Like many, I was pleasantly surprised by the TV advertising for the Mitsubishi Lancer GSR. For $26,990, this seems like a lot of car for the money. Normally, japanese 2.0-litre cars are well over $30K.

The GSR has an RRP of $32,990, but it’s almost permanently advertised at $26,990. Can a 2-litre, four-door Japanese car for well under $30,000 be any good? Drive Life grabbed a GSR to find out.

It may not be (and certainly is not) Mitsubishi’s most technology advanced car, but is it too good to be true?

First Impressions

This is a good looking car, from any angle. In fact, the best thing about the GSR is its looks. Without resorting to a huge gaping grille (which is a popular design trend right now), Mitsubishi have given the GSR its own identity. Not only does it stand apart, it is a design that is pleasing to the eye.

Car-Review-2016-Mitsubishi-lancer-gsr-2

Okay, okay, the boot spoiler is a bit OTT for the 115Kw engine under the bonnet, but it’s a great looking 4-door sedan for under $30K. And the kicker here is that the hatch and sedan are exactly the same price.

Our test car in white looked better again – at least it wasn’t grey, which would help it blend in with every other car on the road.

The GSR has LED DRLs and front fog lights as standard, which makes it look even less of a budget car when on the road.

There’s no fancy keyless start with the GSR, you get a good ‘ole key with keyless entry at least. You get used to using it pretty quickly.

Opening the boot shows a reasonably large space, and looking inside shows a nicely trimmed cabin, with a piano black finish on the dash and overall a much more expensive look than you would expect for the money.

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Rear legroom is good, if average for the class. Safety is on the mark with airbags for driver, passenger, driver’s knee, as well as side and curtain airbags, and a 5-star ANCAP rating.

Up front you get simple steering wheel controls for the audio and phone, with cruise control buttons on the right of the wheel.

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There is height adjustment for the driver’s seat, but no lumbar adjustment. You do get climate AC, 16” alloys, a reversing camera (reversing sensors are an option), voice activation, and a USB port, but no SD card slot for your music.

One thing that grabs your eye and is very welcome is the controls for the heating. Three simple dials, nicely finished in chrome (well, chromed plastic but they look nice) and just so very simple to use. After using a multitude of digital system lately, Mitsubishi shows how simply it can be done.

Car-Review-2016-Mitsubishi-lancer-gsr-8

What’s it like to live with?

While the GSR looks great, it has its own kryptonite; the 2.0 MIVEC engine and CVT transmission. It drones badly, and is wheezy at times; the engine certainly doesn’t match the looks in performance and the CVT is, well, not very good.

Up hills or under acceleration, there is an engine noise which does prove this car is a budget one. It’s a shame, as it lets down what is overall a great package. But it does let it down quite badly. Add to the mix that CVT. It has a 6-speed Sports Mode, but even this does lots of slushing about between changes.

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Yes, the GSR will pick up and move quite quickly when you floor it, but the noise it makes stops you wanting to do that.

I’ve been spoilt lately with three cars in a row that had fantastic engine/trans combos, and then the Lancer came along. Yes the other cars were far more expensive, but it’s just such a shame. The GSR has the looks, good build quality, great pricing and then an engine and trans that are a let-down.

So, on to driving the GSR. Other than the drivetrain, what’s it like? It does have the ‘GSR’ badge, so should handle well? Well, not really. It’s ok to a point, and then there is quite a bit of understeer. Tyre scrub follows as the 205/60/16 Yokohamas lose grip. The steering is too light, and there is not much feeling there either. Wallowy is the best way to describe the GSR on being pushed a little bit harder. You can really feel the car losing its composure on any sort of tight bend.

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There are other good points to distract you from the drivetrain and handling. There is a 6.1” colour display in the middle of the dash, and while it’s very simple, it works simply as well. It is a system you can pick up in a few clicks and are away.

The piano black trim inside the car looks really nice and classy, but it does show fingerprints badly, as does piano black trim in any car.

The audio is good – not great, but it certainly does the job. Syncing my phone was a breeze, and having simple steering wheel controls was a pleasure to use.

I found it weird that the hand brake was on the left side of the console, meaning a slightly weird angle of course to put it on or off. Not a biggie, but unexpected.

You want some rear spoiler with that rear view?
You want some rear spoiler with that rear view?

On the boot lid, there is the reversing camera. The camera itself is fine, but you can’t see it as being what it is straight away – I and other people went to open the boot, using the reversing cameras as a sort of handle. Again, not a biggie, but there’s no actually handle, you are supposed to use the bottom of the boot lid to open and close it.

The seats are fine, even on a longish drive, but they are pretty firm. I think if you went for two or three hours, you’d be feeling a bit numb in the butt region.

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The GSR has cruise control – a welcome feature. I hate to complain again about the GSR, but the cruise control is so old school that the only indication you have is a ‘Cruise’ light on the dashboard. There’s not even a ‘set’ or other indicator, so you know cruise control is actually operating. Quite scary sometimes, and I ended up pushing the cruise off/on button too many times trying to see if it was on or not.

What it’s up against

Brand / ModelEnginePower/Torque

Kw/Nm

Fuel L/100kmPrice Highest to Lowest
Kia Cerato SX2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol VVTI129/2097.4$40,490
Honda Civic LN2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol VVTI114/1907.5$39,990
Mazda 3 GSX

(hatchback)

2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol VVTI114/2005.7$35,595
Toyota Corolla GX 1.81.8-litre 4-cyl petrol VVTI103/1736.1$33,590
Nissan Pulsar ST2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol VVTI96/1746.7$29,990
Mitsubishi Lancer GSR2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol VVTI115/2017.2$26,990

The Good and the Bad

ProsCons
  • Looks
  • 5-Star safety rating
  • Build quality/cost ratio
  • Value for money
  • Engine noise
  • Transmission
  • Handling/grip

What do we think?

I took the GSR out to see a friend, and parked on the road. On returning to the car with him, on first looks and asking about the price, what I got was, “that’s a lot of car for the money.”

It sure is. A nice, brand new Japanese 2-litre car for $27K. Great value!

But – and there’s always a but – I’m not sure any car enthusiast type of person would like the GSR. Yes it definitely has the looks – it’s almost worth buying for the looks alone – but that drivetrain and suspension….ug.

I am awarding the GSR a 3.0 Chevron rating. It has so much going for it but the driving experience is not a great one. If you are ‘just’ an average driver, you may well find the GSR perfect for you – take one for a test drive and decide for yourself.

Rating – Chevron rating 3.0 out of 5

Chevron_3out5

 

 

 

Thanks for Wellington Mitsubishi for supplying Drive Life with the GSR review car.

Read more about the GSR on the Mitsubishi New Zealand’s website.

 

Vehicle TypeSmall sedan
Starting Price$26,990 + On road costs
Tested Price$26,990 + On road costs
Engine2.0-litre, 4 cylinder DOHC MIVEC
TransmissionConstantly Variable with 6-speed Sports mode
0 – 100 kphn/a
Kerb Weight1355Kg
Length x Width x Height4585 x 1760 x 1515mm
Cargo CapacityWith rear seat up – 635L
Fuel Tank59 litres
Towing CapacityBraked – 1000kg

Unbraked – 550kg

ANCAP Safety Ratings5 stars
Warranty5-years, 130,000 kilometre with Roadside Assist/10-year, 160,000 kilometre drivetrain warranty

 

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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