Model: 2003 to 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer
Vehicle Type: Compact sedan / wagon
Approximate used price range: $6,000 to $11,000
History/description: The Lancer is Mitsubishi’s entry-level product in the Canadian marketplace. Though a smaller dealer network keeps it from achieving the popularity of cars like Civic and Corolla, the Lancer has earned an enthusiastic following of loyal owners nonetheless.
The current Lancer generation replaced the former after 2006 — meaning there’s plenty of selection in the used car market for a last-gen unit. Said last-gen Lancer is a simple, focused, sporty and fun-to-drive compact that was available in both sedan and wagon variants.
Available equipment included a sunroof, heated seats, a CD-changer audio system with subwoofer, and antilock brakes.
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Look for one of two engines, an automatic or manual transmission and a variety of trim levels and options packages. Of course, shoppers can also look for some remaining portion of Mitsubishi’s popular 160,000-kilometre powertrain warranty, too.
The Lancer ES is the entry-level model, which got all of the basics and a set of 14-inch wheels. Power came from a 2.0 litre, 120 horsepower four-cylinder engine with a five-speed stick or four-speed automatic.
The Lancer O-Z Rally stepped things up with some unique wheels, styling and interior upgrades — though it used the same engine as the ES.
Enthusiast shoppers can shop out a Lancer Ralliart for even further upgrades. Key among these is the larger 2.4 litre, 162 horsepower engine with variable valve timing. If ‘fun to drive’ is a priority for you, the Lancer Ralliart is the model you’re after.
What owners like: Visibility, fuel economy, sporty driving manners and uniqueness are among the Lancer’s most highly regarded traits. It’s not the most popular car in its segment, though many owners enjoy its uniqueness, too.
What owners hate: Owner complaints are fairly few and mostly minor. Owners typically recognize that the Lancer is far from a supermodel amongst its peers, and some owners take issue with some of the ‘old-school’ controls inside the cabin.
Common issues: On a test drive, pay close attention to the shift quality of a model with the optional automatic gearbox. Shuddering and vibration may be apparent, though it’s typically remedied with a fluid change.
On a model with a manual transmission, you’ll want to ensure the clutch isn’t at the end of its life. Question any ‘grinding’ when shifting, especially between the first three gears.
Sportier Lancer models may have been driven harder than others, so remember to check tire and brake condition on a test drive, or get help from a mechanic.
Finally, be wary of performance upgrades. Air intake and exhaust modifications are typically safe, though improperly-installed upgrades may pose a safety or reliability issue.