The Ralliart is a car that cuts about 25 percent from the Evo’s price while only losing about 5 percent of the fun. There’s still plenty of power from the boosted four-cylinder and the six-speed dual-clutch transmission is a pro at rev-matching downshifts. With a light dusting of snow on the ground, the Sportback Ralliart happily slides its rear around corners at the direction of your right foot, but the all-wheel drive is always ready to pull things back into line.
The transmission’s sport mode is dang good, aggressively downshifting on braking and holding onto gears so that power is always on tap. Normal mode is also quite assertive to the point that it seems like overkill. In downtown Ann Arbor, I was cruising for blocks at a time with barely any throttle input while the transmission held second gear at 2700 rpm. It seems like a more conservative calibration could pick up an extra mile per gallon or two in city fuel economy. Of course the best way to swap gears is using the big shift paddles that are properly mounted to the steering column.
The Sportback styling is jarring in profile and would probably drive me to purchase the Ralliart sedan. The upper hatch is too aggressively sloped and the rear quarter below the beltline looks enormous. The short roofline also looks like it could have been a cost saving effort so that Mitsubishi didn’t have to put in another side window behind the rear door. That said, the hatch does provide a substantial increase in usable room compared to the sedan.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
There’s no debate about the performance of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Sportback-with 237-turbocharged horsepower, it has plenty of power. It’s really a great alternative for buyers who can’t justify spending $40k on a Lancer Evolution. I consider myself a fan of hatchbacks, as I’ve owned four of them, but after spending the extended Christmas weekend with the Ralliart Sportback, I found the Mitsubishi hatchback design doesn’t offer as much storage room as I’ve come to expect from a typical hatch. The car’s low roofline and awkwardly slopped hatch make the opening rather small, so larger items are difficult to fit.
The Recaro package is a necessity; the sporty seats give tons of bolster support and feel as though you just slipped into a rally car. But they aren’t very comfortable for long drives and with their skinny design, you either fit or you don’t, there’s no in between. The package also includes HID headlamps and a ridiculous 710-watt sound system, although, granted it does sound pretty darn good.
Like to our departed long-term Evo, the Ralliart’s dual-clutch transmission has column-mounted paddle shifters and begs to be played with, but this transmission seems more refined than our Evo’s. It feels less clumsy, especially from a stop, in part due to the less aggressive programming.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
The Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart addresses most of my reservations about the Evo. You get a lot more cargo room, much better real world fuel economy, and the overall car is slightly less frenetic, so you can drive like a normal person and not worry about adding a dozen points to your license.
I suppose the looks of this hatchback configuration are a bit funky, but the wing doesn’t kill your visibility and the car still sort of looks like a regular sedan, which is a potential advantage for those who are normally opposed to hatchbacks. I’m happy the shark nose front and aggressive hood are present because they help the Ralliart stand out from the crowd.
The Recaro sport package is a pretty expensive choice, but the seats are about perfect for me (though I know shorter drivers can’t stand the limited adjustability) and I would certainly want HIDs on my car. I like the stereo that comes with the package much, much more than the touch-screen navigation unit we had in our Four Seasons Evo because it’s so much easier to change the radio station with an actual button on the dashboard than a touchscreen.
As-equipped, our test car strikes a good balance between comfort, performance, and price. $31,000 is still a lot for a car with the compromises a Ralliart makes, but enthusiasts will be able to look past the somewhat cheap interior and economy-car roots and appreciate the AWD system, turbo-four power, and decent utility the Sportback offers.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart
Base price (with destination): $28,310
Price as tested: $31,060
Twin-clutch Sportronic shift transmission
Hill start assist
Sportronic paddle shifters
Full-time all-wheel drive with active center differential
Rear mechanical limited slip differential
MP3/Aux input jacks
60/40 split fold-down rear seats
18-inch alloy wheels
Options on this vehicle:
Recaro Sport Package — $2750
– Recaro front seats
– HID headlamps
– 710-Watt Rockford-Fosgate sound system
– 9-speakers with subwoofer
– Sirius satellite
– 6 CD/MP3 in-dash head unit
Key options not on vehicle:
Accessory Navigation Package — $1999
Leather Seating Surfaces — $1629
17 / 25 / 20 mpg
Size: 2.0L DOHC turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 237 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 253 lb-ft @ 2500-4750 rpm
6-speed twin-clutch automatic
Weight: 3572 lbs
18-inch alloy wheels
215/45R18 winter tires
Competitors: Subaru WRX