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Mitsubishi Lancer hatch


Mitsubishi NZ has lacked a hatch for many years - and I greeted this Lancer with cries of joy. But after my test period, I remain ambivalent.

I'm under-impressed by its looks, to start with. The handsome front has the same sharply aggressive nose as the sedan, but the rear doesn't quite match it; it's as if they needed a hatch and whipped the back from another design.

The interior falls slightly short too. Though smart enough and well laid out - it's as near as damn it identical to the sedan bar the seat arrangement - it doesn't pay to get too intimate with its hard plastic surfaces.

Think 'hatch' and you tend to think 'city-friendly' and 'adaptability'. Yet this hatch is actually 15mm longer than the sedan, and delivers a smaller boot, at 288 litres to the sedan's 400. True, there's a drop-down boot floor, and the seats fold flat at the touch of two levers to extend the space to 575 litres, or 635 with the rear floor lowered. But if you usually carry four, the sedan makes more sense.

That said, some buyers just want a hatch, and certainly this one offers plenty of visual vavoom. The comments it attracted during my time with it suggest others find its looks impressive; 'hot' was the general consensus.

Under the bonnet you can choose a less powerful 2.0, but my test car got the 2.4-litre, 127kW, 230Nm normally aspirated motor shared with the Outlander. It's capable of a decent burst of speed but it won't set your eyebrows alight, especially mated to this six-speed CVT auto. That said, she gets along briskly enough and ride is comfortable, though there's too much tyre noise for comfort.

What about handling? Unfortunately crowded holiday roads meant I rarely got a chance to throw it about. When I did, I found it handled competently enough, but there's little feel and though the car was sufficiently composed over lumps and bumps, it didn't have that joyous lightness of touch a truly nimble handler imparts, despite the sports suspension this version gets.

Perhaps I was expecting too much - that thrusting nose is too suggestive of its Evo X sibling to forget the connection, and this isn't meant as a hot hatch. Look on it as a handsome, spacious hatch designed for everyday living spiced with some of the glamour of the Evo, but without the astonishing performance and equally astonishing fuel bills, and you're closer to the mark.

It's certainly easy to live with, and includes the bonus of a five-star occupant safety rating, seven airbags and stability control as standard; the keyless start and smart leather seats; the auto air con and the self-levelling headlights with their cornering lamps; the MP3 jack and 18-inch alloys - we could go on.

Want a mildly performance hatch and you'll probably go elsewhere. Want a head-turner (and successful or not, its design attracts notice) that's easy to live with, and there's much to recommend the Lancer.

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