As any kid learns on Christmas morning, expectations are a bitch. And once you've made the transition to adulthood, things don't change. It's widely accepted that most of us who pray at the altar of the car Gods are simply eight-year olds with a bit more expendable income... and for the most part, that's true. There are a few synapses that get fired when we overcook a particular corner in our daily rides, the same ones that were triggered when we yanked up on the makeshift e-brake of our Big Wheels. So when we took delivery of a 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer ES, we were expecting handling and motivation to match the new Lancer's aggressive styling, even in this just-better-than-base model. After seven days of merciless flogging, we were left with a sport compact-sized hole in our hearts, just like when Santa didn't leave the Super Nintendo underneath our tree.
Our 2008 tester came in ES trim, slotting in between the base DE and the current range-topping GTS. Like all three models, the ES comes equipped with the 2.0-liter MIVEC-equipped inline four making 152 hp at 6,000 rpm and 146 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm. Thankfully (sort of) our Electric Blue loaner was fitted with a five-speed manual, saving us from the drudgery of dealing with Mitsubishi's CVT.
Viewed from afar, the new Mitsubishi Lancer is a pretty stunning piece of kit, particularly when compared to some of the other moribund offerings available in the segment (we're looking at you Corolla). The aggressive shark snout, raked and reversed Audi/VW grille and angry eyes flanking the sides of the fascia, all give potential owners something to look forward to when leaving home in the morning. As it's been pointed out before, the Lancer's tail lamps are a not-so-subtle rip from the Alfa Romeo 156, but we could think of worse design cues to ape.
Unfortunately for us, the majority of the press shots we've seen, and the only Lancer that's graced Mitsubishi's show stand, has been the body-kit equipped GTS model. That includes 18-inch ten-spoke wheels (versus our model's 16-inch rolling stock), front and lower air dam extenders and a rear spoiler, all of which adds considerably more visual weight to the Lancer's look. The lack of a spoiler wasn't much of an issue, but the prominent proboscis wasn't as attractive without the lower body extensions for balance.

Lifting on the color-keyed door handle and making our way inward reveals that Mom was right; it's what's on the inside that counts. Just like the high school heartthrob whose waist size was equivalent to her IQ, the Lancer's interior immediately confirms that serious concessions were made on materials, despite the sleek body that surrounds them. While the steering wheel is perfectly sized both in dimension and girth, everything else is a considerable let down. The seats are sorely lacking in lateral support, feeling like they were made of left over cardboard, cut-rate cloth and ball-point springs, while the quality of the door and dash material is the same as dollar store Christmas ornaments. An even lower grade of craptastic plastic is affixed to the stereo, window and climate control switchgear, providing about as much tactile feedback as pressing "C-12" on a vending machine for a Snickers.