Mitsubishi dealers around the world will be no doubt showing off their latest addition – the Lancer Sportback. You’ve no doubt seen the advert on television where a little boy asks his dad “where did I come from?” Unlike my dad, the on-screen one has the Sportback to help him explain the birds and the bees in graphic detail whilst showing off the curves of the car. “That’s so cool” replies his son. “My friend Tommy only comes from Scotland”. Oh the hilarity.
Yet the Sportback is most definitely part of the Lancer family and I reckon it sits somewhere in the middle. The Mitsubishi Lancer has been around the longest and has seen it all. It is subtly styled, drives sensibly and is reliable. It knows exactly what a customer that doesn’t agonise over torque steer and turbo-lag wants and delivers it impressively whilst being, well, unimpressive and unassuming. Without doubt it is the granddad of the family.
Next up is the Sportback. Fittingly in the commercial a father is driving it and this is the role the car takes within the Lancer family. Everything is a bit sleeker, performance punchier and the ride sportier without ever being uncomfortable. Crucially it still retains the practicality of the Lancer and still does everything a family saloon should. Finally there’s the snarling, raucous, fire-eating Lancer Evolution. Currently in its tenth incarnation, this car takes fuel economy, soft suspension and subtle styling and runs them over, reverses and dos it again just to make sure. This is the car that is worshiped by anyone will a large wallet and the inability to grow facial hair. Unfortunately I only fall into the second category. With 0-60mph coming up in 4.1 seconds, many a Ferrari has been left embarrassed and this is despite the Evolution having four doors and the same boot as its granddad. Yep, you’ve guessed it; the Evolution is the son that ran away from home, has some scrapes with the police for speeding and ended up mixing with the wrong crowd on the rally circuit. No wonder there’s no mother in my Mitsubishi Lancer family tree.
So the Sportback is aimed squarely at ‘cool’ dads who would consider the basic Lancer ‘boring’ and the Evolution ‘thirsty’. Why’s it cool then? Well for a start Mitsubishi dealers’ will have been told to say the front end is styled on that of a fighter jet. After all who hasn’t wanted to be a fighter pilot at some stage? I certainly wouldn’t get into the Sportback by mistake, rather than my F16 parked next to it, but you can see where they’re coming from. Think of it more like the new front end of the Audi range and you’d be closer. The rest of the car is sensibly styled but found favour with me, even though I love more vents than a skyscraper on my cars. The interior is typically Japanese so what it lacks in flair, it more than makes up for in usability and the quality of materials used. That said, the Sportback certainly takes things forward from previous incarnations with the dials neatly housed in pods, and an on-board computer within easy reach (and one that’s much easier to use than BMW’s infernal i-Drive system). Rear legroom is good as is the boot which thanks to the Sportback being a hatchback rather than saloon like its other family members helps add far more capacity for your shopping.
On the performance front it’s not going to give you whiplash but is more than ample for the school run or motorway cruising. The 1.5 litre diesel takes you from standing to 60mph in 11.8 seconds and onto a top speed of 114mph. One thing that did worry me is that despite this sensible performance, fuel consumption isn’t great – 29.7mpg. Far more than an Evolution X I grant you, but only 4.7mpg better than the combined return a Mazda RX-8 gives you and that gives you whiplash AND rips your eyeballs out on acceleration. Yes it’s not anywhere near as practical so let’s move on. If you have read this and are thinking “the Sportback is for me” then great, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you receive. If on the other hand you really like the Sportback, secretly want an Evolution but can’t afford it (that’ll be me definitely) then never fear as Mitsubishi are launching the Sportback Ralliart. Even sillier name, but it’ll essentially be a Sportback with rally pedigree that’ll fall nicely into the family between the Sportback and Evolution – step son? Cool uncle? Answers on a postcard please.