, with all that zip on tap – it is thanks, apparently to Mitsubishi’s new variable timing system, which is a world first for a passenger car diesel engine – you do have to be careful with the men in blue and speed cameras about.
Also, as I found out once on a secondary road, you have to be mindful of sneaky bumps and hollows. I misjudged things on a bumpy section of road one evening as darkness was falling and the Lancer flopped about a bit more than I would have expected.
That surprised, to be honest. A more taut suspension with less give would be more suited, and certainly so in this class, one would suggest. That moment aside, the Lancer excited and excelled.
According to Mitsubishi, the Lancer presents the new sharp visual identity for the brand, which features road hugging ‘jet fighter grille’ and ‘shark nose’ style front.
There is nothing risky about the functional interior. The most frequently used controls are located at the apex of the dashboard, which is slightly offset towards the driver.
There is a good feel of roominess to the cabin. The room in the front of the car is very good, while the low set rear seats allow for more than average headroom as well as very good knee room. The rear seats split 60:40 and fold flat, which offers all sorts of load carrying possibilities.
In terms of safety, the single model Lancer is in the vanguard in the class because of what it offers: nine airbags, including four curtain airbags and driver’s knee airbag; active stability control and electronic traction control. It won a 5-star Euro Ncap safety rating.
The standard spec also includes 16” alloy wheels, Bluebooth hands free phone system with voice recognition, air conditioning, cruise control, remote audio controls, front fog lights, emergency stop signal system, steering wheel audio controls and leather steering wheel.
The service interval for the Lancer diesel is 15,000 kilometres and the car comes with Mitsubishi’s 3-year/100,000 klm and 3-year pan-European home and roadside assistance programme.
The Lancer diesel was a long time in coming, but it was worth the wait.
Mitsubishi Lancer 1.8-litre DiD
Engine: 1798cc, 16-valves MIVEC direct injection electronic common rail, 150ps at 4,000rpm, 300 Nm at 2,000rpm.
Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox.
Top speed: 207kph; 0 to 100kph in 9.9 seconds.
Consumption: 6.6l/100km (urban); 4.5 (extra urban); 5.3 (combined).
C02 emissions: 139g/km.
Annual road tax: 156 Euro.