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MSRP Range: $14,890 - $18,590
Fuel Economy: 22 MPG city / 29 MPG highway

All-new, improved styling, new engine.

One of the first 2008 models to land in dealer showrooms, the new Mitsubishi Lancer is a complete remake from the wheels up of the company's entry in the compact sedan class. This is not merely an exercise in dressing the previous model in a new set of threads. From sheetmetal to upholstery to mechanicals to interior trim, it's a new car.

The body has been re-styled, with a more aggressive fascia and a wedgier profile. The result, sadly, is mixed. It looks really sharp head on, a little dull going away. Overall proportions are balanced, though, so the final result is a plus.

The engine is new, albeit the same displacement as before, but now with a double overhead cam in place of the '06's single, and updated electronics. Horsepower is up by 32, torque by 16 pound-feet of torque (22 and 12, respectively, in states with California emission rules). A Continuously Variable Transmission replaces the '06's automatic, with a five-speed manual still the standard gearbox.

The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer has gained weight over the '06, between 200 and 400 pounds, depending on model and trim. This, together with the more powerful engine, no doubt accounts at least in part to the lower fuel economy ratings for the 2008 model. Lower, also, than most of the competition, some of which better the Lancer by 5 miles per gallon or more in EPA City and Highway estimates.

Inside, there's roomy seating for five. Instruments and dash are pleasing to the eye and friendly to the fingers, with easy-to-use knobs and switches for the more important functions. Some details are less than ideal, but the Lancer is, after all, an economy car and not Mitsubishi's flagship.

The options list comprises value-adding packages. Disappointing is the need to pay extra for air conditioning and antilock brakes on the base Lancer. But a high-quality sound system is offered for the two upper trim levels. And impressive for this price level is a full-featured navigation-cum-music server system available on the top model.

Pricing wasn't announced as this review is written. Expect, however, the base model to start around $14,000.

The Mitsubishi Lancer returns for 2008 after skipping the 2007 model year. Now, just one engine is available: a 152-hp four-cylinder (143-hp in California emissions form). It comes with a choice of five-speed manual transmission or optional CVT automatic, a continuously variable transmission. Body style remains a four-door, five-passenger sedan.

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