By Cars.com EditorsMay 13, 2009
About the video
Cars.com's Kelsey Mays compares the 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS and the 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V. They compete with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.
(jagged guitar music) Hi, I am Kelsey Mays for Cars.com and we're at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, testing out two compact cars built for "The Fast and the Furious" crowd.
Actually, that crowd saw the movie like seven years ago so these days, they're probably spending money on, you know, rent as opposed to tuning their cars. But the tuner spirit lives on. We have a Mitsubishi Lancer and a Nissan Sentra and these aren't your basic grocery getters. The Lancer is the GTS version. This has 18 inch wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, thicker front and rear stabilizer bars, and for 2009, a new 2.4 liter engine with 168 horsepower. Now over here, we have the Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V. This is the sportiest Sentra you can get with 17 inch wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, and a sport-tuned suspension. Now the suspension does have a low-tech torsion beam set up in the rear. That's the same hardware you'll find in cars like the Toyota Corolla and the Chevy Cobalt. The Lancer has a more advanced multi-link rear setup. Now where the Spec V hits back is with the engine. This is a 2.5 liter engine. It makes 200 horsepower and in here it's teamed with a six-speed manual transmission. The Lancer we're testing out as a CVT automatic. We took these two cars out on the track in the street and it's pretty apparent that the SE-R is built for a higher performance envelope. (car engine revs) It steering feels quicker, its engine packs more punch, and the brakes feel more up to the task of bringing the car down from high speeds. The Lancer just sounds more pedestrian and that's not necessarily because of the CVT. Its engine seems like it doesn't want to rev nearly as quickly as the two liter engine in other Lancer (car engine roar drowns out speaker) models. The brakes don't have the SE-R's firm hold and that we like the chunky feel of the steering wheel. Its performance on the track feels a little bit more numb. Where the Lancer really redeems itself is in its chassis. Hit a few bumps in the Spec V and you'll feel the wheels chatter sideways a little bit. It's also a little less predictable in understeering around the track. Now the Lancer feels definitely more settled as you're understeering and going around tight corners, especially if you hit a bump or two. Now which one of these cars wins the day? Well, the SE-R is definitely not one of our favorite sport compacts, but it's entertaining right out of the box. If you're gonna pop the hood and do some tuning of your own, though, the Lancer GTS might be a better place to start. <v Announcer>For additional information on this car or any other, go to Cars.com and our blog, KickingTires.