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Home > Business > Special


Here's the NEW Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia

Srinivas Krishnan | May 20, 2006

I sat in it, felt the black carbon fibre trim with my fingers, caressed the Momo three-spoke steering wheel, depressed the drilled pedals again and again... and sighed. The Recaro racing seat had wrapped itself around me and my driving position was just right.

With these kind of cars, it's important to be comfortable first, you know. I took a deep breath, turned the key in the ignition and woke that legendary 2-litre four-pot motor from its slumber.

The track emanating from the rear was like one of those Judas Priest ballads - full of aggression, but somehow in control. I was sure that in full throttle, the exhaust note wouldn't be dissimilar to Halford, Tipton and Downing Screaming For Vengeance...

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX was begging to take off. But there was a slight hitch here. I could just start it, but wasn't allowed to take it out of the showroom.

Yes, it was a proper Evo IX. Not on the road, but in the Mitsubishi showroom in Mumbai. And it had to be admired standing still. For heaven's sake, don't people understand that this machine looks really gorgeous - skirts, spoilers, rear diffusers and all - when in motion? And preferably with me behind the wheel?

My huge disappointment was pretty obvious; I am sure those Hindustan Motors/Mitsubishi personnel deliberately stood in front of the car so that I wouldn't crash the showroom glass with it like in the movies and hit the road.

So what was a genuine Evo IX doing in town? Early this year, HM had shipped in three Evo IXs as showpieces to tell people that their new offering, the Lancer Cedia, was the donor car for one of the greatest road-going passenger sedans on Earth. You know, mention it casually in passing to prospective customers that the Cedia and the latest Evo are, um, peas from the same pod.

So are they saying that this turbocharged, intercooled, 280 bhp, 40.8 kgm Mitsubishi with an electronically controlled 4WD system featuring an Active Centre Differential, plus Sport ABS braking, Super Active Yaw Control and MIVEC variable valve timing technology among other things is similar to the Cedia? Well, not exactly, but y'know...

So now that you know how these two cars are related, let's see what the Lancer Cedia is all about. The Cedia name (from CEntury and DIAmond, don't ask me why) though discontinued in other markets, is carried over in our country simply to distinguish it against the earlier Lancer that's been on sale in India for quite some time now.

In fact, it's something like Back To The Future for the Lancer in our country, as the Cedia is sharing showroom space with its own great-grandpa. Over time, the Lancer has become bigger - the Cedia now counts the Toyota Corolla as competition.

After its launch as an all-new car in 2000, it received a major and comprehensive restyling job in 2003 - which is what's been on sale across the world. And here.

The restyling is a pretty neat job, and the well-defined headlamps, tail-lamps, the sharp crease above that grille and that iconic Mitsubishi grille itself make it stand apart from the rest of the competition. HM is offering the Cedia in two versions, both equally priced.

The Elegance version is the metallic paint, sober variety, while the Sports version is, well, sportier (you know what my choice between the two trim options is). Inside, the Cedia evokes quality. The triple-tone treatment makes it looks special and is different from what we are used to in this segment, while the quality of materials used is good as well.

Where the Cedia loses out is in the switchgear department - the switches, knobs and controls are very much dated, and wouldn't be out of place in its above-mentioned great-grandparent.

What will make a difference to the Cedia package sold in our country is automatic climate control, a good looking instrument panel with separate gauges for speedo and rpm, a few more cubbyholes and a 6-CD changer too.

However, what I loved is the driving position combined with the low dash, the four-spoke steering and the stubby gear lever - it is oriented towards the driver and makes you want to head out. Which is exactly what we'll do.

Nestling inside the Cedia's crisp hood is a 2000cc 16-valve SOHC inline-four. Yup, very similar to Number Nine's own turbo unit. This legendary four-pot motor can be tuned to reach some crazy heights - ever heard of the FQ series of Evos? Did you know that the 400 bhp barrier has been overcome? Sigh.

Here, you get 115 horses at 5250 revs and 17.5 kgm at 4250 revs. Thanks to the extra cubes, the Cedia's unit is free revving and relaxed. And as far as its performance goes, the word relaxed describes it just as well. The dash to 60 kph takes 5.6 seconds, while it takes the Cedia 11.5 seconds to hit the century mark.

Its closest competitor, the Corolla, is substantially quicker, don't even ask how quick. Which will not exactly make cousin Evo proud, but the mid-range just might - the 80 to 120 kph dash takes 7.7 seconds, making the Cedia revel in the third/fourth gears.

But when it comes to sitting in the driver's seat and piloting the car, the Mitsubishi makes you feel good. For one, that torque figure is decent, and that too, it arrives at a lower rpm, which makes the Cedia quite driveable in the city.

And the gear ratios of the five-speed manual gearbox too are spaced to make your commute stress-free. Even the gearshift is positive and crisp, allowing for enthusiastic shifting. But alas, the engine needs some more oomph to deserve these short throws.

Where the Cedia redeems itself is in its ride quality. Mitsubishi has given it the standard rough road package, which basically means an increase in ground clearance and a slight change in damper ratings. That allows the Cedia to absorb rough patches of road very well and cushion the impact, without being spongy.

But the best part about the Cedia is that some of Mitsubishi's rally genes have found their way into the car. Its chassis is brilliant and well-balanced, and it seems to pivot around the gear lever - if you end up using the handbrake to tackle sharp corners rally-style, don't be surprised.

The Cedia is much more nimble than the Corolla and it's great fun to thrust its nose into curves. So if you are going to get yourself a Sports version, don't just stop there. Give it a degree of aftermarket tuning and do justice to the Cedia's superb underpinnings.

And I guess that's where the Cedia's strength lies, if HM can allow customers to build their own 'Evolution' Cedias - if not in terms of drivetrain, at least cosmetically, with Ralliart kits imported from Japan (Mitsubishi has stopped taking part in the WRC for now, but what the hell).

But that may just not be enough. What it desperately requires is a boost in sheer output. The competition is extremely strong in the category it operates in and the 115 horses do not make the grade.

The Cedia needs at least 30 bhp more. Oh, as I mentioned earlier, it also requires a comprehensive equipment upgrade - only then HM could justify the Rs 10.87 lakh that it's asking for Cedia. And a formidable competitor from Japan is on its way too, the Honda Civic. Heard they are shipping in three units of the UK-spec Civic Type-R for display...


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