Let's get one thing clear: the 2.0-litre version of the Mitsubishi Lancer certainly isn't the highest-performing sedan in the Lancer fleet.
Many will know that honour goes to its muscle-bound turbocharged sibling, the Lancer Evolution, the car that has for
MITSUBISHI LANCER SEI
POWER PLANT: 2.0-litre four cylinder Mivec petrol engine, 115 kW at 6000 rpm, 201 Nm at 4250 rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: Front-wheel drive. Continuously variable automatic transmission with six- speed manual override. MacPherson strut front suspension, multi-link setup at the rear. ABS brakes, Smartbrake, stability control, traction control.
HOW BIG: Length 4570mm, width 1960mm, height 1515mm, wheelbase 2635mm.
HOW MUCH: $29,990
WHAT'S GOOD: Very high specification for the price.
WHAT'S NOT: Tyre roar, modest engine performance.
OUR VERDICT: This has to be one of the value-added buys of the year. No wonder there's heavy demand for the SEi.
But down at that part of the Lancer range filled with the normally aspirated 2.0-litre versions, things are much different. There, motorists have a car that offers 115 kilowatts of power and 201 Newton metres of torque, which is sufficient to provide what is best described as normal motoring.
Therefore, the only way Mitsubishi can differentiate this car from its opposition is to add to its value by ensuring it has a level of specification that will appeal to the normal motorist.
Late last year, Mitsubishi Motors NZ Ltd rationalised its selection of Lancers so it could better align their levels of specification to customer preferences.
Out went the SX and VR version, and in came a reintroduced SEi model to join the entry 2.0-litre ES Lancer and the slightly sportier 2.4-litre VRX.
All of these cars now offer good specification - but frankly I can't believe what's aboard that SEi.
It's stacked, to the extent that at launch it presented really good value for the money for its listed retail price of $36,990.
But then MMNZ dropped the price to $29,990 which placed it below the equivalent ES Lancer on the price list.
No surprises then that the car, which is available as a sedan and a hatch, is currently the biggest- selling Lancer by a very wide margin. MMNZ reports that 135 of them were sold last month alone, and dealerships have an order bank that is stretching out to May.
It all goes to show that the car- buying public aren't stupid. They recognise an excellent value-added proposition when they see one, and the Lancer SEi is most certainly that.
The entire Lancer range was facelifted for 2012, and all models got new soft-touch front door trims, leather-look inserts in all the doors, Bluetooth, the Smartbrake emergency brake override system, electric power steering, and improvements to the 2.0-litre engine so it can burn up to 13 per cent less fuel.
On top of all that, the SEi gets full leather upholstery, front seats that are power adjustable and heated, a leather steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, a leather gearshift knob, and high- gloss black finishing to the instrument panel and centre console.
The car also gets keyless entry and start, a colour LCD dash information display, privacy glass, an automatic dimming rear view mirror with a rear camera monitor for use when reversing, fully automatic climate-control air conditioning, and a six-speaker six-disc audio system.
The exterior features chrome garnish on the grille and door handles, side-skirts, a fixed roof antenna, fog lamps, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Safety features include seven airbags, and the rear-view camera and Smartbrake.
That's a very high level of specification for the price, and I must admit that it resulted in me thoroughly enjoying a recent week behind the wheel of a sedan version of one of these SEi Lancers.
It was nice to drive a compact sedan offering such a level of luxury for such a reasonable price.
The Lancer SEi isn't perfect however.
On one sunny weekend day I headed off on a tour into the countryside, and soon got rather tired of the tyre roar on the coarse chip seal that is often such as feature of our rural roads.
I also noticed the air conditioning to be quite noisy, all of which made me wonder if the level of sound deadening is as commensurate as it should be with the high level of specification.
The Lancer's 2.0-litre MIVEC engine offers 115 kW at 6000 rpm and 201 Nm from 4250 rpm, and the engine is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Compared to other engines of similar capacity available in New Zealand this provides only modest performance, so don't expect the SEi to perform as well as it looks.
But does that matter? I don't think so. It's not as if the Lancer SEi rides and handles badly - in fact it drives rather well - and what is really appealing about the vehicle is the high level of specification it offers. In that regard, it has to rate as one of the best buys on the market.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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