There are affordable small sedans that look sporty. There are affordable small sedans that feel sporty. Then there are affordable small sedans that absolutely embarrass high-dollar sports cars.
Two tiny performers own this category of pocket rockets: the Subaru Impreza WRX and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Both offer four doors, insane acceleration, and actual racetrack performance. Both run great in snow and rain, because of their all-wheel-drive. These little cars don't just rocket off the line, they can hold their own on the racetrack with sports cars that cost significantly more.
Mitsubishi's pocket rocket, the Evolution (or Evo), is based on an economy four-door sedan, the Lancer. With the newest Evo, Mitsubishi engineers hit the sweet spot for the thrill seeker who wants to save money and gain extra practicality.
The Evo is a powerful sports car, with significant upgrades from the typical Mitsubishi Lancer. These upgrades include a sporty body design, beefed up chassis and suspension, as well as a turbo-charged engine, all-wheel-drive, and larger brakes. Thanks to all of that, the Evo can hit 60 miles per hour in five seconds flat. In addition to that raw acceleration, it's a car that can truly hold turns and brake on any racecourse. Not bad for $35,000—especially when you consider that you can drive your weekend racecar to pick the kids up from school.
The Evo is a highly coveted entry-level racer with high-end sports car performance. Within the Evo family, buyers can choose the GSR package, which includes manual transmission, Bluetooth capability, iPod input, and an optional navigation system, or, for an extra $3,000, buyers can get your hands on the MR edition.
We recently tested the MR edition Evo with twin-clutch Sportronic Shift transmission and Brembo brakes. Equipped as such, this little car truly competes with (and in many cases defeats) traditional sports cars that cost twice as much.
The Evo's acceleration is lightning quick. We had no problem beating almost every contender we matched at stoplights, including many more expensive sports cars. The paddle shifters on the steering wheel are a great touch for a sport driving experience. These are the shifters that have become the norm in many $75k to $150k sports cars. I found in traffic and in the city that leaving the shifting to the automatic system was simpler, and I received fewer comfort complaints from passengers. The steering was also tight and accurate.
Safety features on both trim levels include side/curtain airbags, stability control, and traction control, electronic brake force distribution, and tire pressure monitoring.
The Evo is not a luxury-sport sedan, like an Infiniti or BMW, but as a true four-door sports car, its performance embarrasses many of those sedans, while costing tens of thousands of dollars less.
We're all recovering from the Great Recession. Many who can now afford a new car are looking to really make a frugal choice. Mitsubishi's Evo is a heart-pounding reminder that the thrills of the road can still be attained for a reasonable price.
© 2013 John Dickerson and John Kehlenbeck, Horsepower Auto Reviews