May 2005

Mitsubishi Lancer 1.6 Equippe Estate

Stylish Lancer shares a family resemblance with its more powerful Evo cousin

May 2005

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

3.5 out of 5 stars


  • Exceptional value for money
  • Impressive build quality and refinement
  • Decent load bay and overall versatility
  • Enjoyable to drive


  • Lack of diesel engine could put some buyers off
  • Although well built, the cabin design is a little outdated
  • 1.6 petrol can sound overly harsh when pushed hard
  • Car lacks the brand visibility enjoyed by models from the mainstream firms

Apart from its Evolution range of Lancers and the venerable Shogun, Mitsubishi has never really been famous for selling regular saloons, estates or family orientated vehicles. The regular Lancer and its estate relative proves that the Japanese firm is capable. If prospective buyers would take the time to find out more, they would be in for a pleasant surprise.

Regular estate cars have never been fashionable in the eyes of buyers. Unless you aspire to own a Volvo or Mercedes load-lugger, you're more like to hanker after a people carrier or 4x4 if you lead an active lifestyle.

Not everyone needs an all-signing, all-dancing vehicle, though. Sometimes all that's required is a modest, affordable holdall to help you transport the occasional load or awkward item. An MPV with swivelling seats won't help. That's when the small number of compact estate cars can. Easy to manoeuvre and park in town yet flexible enough to carry rubbish to the local tip, flat pack furniture home or recreational equipment to the beach, there's much to recommend them.

Mitsubishi's Lancer is one such car. It may outwardly resemble the firm's crazy Evolution model, but the vague family resemblance is all that it shares. The regular Lancer has never really featured in the UK, but in a bid to make it more attractive it comes with a long list of standard equipment that would shame offerings from the likes of Ford and Vauxhall.

Despite the substantial carrot in the shape of lots of toys, the Lancer is a practical car. The load area is generous for a car of this size, and occupants both fore and aft benefit from a decent amount of room. The details might be a little hazy - grey plastics, aftermarket stereo, limited choice of engines - but the overall package is a good one. The only thing holding this car and its ilk back is a lack of image.

Our verdict on the Mitsubishi Lancer 1.6 Equippe Estate

Compact estate cars will never reach the dizzy fashionable heights attained by compact people carriers, yet they perform a useful role. If you don't like the lofty driving position or don't need seats that swivel or tumble, the simplicity of an estate car can be a pleasant - and welcome - relief. It's not perfect, but Mitsubishi's Lancer cuts through the hype and delivers a versatile, value for money package.


The Lancer is hardly an expensive car to run. Its modest choice of engines makes it insurance friendly, while Mitsubishi's reputation as a builder of cars that last should ensure that visits to the dealership are of the scheduled kind. Only the Lancer's lack of image marks it down as, further down the line, it's unlikely that you'll get a king's ransom for it when the time comes to sell it on.

Space and practicality

The Lancer will never be able to rival a stereotypical Volvo estate for load-lugging ability but, for its size, it's surprisingly practical. The rear seats - which split 60/40 - fold to reveal a useful loadspace boasting 1,709 litres of space. With the rear seats upright there's still 344 litres of space available. The car's load lip is a sensible height and the tailgate requires little effort to lift. In the cabin there are a few well-placed cubbyholes plus twin cupholders located to the side of the handbrake.

Controls and display

The few controls dotted around the Lancer's cabin work well, are intuitive and feel built to last. They may lack imagination, but they're where you expect them to be. The car's main dials are also easy to read. The only gripe concerns the standard stereo unit, which looks out of place in the middle of the fascia.


The car's seats might not look terribly attractive but they are supportive and the front chairs offer a decent range of adjustment. Head and legroom is adequate up front and reasonable in the back. Four adults will have little to complain about, although regular stops on long journeys are recommended. Engine and wind noise has been kept to a pleasing minimum, but push the engine hard and it does sound harsh. Bump absorption is good, with the car feeling confident over harsh city streets.

Car security

Remote central locking on the Lancer is not only a convenience feature but also a welcome security measure. Realistically the car isn't going to be as sought after as its more powerful cousin, but the immobiliser function is reassuring. Estate-specific features include a sturdy load bay cover and a secret compartment in the boot floor able to hide small valuables.

Car safety

The standard safety provision is as you'd expect on a modern car. Across the range the Lancer gets twin front and side airbags, and Isofix child seat mounting points are located in the rear seats. The electric windows are fitted with an anti-trap function, and the Lancer is also equipped with ABS, which is boosted by electronic brakeforce distribution.

Driver appeal

For a car pitched at the affordable, durable and practical end of the market, this Lancer can be fun to drive quickly. It's no turbo-nutter hooligan car, but it does feel surprisingly agile. The brakes are strong, the steering direct and the gearshift short and slick. The 1.6 petrol will be adequate for most people, although the 2.0-litre option adds a welcome sporty edge. When not being driven briskly, the Lancer copes well with urban undulations and feels agile in even the tightest of car parks.

Family car appeal

For families who have outgrown the traditional five-door hatch but don't fancy a compact people carrier, the Lancer Estate is a sound alternative. You don't get fancy folding seats, but you do get a practical load bay, bomb-proof mechanicals and low running costs as a reward for opting not to follow the car buying herd.

First car appeal

If you're new to driving and need a practical, low cost car, the Lancer Estate won't disappoint. It won't intimidate, either, as it's easy to drive. The various controls are light and parking demands little effort. It's affordable, too, thanks to the modest engine line-up and value for money asking price.

Quality and image

Quality of fit and finish is beyond reproach - it's something Mitsubishi is good at. The design of the cabin doesn't feel as new or as fresh as rivals' offerings, but that aspect of the car has never bothered buyers of the similar Lancer Evolution. But unlike the rapid Lancer, this model doesn't possess a strong or attractive image. It's likely to be bought by mature drivers seeking something stylish but, above all, reliable and cheap to run.


Being a conventional estate car, the Lancer doesn't require you to step up into the cabin as you would a people carrier. That said, being a previous generation design the seating position is noticeably lower than that of a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra. The front doors open wide, though, while access to the rear is reasonable for a car of this size. The tailgate opens to reveal a largely flat and wide load bay.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Standard fit is an aftermarket-styled audio unit. The Equippe specification boasts a single disc CD play, while the Sport variant adds a CD changer. The main unit performs well and sounds good, although its controls are a little fiddly and its detachable security panel prevents it from being flush-mounted in the fascia.

Colours and trim

As with its racy relative, the Lancer Evolution, this less frenetic variant benefits from being chosen in a bright colour - especially Mitsubishi's bold red. Dark colours tend to make the Lancer look less attractive, but black does add a more sinister element to what would otherwise be an overlooked car. Inside the cabin is a largely grey and black affair, although the overall impression is one of a cockpit that's built to last. The plastics are up to European standards but the seat coverings could be more stylish.


Parking the Lancer is a straightforward task. The various controls are light and require little effort to operate, making guiding the car into a space anything but problematic. An added bonus is knowing where the rear of the car ends as, being an estate, it's not difficult to judge when reverse parking thanks to the tailgate's straight-down design.

Spare wheel

A standard spare wheel is fitted on all models.

Range information

Two engine options - 1.6-litre (96bhp) petrol; 2.0-litre (110bhp) petrol. Both fitted with five-speed manual gearbox, the latter can also be chosen with a four-speed auto gearbox. Trim levels are Equippe and Sport. Latter adds lowered suspension and more standard equipment. 2.0-litre petrol is only available with the Sport model.

Alternative cars

Chevrolet Lacetti Station Wagon Similar in concept to the Lancer. Not as stylish, though

Skoda Fabia Estate Boasts similar price to Lancer but not as well equipped or spacious

Ford Focus Estate For many the default purchase, although not the cheapest in this company

Vauxhall Astra Estate Rakish-looking Astra is a practical workhorse but can't compete on price

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