2012 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback review – quick spin

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback is the sportiest and most expensive offering in the Lancer stable this side of the turbocharged, all-wheel drive Evolution and Ralliart icons. If practicality, a fun driving character, and trendy looks are high on your criteria, it’s definitely one to look into.

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback fitted with the continuously variable transmission (CVT), as tested, is priced from $33,490, and $30,990 for the manual.

Both sedan and Sportback variants are the same price. Boot space is larger in the sedan, 402 litres versus 344 of the Sportback, however the Sportback is more practical thanks to the wider opening hatch, with the option of laying the 60/40 split rear seats down.

In 2012, the VRX faces an Aussie-made rival that’s becoming increasingly popular in this segment; the 2012 Holden Cruze SRi-V Hatch, available from $31,790 in auto form.

The Cruze puts out less power, 103kW compared with 125kW, from its 1.4-litre turbo four-pot, but offers better fuel economy, 6.9L/100km versus 8.9L/100km of the Lancer. Boot space compares favourably to the Cruze hatch, with 413 litres versus 344 of the Lancer.

But boot space and fuel consumption aren’t always the deciding factor. We’re here to find out how well the Mitsubishi does in terms of being an overall sporty, practical, safe, and trustworthy hatch.

2012 MITSUBISHI LANCER VRX SPORTBACK – PROS AND CONS

PROS:

  • 10-year/160,000km powertrain warranty gives peace of mind
  • Great functionality for young families who still want to own a sporty car
  • 2.4-litre MIVEC engine has plenty of punch
  • Definitely one of the more fun CVT transmissions on the market

CONS:

  • Like with any CVT, the droning engine sound as the transmission continuously hunts for the optimum rev range can be annoying
  • VRX sport suspension is quite stiff
  • 2012 update piano black interior trimmings get messy and collect dust in no time

2012 MITSUBISHI LANCER VRX SPORTBACK – WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE:

The VRX offers an engaging driving experience. Its 2.4-litre MIVEC engine has plenty of guts, and low down grunt. The engine mates well with the CVT transmission too, and together they electronically calculate engine braking and revs and adapt to your driving style.

The 125kW engine also provides effortless acceleration thanks to a good mid-range torque curve, reaching its maximum of 226Nm at 4100rpm. Off the line, the VRX’s CVT can be a bit sluggish until you reach around 30km/h, but from then on, there’s little or no hesitation to get the Sportback shifting fast.

Acceleration gets quite fun when you slip the CVT into manual mode, and you can use the steering wheel column-mounted shift paddles, or gear lever to shift through six simulated gears. Its operation is smooth, and like all CVTs, it’s engineered to save you money on fuel.

Some will no doubt opt for the five-speed manual variant for that more involving experience, however, the VRX’s CVT transmission does let you access much of the Sportback’s sporty character, and fun-factor, with very little in the way of drawbacks.

The only drawback we found is, like all CVT transmissions, there is a constant drone of engine noise as the transmission brings the car up to speed. But like we said, this can be avoided if you flick into manual mode.

The steering and driver’s seating position are just about smack-on perfect for a sporty hatch, in tune with the active character and driving dynamics of the car.

The Lancer VRX’s ability to dive in and wrap around corners is well above base ES and VR model Lancers, thanks to sports suspension that has been tuned for a more sporty, taught feel, and increased handling performance.

The Lancer features MacPherson struts up front, and multi-link independent system at the rear. Overall, it feels solid, poised, and confident. The direct feeling through the steering is enhanced on the VRX by the addition of a front strut tower brace under the bonnet.

Sticking to the sporty theme, the VRX is equipped with larger front and rear brakes than both VR and ES, providing strong stopping power, with good pedal feel.

While the VRX is no match for its Evolution brother, driving it does emulate a soft-core version of the beast, and you get that same sense of involvement and high no-fuss potential.

2012 MITSUBISHI LANCER VRX SPORTBACK – INSIDE SPACE, SAFETY AND COMFORT:

The VRX’s cabin is quiet and well insulated, while the leather seats are soft and supportive, all providing a fairly peaceful and moderately luxurious cabin environment. All the controls and knobs are easy to interpret, and there’s good forward vision. Rear vision is a little restricted due to the rather thick C-pillars though.

If camping, surfing, or just carting stuff about is high on your daily routine list, the 60/40 split rear seats allow loads of room, with enough space for that 60-inch LCD TV you’re thinking of buying. The boot floor also lowers down 90mm (Sportback only), increasing storage space.

Leg and headroom room in the cabin is spacious and accommodating for people of all sizes, with plenty of storage space in the centre console, glovebox, and door side-pockets.

Though our test vehicle was not fitted with it, the optional ($1950) Mitsubishi Multi Communication System (MMCS) includes satellite navigation, single CD player, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth hands free phone operation.

If having those technologies don’t appeal to you, you’ll be glad to know the speakers and overall sound quality from the VRX’s standard Rockford Fosgate stereo with subwoofer is the same, regardless of the MMCS.

The VRX comes with a five-star ANCAP safety rating. It includes no less than seven airbags, including side, driver’s knee airbag, and curtain airbags. Also standard is electronic brakeforce distribution, high intensity discharge adaptive headlamps, anti lock brakes, and active stability control.

New to the 2012 model, apart from the piano black interior trimmings, is a reversing camera with the display shown in the left of the electrochromatic rear view mirror – models fitted with the MMCS show the reversing camera display on the LCD screen. The system works very well, displaying clear resolution and views of what’s behind.

Being the flagship naturally aspirated Lancer, the VRX also gets auto wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, and power windows.

2012 MITSUBISHI LANCER VRX SPORTBACK – IS IT A WINNER:

Out of all the VRX Lancers that have come out over the years, the latest 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback model is by far the best; best to drive with plenty of grunt; best safety-wise thanks to the new standard reversing camera; and best to look at, thanks to new 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, and the overall handsome shape of the Sportback.

If you’re in the market for a VRX, and thinking of going for the five-speed manual model for that increased sense of involvement, do test the CVT model as well. It’s quite a good unit, smooth in operation, and effortlessly able to punch out all of the engine’s available torque in either simulated six-speed manual mode, or in full automatic.

The 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback is a car where what you see is what you get; sporty, spacious, and sensible, with a touch of pizazz.

2012 MITSUBISHI LANCER VRX SPORTBACK SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL
2012 Mitsubishi Lancer VRX Sportback

ENGINE
2.4-litre MIVEC four cylinder

ENGINE SIZE / COMPRESSION RATIO
2360cc / 10.5:1

BORE X STROKE
88mm x 97mm

POWER
125kW@6000rpm, 226Nm@4200rpm

POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
11.19 : 1 (kg:kW)

KERB WEIGHT
1400kg

HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1515mm / 1760mm / 4585mm

DRIVETRAIN
Continuously variant transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive

BRAKES
F: ventilated discs and single-piston calipers
R: discs and single-piston calipers

WHEELS / TYRES
F and R: 18 x 7 inch, 215/50 R17

FUEL TANK CAPACITY
59 litres

FUEL CONSUMPTION
Tested average: 9.8L/100km
Official average: 8.9L/100km

PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: 8.4 seconds (tested)

PRICED FROM
$33,490

WARRANTY
10-year/160,000km powertrain warranty, five-year/130,000km new vehicle warranty

THE COMPETITION
Holden Cruze Sri-V hatch – $30,790, 1.4T, 103kW/200Nm
Ford Focus Sport – $30,190, 2.0L, 125kW/202Nm
Volkswagen Golf 118TSI wagon – $33,990, 1.4T, 118kW/240Nm
Mazda3 SP25 – $33,670, 2.5L, 122kW/227Nm

Josh Bennis

Josh is currently a journalist, video editor and road tester at PerformanceDrive. He is also one of the original co-founders. His expertise is car culture and aftermarket performance. Josh was the editor at Hot4s Magazine for a few years, and has since worked at Fast Fours, Zoom, and as a journalist for The Project Group. Josh spends a lot of his free time working on one of his many car projects; the most interesting would have to be his five-speed manual 1986 BMW E28 525e. His claim to fame is surviving a trip to the Outback in an FPV F6 Ute.

Buying a new car?
PerformanceDrive can save you $1000s

We buy over 25,000 cars per year. Get a free quote today

We will not use your details for any other reason

Close this popup

  • Use our bulk-buying power to save
  • Australia-wide service
  • 100% safe, no obligation
  • No need to talk to dealers
  • New car delivered to your door