2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Reviews and Ratings

Sedan 4D ES

NADAguides Consumer Review

Be the first to review this 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer.

Rate This Vehicle

My Rating

Fuel Economy
Interior Comfort
Ride Quality
Overall Rating

My Review

Type your review and click the Submit button
600 of 600 character remain

Expert Reviews ( 1 )

2003 Mitsubishi Lancer
Bob Plunkett and Larry Edsall

The Mitsubishi Lancer is a strong compact sedan that offers a good value. But the big news for 2003 is the Evolution, a four-wheel-drive turbocharged homologation special. It's even faster than it sounds.

The Lancer was introduced to North America as an all-new car for 2002. The Lancer replaces the old Mirage, but it's bigger and more powerful. Lancer comes with a substantial unibody structure and sophisticated mechanical gear. Lancer features a comfortable, well-equipped cabin, even on the base ES model.

For 2003, North America gets the high-performance Lancer Evolution, based on the car Mitsubishi used to rack up victories in World Rally Championship events. Evolution boasts a 271-horsepower engine and all-wheel drive.

Model Lineup
Mitsubishi casts Lancer in four editions: ES, LS, OZ Rally, and Evolution.

All draw from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. In the ES, LS and OZ Rally, that engine produces 120 horsepower and drives the vehicle's front wheels.

In the Evolution, Mitsubishi uses turbocharging to boost the engine's output to 271 horsepower, which is distributed through a four-wheel-drive setup.

ES ($14,017) is the most popular model due to its competitive pricing and generous amount of standard equipment. It comes with air conditioning, a tachometer in the instrument cluster, an in-dash CD player, and power windows, mirrors and door locks. ES comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox, but a four-speed automatic is available ($14,817).

LS ($16,047) is a luxury model that adds cruise control, a remote keyless entry system, a 60/40 split rear seatback, a fold-out armrest with cupholders, carpeted mats on the floor, more speakers for the audio system, and variable intermittent windshield wipers. Exterior enhancements to the LS include body-colored door handles and mirrors, and larger, 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 195/60R15 tires. LS comes standard with the automatic.

O-Z Rally ($15,747) takes its name from OZ Racing wheels (pronounced oh-zee), an Italian company that makes top-quality competition wheels for Formula 1, CART, and World Rally Championship race cars. Lancer OZ Rally wears sporty body work inspired by the rally cars, including bumper extensions front and rear, and side skirts. It comes only with a five-speed manual gearbox. White-faced gauges and a cockpit trimmed in black with plastic panels that resemble brushed aluminum give the interior a racy look. A five-speed manual is standard, a four-speed automatic is optional ($16,547).

Options include the ES Convenience Package ($520), which makes some of the LS features available to the ES, such as remote keyless entry, the split/folding rear seatback with armrest, floor mats, and color-keyed door handles. The LS Preferred Equipment Package ($800) adds ABS and dual side-impact airbags, and we highly recommend these safety features. A power glass sunroof ($750) is available.

Lancer Evolution ($28,987) is a car that has gone through extensive evolution from top to bottom. Changes from the basic Lancer include engine, differentials, suspension, wheels and tires. The body structure has been stiffened. The body gets a special wing, fascia, and even a rear-window wiper (useful for those 70-mph creek crossings). The car also gets special seats and other interior features. Mitsubishi's first Evo model was produced in Japan in 1992. The U.S.-market Evolution is essentially an Evo VIII.

The Mitsubishi Lancer features crisp styling that sets it apart from the ho-hum sameness of most compact sedans. It looks more aggressive, with wheels pushed to edges of the boxed body to stabilize the stance. Short front and rear overhangs improve weight distribution, and the windshield is steeply raked rearward to cheat the wind.

Lancer presents a strong face with a bold horizontal grille ringed in chrome. Oversized multi-lens headlamps cluster at the corners, while a thick front bumper and air dam thrust forward like a boxer's chin. The hood has stepped cut-lines that add shape and depth to the prow. The flanks look sleek and flat with slight fender flares around the wheels. At the squared-off trunk, the Lancer borrows lines from European touring sedans with a blunt tail highlighted with bold, triangular taillamps.

The LS model looks tame and respectable and is often presented in understated tones. The OZ Rally edition looks anything but tame and respectable with its bumper extensions, shapely side skirts, and loud colors.

The Evolution looks like a race car. First, there's a big rear wing. Then there's the aggressive front end. The hood has a functional and screened air vent. A big front airdam is filled with a very serious-looking intercooler for the turbo. Blistered, squarish fenders made of lightweight aluminum look ready for competition. Add a roll cage, a big light pod, mambo mud flaps and a bunch of decals, and your Lancer Evolution would look ready to tackle the Rim of the World.

Mitsubishi Lancer comes with a roomy cabin. Space is generous, and passengers should find more than enough room for heads, legs and elbows.

The seats are covered in premium cloth fabric with silky embroidery stitching on the center inserts in a matching color. Side bolsters on the front buckets have contours for a comfortable fit. The driver's seat moves easily in eight directions, and we had no trouble adjusting it to fit long legs and a tall torso. In back is a bench with indentions for two passengers.

The steering column adjusts vertically, and we liked the feel of the thick wheel. For the O-Z Rally, it's padded and covered by stitched leatherette. Big, bold analog gauges are clustered beneath the arching cowl. Black gauges with white lettering are for ES and LS trims, while OZ Rally gets white-faced gauges.

The uncluttered design of the dashboard impressed us, as did the look and tone of materials used to dress the cabin. A band of plastic trim stretches across the upper part of the dashboard and divides it into top and bottom sections. For ES and LS versions, the plastic resembles dark walnut veneer and divides the dash into two-tone regions, with a dark color on top and a lighter one below. The O-Z Rally switches to brushed aluminum color for the trim panel, which blends nicely with the cabin's black color scheme.

The dash has scooped sections in front of each seat but bulges in the middle to extend a center panel of audio and climate controls closer to driver and passenger. Three rotary dials for the ventilation system are large and easy to use. Above the HVAC controls is the audio system, which suffers from tiny dials.

The Evolution model gets Recaro racing seats in blue and black cloth and a three-spoke Momo steering wheel. The center console includes a special button that controls a water-spraying system that helps cool the turbocharger's intercooler to provide maximum horsepower for drivers who compete in weekend club rally events.

Lancer also comes with many standard safety features, including frontal airbags and three-point safety belts for five positions. Front seatbelts have pretensioners with force limiters plus height-adjustable anchors, all of which can help reduce belt injuries in an accident.

Driving Impressions
Mitsubishi constructs the Lancer on a rigid unibody platform and equips it with a fully independent suspension. As a result, it feels substantial when set in motion. It's tight but easy to drive, and quite capable of transforming lumpy pavement into a blender smoothie.

On elevated concrete slabs of Interstate 10 crossing swampland west of New Orleans, the Lancer glided over bumpy tar seams. It was so quiet in the cabin that two passengers could converse sotto voce, despite our position in the middle lane squeezed between big-rig freight trucks.

Out in Cajun Country near Napoleonville, we played with the OZ Rally Lancer on narrow blacktop strips lacing across the bayous. It romped around the rare curve, chassis blocking lateral body sway and the body remaining relatively flat. A wide-track stance and front suspension with low longitudinal roll center contribute predictable stability to the car in corners, as the multi-link arrangement in back keeps rear wheels under control while damping road bumps. The rack-and-pinion steering works precisely yet lacks firmness in the center spot.

With 120 horsepower, the four-cylinder engine is by no means the strongest in class, but special tuning is designed to generate more muscle at low- and mid-range speeds. That's why it leaps off the line and feels downright aggressive when running though second and third gears. There's still power left for passing, and our Lancer proved it can run comfortably at high speeds.

The manual transmission for O-Z Rally has a short stick and shifts quickly. It feels tight and precise, even sporty.

The available four-speed automatic transmission uses electronic controls and adapts shift points to the individual style of the driver. We drove it and were impressed by the smooth and quiet shift work, but noticed the automatic subtly dampened Lancer's spirit as automatics tend to do.

The Lancer Evolution is very fast. We drove one on the road and on a racetrack (Phoenix). It eagerly takes a set going into corners. The car is stable and fast through those turns and then rockets toward the track's next apex.

Mitsubishi Lancer's size positions it at the center of a crowded field of compacts that includes class leaders Honda Civic and Ford Focus, plus Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla, Mazda Protege, Subaru Impreza and Dodge Neon. Competitively, Lancer has the longest body and its extended wheelbase produces a spacious passenger compartment with best-in-class legroom for front seat riders.

Lancer ES offers a strong value, retailing for less than $15,000. Its a handsome sedan with generous room for riders plus comforts from impressive standard features that usually cost extra. Lancer LS provides more gear, but a bigger bottom line.

Lancer O-Z Rally looks cool and adds sporty touches for a reasonable price.

Lancer Evolution delivers rally car performance and gives Mitsubishi a car that more than competes with the Subaru WRX.

Model as tested
Mitsubishi Lancer OZ Rally ($15,747)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Mizushima, Japan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
rear spoiler ($360)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
ES ($14,017); LS ($16,047); O-Z Rally ($15,747); Evolution ($28,987)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, side-impact door beams, 3-point seatbelts front and rear, emergency trunk lid internal release
Safety equipment (optional)
2.0-liter sohc 4v inline-4
5-speed manual

Specifications as Tested
air conditioning, power door locks, power windows with driver's one-touch down, power exterior mirrors, driver's seat with eight-way power, premium fabric upholstery with cloth seatbacks, analog instruments with tachometer, two-speed intermittent windshield wipers with mist control, plastic trim on dash and shift ring simulating brushed aluminum, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, 15-in. OZ Racing alloy wheels with 195/60R15 tires

Engine & Transmission
2.0-liter sohc 4v inline-4
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
120 @ 5500
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Suspension, rear

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

Search car listings & find the right car for you
Click here for 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer Sedan 4D ES local listings

Vehicle History Report

Get answers to buy with confidence
  • Check for accidents
  • Confirm the reported mileage
  • Purchase multiple reports and save

Car Buying and Selling Resources

J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

J.D. Power Ratings may not include all information used to determine J.D. Power awards, visit the Car Ratings page to learn more about awards and ratings.