Mitsubishi seems to be struggling to find themselves in the US marketplace. Known for fast sporty cars, like the now gone Eclipse and the Lancer EVO, they seem to want to reinvent themselves as a company known for their EV’s. I still can’t figure out why the would take a great car like the Eclipse, a car that a generation of movie fans and video gamers coveted for years, and then quit making it. Even Ford realized the mistake of dropping the Taurus name and brought it back as soon as they could.

Luckily, my favorite group in the Lancer lineup that includes the Evolution (EVO), Ralliart, and GT has survived. I am glad because these cars are really good. Mitsubishi seems to build good vehicles, they just need more of them like these that people want.

The Lancer’s styling is something you either love or hate. The car’s distinctive, basslike front end and its low, lean stance really look fast. Unfortunately, not all Lancers are fast. But luckily, they are a lot of fun to drive.

For 2012, sporty Lancer GT (formerly the GTS model) gets some much needed interior upgrades and also gains better looking 18’ wheels, and front nose from the more expensive (and better looking) Ralliart version. In addition, the Touring Package now has a backup camera with a monitor built into the auto-dimming rearview mirror (optional navigation system also has backup camera). Standard on the GT include comfortable (finally) front bucket seats, a premium sound system with all of the hands free Bluetooth, iPod and USB connections, keyless ignition, high-contrast gauges, automatic climate control and, we can’t forget the all important rear spoiler and chrome exhaust tip.

The Lancer GT’s peppy 168 horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, but my test vehicle had the optional rubber band feeling continuously variable transmission. (CVT) To its credit, it had paddle shifters that allowed it to work better, but it still is not as good as the manual.

Mt test Lancer GT drove almost as well as the more expensive and faster Ralliart model. I like the GT because it has almost the same brake and sport suspension package as the Ralliart at a much smaller cost. It seems to me that this makes the GT a pretty good deal if you can handle a less powerful car in order to save a fair amount of money.

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer GT has come a long way in the past few years. It is fun to drive, looks good, has a comfortable interior, has good fit and finish, a good looking dash, room for four adults, and gets descent fuel economy. What they still need to work on: interior road noise, that rubber band feeling CVT transmission, less of a “plasticky look,” and getting a little better fuel economy to keep up with the competition.

For a company that struggled when it first came to the US, then introduced the popular Eclipse model that started the Fast and Furious movement, Mitsubishi is struggling once again to gain its identity. What they must do is continue to introduce new and greener cars without forgetting the compact performance cars that brought them to the dance in the first place.

 

Engine: 168HP 2.4 Liter I-4

Transmission: CVT or 5 speed MT

Highest MPG City/MPG Highway: 23/30 for the CVT

Trim Designations: DE, ES, GT, Ralliart, EVO

Base Price: For the GT $20,845

What I Liked: Looks and handling

What I Would Change: How about a 6 speed auto or manual trans?

Star Rating: 1-5 My take is: 4.0