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Mitsubishi Lancer features AWD

Published: December 22, 2012 | 9:49 am
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The versatile and stylish 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer compact sport sedan is a worthy contender in snowy locations and is the second lowest-priced all-wheel-drive sedan in the U.S. market. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Often overshadowed by its showier Lancer Evolution rally car sibling, the Mitsubishi Lancer sedan is a nimble-handling, decently powered and competitive compact four-door in its own right.

In fact, the 2013 Lancer SE, which many car shoppers don’t realize comes standard with all-wheel drive, is a worthy contender in snowy locations and is the second lowest-priced all-wheel-drive sedan in the U.S. market, after the Subaru Impreza.

With a starting retail price of $21,090, this all-wheel-drive Lancer with standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) is priced $1,425 more than a comparable and similarly sized 2013 Impreza sedan, which starts at $19,665 with CVT.

Buyers of the Lancer SE AWC — for Mitsubishi’s all-wheel control moniker — get a larger four-cylinder engine with 20 more horsepower and 22 more foot-pounds of torque than the Impreza.

Other pluses: The 2013 Lancer SE comes standard with heated seats and heated outside mirrors, good-sized, 16-inch wheels and tires, seven air bags, including one for the driver’s knee, and outside door handles and mirror covers that match body paint and are not cheap-looking black plastic.

One downside: The Lancer SE’s 168-horsepower, naturally aspirated four cylinder doesn’t provide the higher fuel mileage that the 148-horsepower Subaru Impreza sedan does.

But a test Lancer SE easily got a bit more than the 25-mpg average in combined city/highway travel that the federal government estimates for this model.

Top competitors in the lower-priced, compact sedan segment include cars that come only as front-wheel drive models and compete in price more directly with the base, front-wheel drive, 148-horsepower, 2013 Lancer DE, which starts at $16,790 with manual transmission.

Rally car enthusiasts know all about the high-performance, turbocharged Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and its World Rally Championships. The starting price tag for the Evolution is $35,490.

But the plainer, affordable Lancer sedan has trouble breaking through to American buyers’ shopping lists because, in part, it’s not as well known as other cars in the small sedan segment.

Pictures of the 2013 Lancer don’t do it justice, either. In real life, the exterior is stylishly upscale and unlike the more bland-looking Corolla and Honda Civic.

Inside, however, the Lancer can seem ho-hum, with plastics and other materials that come off as inexpensive.

Still, it’s worth noting that even the base 2013 Lancer comes with standard remote keyless entry, power windows and outside mirrors, including a driver window with one-touch up and down, as well as 140-watt AM/FM audio system with CD and MP3 players and volume control that is automatically adjusted as the car’s speed increases.

The Lancer earned four out of five stars in overall crash tests by the federal government, with across-the-board four-out-of-five stars in frontal and side crash testing.

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