Fun run: Mitsubishi Lancer vs Subaru Impreza

What should a first-time car-owner choose?
by Botchi Santos | Jul 6, 2010
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Hi, Botchi!

First things first: Is it true that the Mitsubishi Lancer EX GT is no longer sold in the market? I'm planning to buy a car this August and it's one of my options. Can you give me alternatives to the EX GT? How about the Subaru Impreza? I'm not into automatics but can you give me an advice about driving one?

By the way, where can I get a Top Gear decal? The one which came free with the magazine in November 2009? If I have to buy it, so be it. I'd like to have it on my first car.

Thanks and God bless.

Nino

Hi, Nino!

Thanks for taking time to drop us a line. I'm glad when enthusiasts ask us about fun cars, not just about fuel economy and resale value. That's how I got into cars and writing-by being an enthusiast!

Here's the lowdown on your options:

1. Lancer EX GLX - This comes with a five-speed manual tranny but no big 18-inch wheels, no bodykit and the fancy Rockford Fosgate sound system. But pretty much everything else about what makes the new Lancer a hoot to drive is there: the great steering feel; grippy, nimble handling that is sharp and progressive; and a solid-feeling structure. Admittedly, the interior isn't as fancy or as flashy as the Impreza's and the Subaru just feels more premium as a whole. At this power level, you don't need an all-wheel drive, especially since we don't have snow, sleet and ice on our roads and I doubt you'll be taking the car off-road. You can spec up and get the Lancer GT-A, which comes with the big wheels and bodykit, Rockford sound system and the excellent INVECS III CTV transmission which works like a charm.

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2. Subaru Impreza 2.0R - This feels underpowered and you'll need an extra 100 horses to make good use of the all-wheel drive system. It's a great car for sure and handling will be better, plus it has a softer and smoother ride compared to the Lancer. Yet it trades nothing for performance, progressive on-the-limit handling, and decent steering feel and feedback. It's just that AWD is too much for the 150hp to handle, making it slower to drive around town. It delivers a more sluggish feel when accelerating hard compared with a traditional front-wheel drive vehicle. Because of the added drag and weight of the AWD system, fuel consumption goes up without noticeable gain in real-world performance. You get so much plus the better interior, but you won't be able to make full use of the vehicle's potential.

I'd also recommend you take a look at the all-new B16 Nissan Sentra 200 (see the review in this month's issue of Top Gear Philippines). Nissan gives you a choice between an excellent six-speed manual transmission and the third-generation XTronic CVT system. It rides really well and handles almost as sharply as the Lancer and the Impreza. It's also roomy. My only complaint is the rear drum brakes. Nonetheless, it's a great car. It's made in Mexico, it's the exact same Sentra sold in the US market, and it is similar to the Renault Megane in Europe.

These recommendations are all sporty-feeling C-segment manual transmission sedans. What do you think?

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Now, automatic transmissions are fine especially when traffic is horrible but when the road opens up, you'll want a manual tranny to really enjoy the car and its full potential. I drive a ‘matic myself but I have a project car that is equipped with manual transmission. I only use it on weekends, holidays, and on days when I can't use my other car due to the number coding.

The new generation CVT or continuously variable transmissions are super-efficient-sometimes more efficient than manuals and especially more efficient than the traditional, torque-converter equipped automatic transmissions. Without getting too technical, CVTs don't have any real physical gears. They have two conical pulleys with a chain that links them together, much like how two sprocket sets on a multi-speed mountain bike work. These pulleys simulate the gears depending on the chain's position. CVTs are smaller, lighter, more compact, and it comes with less moving parts compared with the conventional transmission. Since there are no actual gears, only simulated gears, a CVT will in effect always simulate the right gear for the right moment-whether you're cruising, accelerating hard, or going uphill with a heavy or full load.

About the decals, we may be out of those already. But if you have time, why don't you email the other guys in the office and maybe they were able to save one or two.

Take care and God bless. Keep it safe out there!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

Lost in a sea of cars and not quite sure which one to get? Click here to email your car query so Botchi can help you pick the right vehicle!   

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