2003 Mitsubishi Lancer

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$14,047

starting MSRP

2003 Mitsubishi Lancer

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

4 trims

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Our 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer trim comparison will help you decide.

2003 Mitsubishi Lancer review: Our expert's take

Vehicle Overview
Introduced in April 2001 at the New York International Auto Show, Mitsubishi’s replacement for the subcompact Mirage exhibits compact dimensions. The Lancer was not developed as an economy car; instead, the foor-door front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicle had a competition background that evolved from the Lancer Evolution World Rally Car. The production model is more civilized than the rally car, according to Pierre Gagnon, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America. Even though its suspension has been retuned for everyday driving on American roads, the two cars are closely related down to their unibody chassis level.

Mitsubishi claims that quietness is one of the car’s hallmarks, helped by abundant sound insulation and foam-filled body areas. The Lancer is billed by Mitsubishi as an “antidote to driving boredom” and as an affordably priced compact FWD sedan. Three versions are offered: the base ES, the midlevel LS and an especially spirited O-Z Rally sedan, which is dubbed the street-style Lancer. Mitsubishi also has introduced a higher-performance Lancer Evolution VIII.

Only subtle changes to the Lancer are evident for the 2003 model year. A new power glass sunroof is available for the LS and O-Z Rally editions. At the Chicago Auto Show in February 2003, Mitsubishi unveiled a Lancer Ralliart that’s intended to fit between the styling-focused O-Z Rally and the performance-packed Evolution. The Ralliart goes on sale in the fall of 2003 as a 2004 model.

Exterior
The Lancer’s styling is said to be European-inspired. The interior provides excellent visibility. The sedan’s cab-forward profile incorporates a high roofline on a comparatively long, 102.4-inch wheelbase. It measures 177.6 inches long overall and stands approximately 54.1 inches tall. Compared to the Mirage coupe that it replaces, the Lancer is 9.5 inches longer overall and has a wheelbase that is 7.3 inches longer.

Fender lines are relatively high, and sharp edges blend with soft curves on the Lancer’s body. The turn signals are mounted on the front fender, and the grille has a chrome surround. A-pillars contain rain gutters to help keep water from seeping inside. Aerodynamic wraparound headlights have a multireflector surface, and the low bumper has a large opening for efficient airflow.

A four-wheel-independent suspension uses front struts and a rear multilink configuration. The tires measure 14 inches in diameter on the Lancer ES, and the LS and O-Z Rally edition ride on 15-incher rubbers. A rear spoiler is optional on the O-Z Rally, which comes with standard racing alloy wheels, bumper extensions and side air dams.

Interior
Five occupants fit inside the Lancer, and this car provides considerably more legroom than the former Mirage. A low instrument panel and belt line help with visibility, and a high hip point for the front and rear seats should ensure easier entry and exit. Cloth upholstery comes in gray, tan or black. The ES and LS sedans have woodgrain accents, and the O-Z Rally edition gets a black interior with brushed-metal-finish trim.

Standard equipment includes a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a CD player, and power windows, door locks and mirrors. The LS adds remote keyless entry, cruise control, variable-speed intermittent wipers and a 60/40-split, folding rear seat. Extras on the O-Z Rally include a sport-touch steering wheel, a parking brake handle and gearshift lever, and white-faced gauges that are styled after the Evo VII rally racecar.

Under the Hood
The Lancer’s power comes from a 2.0-liter, 16-valve four-cylinder engine that develops 120 horsepower and 130 pounds-feet of torque. Engine features include an equal-length intake manifold and a reprofiled camshaft that improves the torque curve for greater performance. A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and the optional four-speed automatic has adaptive shift control.

Safety
Side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are standard on the ES and O-Z Rally models and optional on the LS sedan. The front seat belts have pretensioners and force limiters. Repositioned front head restraints are angled close to the occupant’s head.

Driving Impressions
The Lancer moves into a different league than the old Mirage. The Lancer isn’t the kind of car that stands high in its new class, even when it’s fitted with sporty details. Despite its motorsport pretensions, the O-Z Rally edition with the manual shift lacks the secure confidence of a sport sedan. But it is wholly adequate and satisfying as a small family car.

Acceleration is peppy when pushed hard, and the clutch is operated adeptly. Some engine buzz is noticeable, but the Lancer is as quiet as most four-cylinder cars. The gearshift is OK, but not perfect. The clutch is a bit of an obstacle because it sometimes yields excessive driveline looseness and lacks sufficiently smooth engagement.

Handling is adequate as the Lancer corners easily and responds acceptably to steering inputs, but some drivers may prefer more grip and tenacity in turns. The Lancer’s choppiness is minimal but not absent. The suspension absorbs quite a bit of roughness for an above-average small-car ride. Expect to notice all the commotion underneath. Occupants can get jarred at times, but the experience isn’t enough to be annoying.

Legroom, headroom and elbowroom in the front seats are ample, and the seats themselves are fairly firm, supportive, comfortable and modestly bolstered. The controls are all within reach. The gauges are easy to see in the daytime, but they’re not quite bright enough at night. The backseat has a hard perch in the center, but it’s not the worst by any means. Rear-seat headroom is so-so, but legroom and toe space are terrific, beating some cars that are much larger. The trunk isn’t huge, but it is easy to load and provides ample cargo room.

 

Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com;
Posted on 4/24/03

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.2
  • Interior design 4.1
  • Performance 4.1
  • Value for the money 4.5
  • Exterior styling 4.3
  • Reliability 4.5

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

The best car I ever owned by far.

After the pandemic I decided to buy a car cash and no longer make payments on a car. I found a 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer in great condition with new tires, new battery, new horn, new Bluetooth stereo, ice cold ac, mint condition interior for only 1200. It has become my daily driver and is very comfortable to drive. Much more comfortable than the 2016 Jetta I previously drove.

4.7

Honestly surprised with jt

I bought this car a couple years ago in December of 2018 or January 2018. Not too sure but I bought it with 145k miles and trusted the dealer ( young and dumb beings i never bought a car on my own before this one) and the dealer said it had no leaks and was running terrific so stupidlyI didn’t think to check the oil when I purchased it. That being said I drive it over 50 miles home without any oil in it. The previous owner didn’t seem to have done any Maintenance at all on the car so I had to replace the ignition coils, spark plugs and gaskets due to leaks. I do travel a lot for work though after doing that minor bit of maintenance up keep (and probably about threw a rod driving so far with no oil) i drove it from northern Utah, to Cleveland Ohio, down to Baton Rouge Louisiana and back to northern Utah I didn’t have any problems on my road trip until about 150 or so miles away from home when the ball joint on the passenger side fell off. It now has 188k miles on it snd the engine seems to be running strong only other things I’ve had to replace was the clutch because my slave cylinder took a crap on me, the crank oil seal and the timing belt(belt wasn’t needed but like I said previous owner did nothing so it still had the original timing belt from the factory at 180k so I decided to replace just in case) for a cheap car that no one thought was gonna take me across country and back I absolutely love it and was very impressed and shocked by it. Not the quickest car by any means but it does have pep and it is honestly an impressive little thing I’d recommend to anyone looking for a cheap reliable car. (Repairs are easy on it, can do most by yourself even with no knowledge about cars. Also not to expensive when needed to take too the shop)

4.6

Have had for 10 years, slowly pushing that 300K

I bought this car used with 130k miles back in late 2009 in the south. Have had it in the new England states for over 8 years, other then a blown headgasket and a off road bender, it is still going strong. Sitting at 260k now and pushing for that 300k. Underbody shows no signs of rust as well, even though I live in a Calcium state.

See all 26 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Mitsubishi
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Less than 5 years/less than 60,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
Remainder of original 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain
Remainder of original 10-year/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
123-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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