The automotive world owes the Mitsubishi Lancer a lot. No, really. If not necessarily in quality, then certainly in quantity.
The Mitsubishi Outlander and ASX, Jeep Patriot and Compass, Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring (remember those?), Peugeot 4008 and the forthcoming Citroen AirCross: all based on the platform of the humble Lancer, thanks to corporate tieups which may or not may not still exist, depending on which car you're talking about.
Anyway, aside from telling us that the Lancer base provides an excellent toolbox for a variety of different vehicle types, it also suggests that it has been around a while. Since 2007 in its present form, in fact.
Lancer has always had some things going for it (style, for example), but in the big picture it was never a groundbreaking machine. So it stands to reason that its appeal five years down the track rests more on value, equipment and 'the deal' than anything else.
Enter the Lancer SEi, a bells-and-whistles version of the sedan that is listed at $36,990 but is being offered at $29,990 for a 'limited time'. That limited time has been going on since the first quarter of the year however. So I guess it's fair to say you wouldn't and shouldn't pay any more.
It is a lot of car for that. The SEi has the same thrashy 115kW 2.0-litre engine and Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) as entry-level Lancer models. It's not a standout powertrain, nor is it particularly economical: the official Combined figure is 7.3 litres per 100km, which is acceptable but not remarkable for a car equipped with CVT.
But more importantly, the SEi boasts leather upholstery, Bluetooth, climate air conditioning, tinted glass, gloss-black trim inserts for the dashboard, colour information display and a trick auto-dimming rearvision mirror with integrated reversing camera and alloy wheels. The rims are tiny 16-inchers, but they don't look out-of-place on the SEi, which has some very traditional exterior touches – like loads of shiny chrome detailing. It doesn't even pretend to be sporty.
And it isn't, although the chassis is hardly a dud. It turns into corners well and remains poised through demanding corners. Ironically, given the staid style, what spoils the experience is the bouncy ride and road noise, both of which are below-par for this type of car.
It does look quietly impressive though, comes mercifully devoid of big spoilers and the equipment levels are guaranteed to please. This is a small-medium car, fully loaded, for supermini money. Only for a limited time, though. Or perhaps until stock runs out…