Quick Drive: 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback GTS

By Winding Road Staff

April 06, 2011

Moving house is a hellacious experience that you generally try to complete as quickly as possible. That means having a vehicle that can haul a great deal of stuff without much fuss. When I scheduled the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback, I thought that despite its small stature, it would handle the move without too much trouble. I was wrong.

The two primary issues in the Lancer were its shape, and its seats. When Mitsubishi gifted the Lancer with its attractive liftback rear-end, it neglected to realize that it would have a severe impact on the ability to load most things. The opening itself is deceptively small; you lose a lot of the perceived space when you attempt to shut the rear hatch. Because of its aggressive slope, it really cuts into your space. If you aren’t paying attention, there’s also a good chance you can smash the back window on whatever is in the trunk. While aesthetically pleasing, it just isn’t practical.

Secondly, the rear seats do not fold flat. This puts a real damper on what you can load in the back. Anything that’s too long has to be rested on the seats, which is bad news if it also happens to be tall, as it will likely make contact with the roof. This means you can’t rest it on the seats, which means you need to slide it back. Sliding the object back will result in it sticking out the rear hatch, which then cannot be closed.

I don’t really “get” the Lancer Sportback. I’d rather stick with the standard sedan, and therefore avoid the delusions of utility that come with the Sportback.

—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager

The CVT in the Lancer seemed an odd fit to me. When left to its own devices, the motor spun away at high revs when accelerating, creating that sonic experience you’ve often heard each of us complain about in the past. The savior, here, was the fact that it came with Mitsubishi’s awesome column-mounted metal paddle shifters. When using those, under most driving, I could hardly tell it was a CVT. Only when shifting under hard throttle did the simulated gear changes become kind of doughy and weird, belying the transmission type. At the hands, it’s nice to use, but it’s no SST transmission, which makes paddle-shifting the big brother Evo super fast and crisp. Save a grand; get the manual.

In terms of handling, the Lancer is pretty decent. Turn-in is good, and the car is great at changing direction quickly and repeatedly. The ride is just a tad bit soft, though, and I felt more fore and aft jounce than I expected from this car. A little bit more stiffness would go a long way toward making this feel sportier, and it still wouldn’t have to be nearly as hard as the backbreaking Evo. Use that grand you saved on the transmission (plus the extra 400 bucks if you take Brandon’s advice and opt for the sedan) and invest in some aftermarket suspension bits. The Lancer won’t mind.

—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor

I like the Lancer GTS sedan, and I really like the Lancer Sportback Ralliart, so the prospect of having the more useful five-door body style, with a slightly less potent motor seems like a good idea. In actuality though, this car never really came together for me as a complete package.

As Brandon makes mention of, the load space of the Sportback is generous but weirdly shaped, meaning the car isn’t quite as useful for hauling stuff as, say, a Nissan Cube. Try as we might to imagine a way around it, the fact remains that these box-like cars are more utile than those that look a bit sportier. The Ralliart is rakish and low, and just not quite so good as a vessel as it would be if it were a bit more ungainly.

Still, there is some usable space here, and the car has potential. The motor feels strong, despite not having a turbo bolted on, and the paddles are fun to use when moving in and out of highway traffic. You’re easily able to get the best out of the engine, despite its relative lack of power.

I think the real winning formula would be for this GTS to be offered with all wheel-drive. There’s about $8000 between the cheapest GTS Sportback, and the cheapest Ralliart Sportback, where I think another, even more functional model could usefully slot in—especially for folks like us in the Snow Belt. I’m sure that Mitsubishi would be happy to sell me an Outlander Sport to fill this need (or Nissan an AWD Juke), but the sedan-based Lancer is still more fun to chuck around.

—Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief


Includes Mitsubishi’s wonderful paddle shifters
Liftback rear presents an attractive silhouette
We need more five-door cars in the world, period


A harder suspension would seem more fitting for this sports sedan
Lacks cargo space relative to the competition (Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen)
No AWD option with this engine