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First drive: Sportback hatches Lancer offensive

Hatched: Stylish new five-door Lancer sacrifices just 2mm of rear headroom.

Mitsubishi aims to double Lancer sales with the new Sportback five-door hatch model

27 Oct 2008

MITSUBISHI is aiming to at least double Lancer sales in Australia with the arrival of the five-door hatchback model.

Dubbed ‘Sportback’ and priced identically to the successful CJ four-door sedan series, the latest Lancer is expected to initially add around 700 sales per month to its three-box sibling’s 1300 units.

When production frees up next year, both variants are forecast to nudge the 3000 monthly sales barrier.

Much of this growth will also be attributed to the new 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol powerplant fitted to the Aspire as well as the latest VRX version of the sedan and Sportback, while the Subaru Impreza WRX-rivalling Ralliart model will also help move volume along for Mitsubishi.

The latter, using a 177kW/343Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged engine fitted to an all-wheel drive system derived from the 2004 CG Lancer Evo-VIII, is slated to supply around 150 extra customers on a monthly basis.

Mitsubishi has also revealed that it will release a turbo-diesel Lancer next year, although details about this engine are still scant.

Virtually identical to the sedan from the nose to the B-pillar, the Lancer Sportback is aimed at a very different demographic to its booted brother, according to Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited product manager, Chris Maxted.

“We don’t expect there to be much overlap of sales between the two models,” he told GoAuto last week.

Built on the same 2635mm wheelbase as the sedan, the Sportback’s tapering rear profile means that rear passengers lose just 2mm of headroom compared to the sedan.

Yet the cargo area is long enough to accommodate 288 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats, rising to 344 litres if the ‘false’ floor is lowered a further 90mm.

21 center imageThe Sportback is also unique in its class for offering a twin set of remote one-touch rear seat-folding levers in the cargo area, fulfilling the needs of buyers who MMAL says want the versatility of a wagon but are not prepared to put up with the image of one.

Around 350 of the 700 Sportbacks MMAL is hoping to shift each month will be the entry-level ES model, which is specified identically to the sedan.

This means it includes dual front airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic erake-force distribution and brake assist, cruise control, remote central locking and power windows.

The rest will be split between the mid-range VR and sporty VRX. The newly released Aspire model making its mark with old Magna buyers (according to MMAL) will not be available in the Sportback. Nor will there be a Sportback Evolution X.

Like the ES, the VR uses Mitsubishi’s 2.0-litre DOHC 16-valve MIVEC four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 113kW of power at 6000rpm and 198Nm of torque from 4250rpm.

It is mated to a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are 7.9 litres per 100km (CVT: 8.3) and around 184 grams per kilometre (CVT: approximately 198g/km) respectively.

Meanwhile, the VRX sedan ditches this engine for the new VRX Sportback’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder MIVEC petrol powerplant. This one pumps out 125kW at 6000rpm and 226Nm at 4100rpm, and is almost identical to the unit found in the Mitsubishi Outlander SUV.

Using the same variety of transmissions as the 2.0-litre powerplant, the 2.4-litre engine returns 8.8L/100km, or 8.9 if we are talking about the CVT.

Everything else on the Sportback is pure CJ Lancer sedan, meaning that the non-Ralliart models are front-wheel drive, and underpinned by a MacPherson strut and coil sprung front and an independent multi-link rear suspension set-up, with anti-roll bars tying down both ends.

The steering is a hydraulically-powered rack-and-pinion set-up, while the Sportback’s brakes are 15-inch vented discs at the front and 14-inch solid items at the rear for the 2.0 models, and 16-inch items at both ends for the 2.4.

So who is MMAL targeting with the Sportback? The Mazda3 hatch is enemy number one, along with the Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus, Holden Astra, Hyundai i30 and even Volkswagen’s Golf.

“Lancer is Mitsubishi’s biggest growth potential at the moment,” Mr Maxted stated.

Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback range pricing:
ES Sportback $20,990
ES Sportback (CVT) $23,490
VR Sportback $25,590
VR Sportback (CVT) $28,090
VRX Sportback $29,790
VRX Sportback (CVT) $32,290

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