The Lancer nameplate has been on – and off – the Aussie landscape since the early 1980s, with some early examples having now traded hands in the used market with long and patchy providence. It’s renowned as one of the most archetypal of affordable grocery getters and for good reasons: they’re generally cheap and, being fairly well-built with Japanese origins, deserve their reputation for reliability.
The ninth generation, or CJ, was the last. At least for most markets such as Australia (Lancer lives on in some questionable form in Asia). It arrived in 2007 and formally exited in 2017. According to one popular general knowledge website, Mitsubishi Australia stockpiled as many as it could get right before the death knell, that coincidentally marked the passing of the much-loved Evo performance cult car.
As a surrogate replacement for the defunct 380 and, to an extent, Magna, it was important car and it sold a bucketload, at times in the top ten by volume in Oz. Today, the ‘boxiest’ Lancer ever is ripe for used picking, still fairly fresh and somewhat contemporary, still priced nicely for value in dependability.
The mainstream versions stuck true to a time-honoured formula: four or five doors, front drive, equipped to pander to needs more than wants and sized generously enough to double duty as a small family hauler. The CJ, for its part, is longer, wider and a fair bit roomier than its forebear, with a bit more semi-Euro flair in styling for what was once one of motoring’s blandest designs.
It launched in three trim levels: base ES (from $21k), mid-strength VR (from $25k-ish) and a sport-infused VR-X (from $29k). You could have a choice of five-speed manual or, at around $2300 extra, a CVT auto.
The cheapy ES did bring mod cons such as air-con, a CD player, cruise control and power windows, while the step up to VR added a CD stacker, climate control, alloy wheels and auto wipers and headlights. The VR-X plies 18s, sports seats and bodykit, Bluetooth and high-end audio.
Power throughout the range comes from a tried-and-true ‘4B11’ 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four with a decent 113kW and 198Nm that runs on cheap 91RON with pleasing mid-seven-claimed fuel economy. Worth a mention is that the manuals are quite a bit quicker in performance than the CVTs.
Sedan lobbed first with Sportback hatches arriving in 2008 and before long Activ, Aspire, RX, SX versions and even sticker packs such as the Olympic Edition (of that year) would surface.
Of course, the halo variants were the turbocharged, all-wheel-driven Evolution models, offered in five-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch forms in regular or MR trim levels, priced between $60k and just over $72k.
The Evo X deserves its own long-form overview, the 217kW/366Nm sedan-only breed the last of a long line of rally-bred head-kickers if without quite the mojo, or the cred with diehards, that its predecessors had and continue to enjoy.
Sat between the Evos and the bread and butter was the Ralliart, available from MY09 in sedan or hatch body styles, its 177kW and 343Nm turbo four with DCT and AWD offering spirited, WRX-rivalling performance for a palatable $43k price.
More choice? Again for MY09, the top end of the range – VR-X and new flagship Aspire ($35k) – was offered with a larger-capacity 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four good for 125kW and 226Nm. Both grades bring high levels of equipment though the Aspire’s extra $1700 ask brought leather trim and other goodies. That said, reversing cameras and sat-nav didn’t make appearances in the CJ Lancer until 2012 and 2013 respectively.
A good five-year warranty and solid five-star ANCAP safety rating ensure Lancer remains popular while the nameplates lobbed – such as GSR – and left. Specs and equipment were constantly changed and updated as the CJ mature and its fast-aging underpinnings soldiered on.
So while the late-gen stuff struggled to stack up new close to its 2017 demise, there’s a vast choice of CJ Lancer options on the used market. And the naturally aspirated stuff, in particularly, represents uncomplicated, reliable and sound motoring as used propositions today.