Call the 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart Evo-lite, because that’s exactly what it is.  This hatchback is just a little less powerful than the Evolution X that is the top performer in Mitsubishi’s American lineup of cars and trucks – and it doesn’t have the four different sub-species one finds on that road rocket.

The 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart satisfies a driver’s need for performance with its 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine that emits 237 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 253 pound-feet of torque at stoplight-busting 2500 rpm. Redline is 6500 rpm and this Mitsu will cruise handily at 75 mph turning 2950 rpm; 80 mph checks in at 3100 rpm.  By contrast, the Evolution has 291 horsepower at 6500 and 300 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rom.


The engine mates to a twin-clutch Sportronic shift transmission – yes, there are two rubber-tipped pedals, not three, but this is the quickest-shifting twin-clutch we’ve tried yet.  One can shift using the paddles behind the three-pronged leather-covered steering wheel or on the floor.  There is also the option to change from normal to sport mode and the transmission will hold gears and allow the driver to whisk through traffic and deserted roads at will, with only the trill from dual exhausts to remind lessers that this Ralliart has come to play hard.


The front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspensions are firm, granted, with 22- and 20-mm stabilizer bars respectively.  Even so, the ride isn’t jarring, likely due to the Yokohama Advan P215/45 R tires riding on 10-spoke 18-inch alloy rims.  It all works together in a very sporting way, but without undue harm to one’s kidneys and bladder.


Brakes are all-wheel-ABS discs, with ventilated fronts and solid rears.  Mitsubishi fits active stability control and traction control into the mix and the 2010 Lancer Sportback Ralliart stops with no hesitation or fade.  The hydraulically assisted power rack and pinion steering has 3.16 turns lock-to-lock and gives the Ralliart a capable 32.8-foot turning circle.  It isn’t light but it’s certainly on-center and quick.


This machine has all-wheel-drive capabilities, controlled from the cockpit by a button that allows tarmac, gravel and snow settings.  We tried two of those three, riding on a dirt road for a few miles, in style.


The 2010 Mitsubishi Sportback Ralliart has a pronounced snout with gaping front end and plenty of overhang.  There is a front air intake on the hood and there are light sills sweeping rearward to a hatch-mounted wing and rounded, nearly J-Lo butt.  It all looks cohesive but not terribly menacing, even in Rotor Glow (orange) with a business-like black interior.


Instrumentation is in black with white numbers and red pointers, set on a gray rim.  The speedometer goes to 160 mph and, most likely the car will, as well.  There is no navigation on this particular car but it does have a trip computer accessed to the left of the gauge pod, alerting to maintenance, range, mpg and mph.  Yes, there is a real temperature gauge and a remote for the fuel filler.


Unfortunately, mileage is one of the weak links on this car.  It’s rated at 17/25 mpg and requires premium fuel in the 14.5-gallon tank.  Over the road, traveling 70-75 mph, my average was in the low 20-mpg range, for about 350-mile range.


With the optional Rockford Fosgate audio mounted at the top of the central stack and the heating, air conditioning and ventilation controls much lower –nearly at the shifter – one can access dual covered storage at the base with 12-volt and audio-visual plugs.  There is a second 12-volt in the deep central storage behind the central cupholders. 


This particular 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart has the Recaro option that helps bring the entry fee from $28,310 including destination to $31,210.  It includes front Recaro sport seats that are extremely high and somewhat block rear vision (particularly for smaller drivers – and there is no height adjustment), great HID headlamps, the 710-watt nine-speaker audio system with a 10-inch subwoofer under the hatch, six-CD in-dash unit and Sirius satellite radio with three months free.


The subwoofer takes away about five cubic feet from the ultimate hatch space once the rear 60/40 fold is in place.  Mitsubishi says there are 13.8-cubic feet of cargo space with a max of 47 cubic feet using this configuration; otherwise it might be closer to 52 cubes.  There is a small spare under the floor.


One enters the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart with a proximity key and turns a knob to ignite and halt the car.  There is a black button on the front doors to lock and arm the alarm system.  The seats are hard, in Recaro style, but very supportive in hard cornering.  With both front seats fully deployed, there’s little space in the rear and only the rear armrest to hold cups and bottles.  Front seat occupants have central beverage holders and one in each door.  Plus, the sun visors on this car are actually big enough to block the sun – what a concept!


I really enjoyed the cut-and-thrust driving experience with the Lancer Ralliart Sportback over the course of a week but wish it had better fit and finish.  Door closures aren’t the best and interior execution and materials are lacking for the price.  Still, I find this a very nice compact wagon with great practicality, super handling and, yeah, Evo-lite performance. 


The turbo boost of 17.9 psi adds to the wow factor and the transmission is quite entertaining.  I don’t mind the aggressiveness of the sport-tuned suspension and appreciate Mitsubishi’s attention to safety with requisite front, side and full-length head curtains, together with a driver’s knee airbag. 


Mitsubishi offers a powertrain warranty of 10 years or 100,000 miles to bring folks into the fold and this car might keep them there.  The 2010 Lancer Sportback Ralliart doesn’t scream performance like the Evolution but it has more than sufficient power, handling and luxury items to entice buyers that aren’t prepared for that particular street racer.


© 2010 Anne Proffit