Falling for a Lancer
Say what you like about the bad times, but they haven't taken friendship and generosity from us. Indeed, I would argue they have enhanced them.
I have to admit I have always been the recipient of outrageous generosity (my penchant for a cup of tea and a biscuit is well known). But even I have noticed how people are making even more time, are more interested and empathetic. It is wonderful to be part of it.
Take this day last week.
One of my daughters needed to be in town early, so after a rushed, but substantial, breakfast we headed in. I was to meet an old friend on the northside but drove around for a good while in case he was having a lie-in.
I met him as he was coming out of his road. He had to be somewhere urgently so I followed him. Half an hour later he was insisting I take half his breakfast roll (they still make them) with its generous helpings of sausage, black pudding and other pork products.
Sure, anyone at all could eat one breakfast; here I was on my second. And it wasn't even 11am.
Ten minutes later a Swiss roll was forced on me as another round of tea making ensued. Then I headed for Clara (bringing down a couple of chairs that were taking up space) and of course tea and scrumptious apple cake (mmmmm!!) with the neighbours.
Then up to the cousins -- more tea and biscuits on offer. This is the Ireland of the welcomes we have taken back from the Tigers. And I wasn't finished at that . . .
I wish I could be quite as generous about the car I was driving. The Mitsubishi Lancer has just got a diesel engine. Long bereft of such a benefit, it is a far more relevant proposition. Now here is a small-family saloon in traditional mode. No fuss, a few frills, straightforward and well made.
The practical element we liked most was the rear seats folding flat because it allowed us to get the chairs in.
However, we also noticed how outside smells came in through the ventilation system -- especially tailpipe fumes -- so we left it on internal circulation. A better filter or something is needed here.
The engine was 'growly' on start-up but quickly smoothed out; though it lets you know it is there when you plunge the old right foot looking for more power to overtake. I was disappointed with that.
I was also less than ecstatic with the suspension which I expected to be a lot tauter. This 'bounced' a little too much for my liking.
Yet, the more I drove it the better it blended in to my expectations. There is no doubt in the world that the engine, despite my aural misgivings, is one of the most frugal you will come across. I gave this hard old drives all over Dublin -- north and south -- as well as a couple of long trips down the country and still had plenty left in the tank.
We have almost forgotten ordinary saloons these days and it was like a return to old times to drive one. This is a good size small-family motor with a decent cabin and, above all, plenty of equipment.
I think the latter is important to bear in mind because Mitsubishi obviously decided to pack it in and keep the price reasonable. But if you compare this car's price with entry-level costs of major rivals the Lancer appears to come off worst. When you add in cruise controls, air con and things like that they level up fairly quickly, however.
That said, this relies heavily on Mitsubishi's reputation for making well-engineered cars that go on forever -- have you seen how many old Colts and Spacewagons there are out there?
So many modern buyers want the bit of flash, the gizmos and the boasting rights to ownership of the latest fad. The Lancer holds more to the essential excellence of engineering that sets its cars apart.
A bit like the depth of generosity across so many facets of our lives.
And I was delighted to drive it back at the end of that wonderfully generous day to a special meal with family and friends. Another lovely moment in time undertaken with warmth and the worth of people.
I may complain about elements of the Lancer but it certainly took me on a journey that reinforced my faith in our ability to get our priorities right.
Mitsubishi Lancer saloon 1.8-litre diesel (1,798cc, 150bhp), 6spd gearbox, frontwheel- drive, 5.3l/100km (53mpg), CO2 of 139g/km; VRT is 16pc. €156 annual road tax.
Delivery, related charges extra.
Families and also mature couples.
High-quality engineering, well equipped, frugal engine, good boot, reliability. MINUS: Engine noise refinement, pedantic looks, price, suspension.
Air con, cruise control, 16in wheels, front fogs, steering wheel audio controls, and Bluetooth.
Others to consider
Ford Focus, Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Nissan Tiida, Opel Astra, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Skoda Octavia, Citroen C4, Kia cee’d.
Rating: 77 /100