Compact car; Built in Japan
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,500 – $17,000*


2002 Mitsubishi Lancer OZ 4-door sedan


2002 Mitsubishi Lancer LS 4-door sedan


2002 Mitsubishi Lancer interior


2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback 4-door hatchback


2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 4-door sedan

Pros:
  • Acceleration (Evolution)
  • Fuel economy
  • Steering/handling (2.4 liter, Evolution)
Cons:
  • Acceleration (2.0 liter)
  • Noise (Evolution)
  • Ride (Evolution)

Tepid acceleration with the base engine is the Lancer’s only big fault, but mainstream models offer little to lure buyers away from higher-profile rivals like the Ford Focus and Honda Civic. Subpar resale value, on the other hand, translates to moderate used-car prices. Delivering rowdy fun, the Evolution chased Subaru’s WRX for the hearts and minds of the performance-minded, fast-and-furious crowd.

Overview

New for 2002, this subcompact sedan was offered in base ES, midrange LS, and sporty O-Z Rally models. Mitsubishi competed against the Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta/Golf.

All Lancers shared a 120-horsepower four-cylinder engine, with manual or automatic transmission. Automatic was standard on the LS, along with remote keyless entry, cruise control, and 15-inch alloy wheels instead of the ES’s steel 14-inch wheels. Antilock braking and front side airbags were available only on the LS, where they were grouped into an option package.

Inspired by Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution VII professional competition rally racer, the O-Z came with 15-inch O-Z brand alloy wheels, aero body trim, white-faced gauges, and metal-look interior trim.

Yearly Updates

2003 Lancer
Lancer started 2003 by gaining a sunroof option, as Mitsubishi prepared to add a hot all-wheel-drive turbo model at midseason. Mainstream ES, uplevel LS, and sporty O-Z Rally models had front-wheel drive. An automatic transmission was standard on the LS and optional for ES and O-Z models, in place of the manual gearbox. The new sunroof was available for LS and O-Z models.
Equipped with all-wheel drive, the new Evolution VIII packed a turbocharged four-cylinder that cranked out 271 horsepower. It also sported uprated brakes, with standard ABS, unique trim, a functional hood scoop, and special bulged-fender styling. A manual transmission was mandatory on the Evolution.
2004 Lancer
Fresh styling marked the 2004 Lancers, and a Sportback wagon body style became available for the first time. The Lancer’s new front end was borrowed from the recently-introduced Evolution, and all sedans got revised rear styling.
A new 162-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine was introduced in a sporty new Ralliart sedan, as well as LS and Ralliart Sportback wagons. Antilock braking was optional for the LS sedan and standard on the Evolution, wagons, and Ralliart sedan. Front side airbags were standard in the Ralliart wagon, optional for LS models and the Ralliart sedan.
Ralliart models had 16-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, Evo-style front seats, and unique exterior/interior trim.
2005 Lancer
A smaller lineup and an additional high-performance model top the 2005 updates to Mitsubishi’s Lancer. Wagon versions have been dropped for ’05. Last year’s LS versions have been dropped. The high-performance Evolution models–RS, VIII, and new-for-’05 MR–have all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2.0-liter. For ’05, all Evos have 276 hp, up 5. For 2005, the original Evo is redubbed Evolution VIII. The MR adds xenon headlights and pares pounds with an aluminum roof panel and lightweight BBS-brand forged-alloy wheels. The RS has less equipment and a lower price vs. the Evo VIII, and saves weight with thinner body sheetmetal and rear glass.
2006 Lancer
Freshened front-end styling tops 2006 updates to Mitsubishi’s smallest cars. The high-performance Evolution models come in RS, IX, and MR designations. They are turbocharged and have 286 hp, an increase of 10 hp over 2005.

Engines

transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

Regular Lancers used a 120-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, driving a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. A 2.4-liter engine, rated at 162 horsepower, went into Ralliart models in 2004. Mitsubishi’s hot all-wheel-drive Evolution sedan, introduced during the 2003 model year, held a 271-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder and was offered only with manual shift. For 2005, all Evos have 276 hp, up 5 hp. Horsepower again jumps by 10hp to 286 hp for 2006.

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 120
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 130
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
26/33
24/30
26.4

ohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/145
Engine HP 162
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 167
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
23/29
22/28
Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/122
Engine HP 271-286
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 273
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual

18/26

Road Test

Regular Lancers are adequate performers with a manual transmission. The automatic delivers fairly prompt downshifts, to help prevent alarming moments when passing or merging. But it dulls acceleration at any speed.

With either transmission, performance is stronger with the 2.4-liter engine that arrived for 2004.

Mitsubishi’s Evolution is a true hot rod, capable of accelerating to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. Unfortunately, it lacks low-end power and suffers turbo lag at lower speeds.

Fuel economy varies according to model. A test O-Z with manual shift averaged 26.4 mpg. Evolution models require premium fuel and averaged 18 mpg in mostly city driving, versus 22.8 mpg for mainly highway travel.

Lancers ride quite comfortably for a subcompact. They’re stable and composed, though dips and bumps at highway speeds can cause minor bounce. The Evolution is quite firm, but not unbearably harsh. Ralliart models jiggle a bit on washboard surfaces.

Mainstream models are econocar competent in the steering/handling department. Body lean is noticeable, but not excessive, and you can expect fail-safe front-drive models. Grip is fairly good, but doesn’t seem markedly better on slightly wider O-Z and LS tires. Steering effort is natural, though one test O-Z had a nervous, unsettled feel at highway speeds.

Ralliarts promise more agile, responsive driving fun. An Evolution delivers laser-sharp handling and tenacious all-wheel-drive grip, but suffers from a rather large turning circle. Stopping power is adequate, but ABS should have been offered on all models.

Wind noise and tire whine at highway speeds don’t prevent easy conversation. The base engine is smooth and fairly refined under hard acceleration, emitting mild high-rpm boom. Evolutions are quite noisy even in low-effort driving.

Instruments and controls are generally clear and handy, in a simple layout. Audio buttons are slightly undersized, and the dashboard-mounted clock may wash out in direct sunlight. The O-Z’s white-faced primary gauges are slightly easier to read than a base model’s gray-background dials, and the

O-Z interior is trimmed for a sportier look.

Plastics are not that classy, regardless of model, but cabin materials are otherwise durable-looking and inoffensive. Doors and the trunklid close with a metallic resonance.

Front occupants can expect good, tall-adult room up front on comfortable, supportive seats. The driver gets a standard tilt steering wheel and height-adjustable seat (except in the Evolution), and enjoys good outward visibility. Evolution and Ralliart models have supportive sport seats with extra side bolstering, but the Evolution’s huge rear spoiler can block the view astern.

Backseat space is average for a subcompact, but not cramped for two medium-size adults. Head and knee clearance are snug for tall riders, but foot space is good. The seat is a bit too firm and flat for best support, but not uncomfortable. Cabin width–or lack of it–squeezes three adults.

Lancers have a fairly large trunk, but the opening narrows at the bottom and lid hinges intrude into the cargo area. Most models have a split-folding seatback, but pass-through to the trunk is very small. Wagons are useful load-haulers.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer LS w/automatic

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 4
40%
Fuel Economy - 6
60%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 5
50%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
40%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 7
70%

Total: 50

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 180.5 66.8 54.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
11.3 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.8 36.7 43.2 36.6
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
102.4 181.3 66.8 58.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
60.7 13.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.8 37.2 43.2 36.6
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Water leak
Description: Water leaks onto the front floor due to debris (leaves, etc.) clogging the drain tube in the blower motor housing requiring a filter to keep stuff out. (2002-03)
Water leak
Description: Water may also enter past the wiper arm pivots damaging the blower motor and requiring special caps to be installed over the pivots. (2002-03)
Water leak
Description: Water may also enter the car via the rocker panels (side seals) or the area around the upper dash requiring resealing. (2002-03)
Transmission problems
Description: Shuddering, surging and vibration at moderate cruising speeds is caused by worn out automatic transmission fluid allowing the torque converter clutch to dither requiring the transmission to be flushed and refilled with newer SP-III fluid. (2002-03)

Recall History

2002-04
Description: Bilingual English/Spanish removable airbag warning labels on dashboard and sunvisor do meet size requirements.
2005 Evolution
Description: Incorrectly-manufactured turbocharger coolant hose may allow coolant leakage.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.