Headtohead

MITSUBISHI LANCER LS

WORDS JAMES WHITBOURN

A FAST íNí FURIOUS FACE-OFF

MITSUBISHI LANCER LS

STILL ALIVE

IN THE era of VWís brilliant $21,490 entry-level Golf, you might question the wisdom of spending $20,990 on a Mitsubishi Lancer (or a $19,990 Nissan Pulsar). But if youíre in the market for one or the other, which is the pick? The Lancer is pricier and much older, yet itís also better looking and equipped. 14/20 THE Lancer LS is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that offers 110kW and 197Nm, with economy of 6.9L/100km.

The engine is a willing worker thatís much better on fuel than the more powerful 2.4 found in up-spec variants.

With a claimed 0-100km/h time of 9.6sec, the Evo link is tenuous, but at least itís punchier than the Pulsar. 13/20 IN THE Showroom listing, Wheels describes the dynamics of one as Ďrubbishí (the Mitsubishi) and the other as Ďflaccidí, so weíre not dealing with the cream of the crop. An absence of steering connection headlines Lancerís dynamic disappointment, with a core lack of cohesion the follow-up act. 12/20 ITíS a close race in terms of cabin ambience; neither car is particularly warm or inviting inside. We prefer the design of the Lancer cabin, which feels more modern, despite being six years older than the Pulsar. The Lancerís plastics are hard and its front seats are flat, but itís roomy and ergonomics are generally sound. 13/20 THE Lancerís suspension is firmer than Pulsarís, yet itís more comfortable. Mitsubishi has done a decent job of calibrating the dampers to the springs/anti-roll bars, at least from a comfort point of view. Wind rustle and noise from the tyres, road and suspension mean itís no match for Golf or Impreza in terms of cabin quietness. 13/20

65/100

NISSAN PULSAR ST SEDAN

STILL KICKING

BOTH have cruise control and air-con Ė climate control in the Lancer Ė as well as Bluetooth connectivity and alloy wheels. But the Pulsar misses out on the Lancerís driver knee airbag, voice control, hill-start assist, smart key, partial leather trim, seat heaters, powered driverís seat, colour touchscreen MMI and reversing camera. 12/20 PULSARíS 1.8 is a bit like the overall package Ė outdated and uncompetitive Ė but at least it gets a six-speed manual. Its figures arenít far off the Lancerís, at 96kW and 174Nm, but itís not inspiring in its delivery or, ultimately, its performance. Golf, Mazda 3 and even Civic cream it.

Economy is okay, though, at 7.4L/100km. 12/20 YOU might wonder if this is as bad as it gets while driving the Lancer, but youíll be pretty sure in the Pulsar. To add insult, the Nissanís feel-less, lightweight steering also loads up unexpectedly in corners, though by the time youíre going this hard (about six-tenths) youíll already have flummoxed the floaty, uncontrolled chassis. 10/20 THE Pulsar is at least kind of plush, and its front seats are armchairs, which provides a clue to its dynamics... The Pulsarís party tricks are a sprawling back seat and a giant boot that, at 515 litres, is bigger than its rivalís, as well as some medium and large cars. Itís just a shame thereís no folding rear-seat backrest, or even a ski port. 14/20 AS BEFITS its cushy, cloth-trimmed and roomy sub-Altima personality, Pulsar is reasonably refined and fairly quiet inside. However, the softish suspension lets the body bob and roll on more challenging roads, which completely undermines any sort of handling enjoyment and makes the ride less than soothing. 12/20

60/100

VERDICT

What was the point of comparing these old/uncompetitive small cars?

Well, people buy Lancers and Pulsars Ė choosing a Japanese car continues to make sense if you value dependability and cheap motoring Ė and the Mitsubishi offers a (five-year) warranty thatís unbeaten by anything this side of a Kia. The Pulsar offers unrivalled room in a small car, if not much else, while the Lancer, which is almost as spacious, still looks good after more than seven years on sale. It might not be a brilliant drive, but Mitsubishiís small sedan is genuinely well equipped. However, if we had little more than $20K to spend on a small car, we go for the fundamental brilliance of something like a Volkswagen Golf, rather than be sucked in by lots of fruit. Wouldnít you?

POINTS SCORE

V PRICE & EQUIPMENT

20 POINTS

INTERIOR & VERSATILITY

20 POINTS

PERFORMANCE & ECONOMY

20 POINTS

RIDE & REFINEMENT

20 POINTS

STEERING & HANDLING

20 POINTS