Base Price: $20,695

Price as tested: $22,940

This week, we're testing one of the most affordable all wheel drive compacts out there, the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer SE AWC Sedan. "AWC" is short for all-wheel-control, Mitsubishi's nomenclature for all-wheel-drive.

Revamped completely in 2012, Lancer's exterior is pleasing thanks to the large Mitsubishi grille which ushers its presence. Still, as we mentioned in our test of the Evolution, the final theme is still a bit on the unexciting side, but on road performance is good to stupendous depending on model chosen. (Don't judge a book by its cover, right?).

Although Mitsubishi does not offer the extensive lineup of vehicles like major competitors Toyota, Nissan and Honda (Japan's big three), the cars and SUVs they do sell in the states are solid buys and many times the best of the bunch.

We recently tested the amazing Lancer Evolution, and this week we're again reporting positively on another Mitsubishi via its very affordable Lancer SE AWC. Notable is Lancer's all-wheel-drive, which came in handy thanks to major storm "Electra," which slammed states from Illinois eastward to much of the New England area. Our area came in with about nine inches of the white stuff and our Lancer AWC performed great in providing the needed all-wheel traction.

Upgrades for 2014 ES models feature chrome accents on the front grille, 6.1-inch touch screen display audio system, enhanced cloth seating, rearview backup camera, HD radio, Sirius/XM satellite and five-spoke lightweight alloy 16-inch wheels and tires.

Lancer sedans are available in four trims, starting with entry ES, then SE, sporty GT and really sporty Ralliart. Under the hood of our ES sits a peppy 168-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which is the same engine the GT receives. Ralliart, meanwhile, boasts a 237-horse turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder for the most bang for your buck, while entry level ES relies on a 148-hp 2.0-liter four and 148 horses.

The only transmission available on our ES AWC tester is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that works fine and delivers good fuel mileage for an AWD vehicle. EPA numbers of 22 city and 29 highway are welcome, and the all wheel drive system has switchable console mounted button for 2WD/4WD/LOCK settings. Considering the lack of a turbo, overall performance is impressive as zero to 60 arrives in about 7.8 seconds.

The only option on our Rally Red pigmented tester was a $1,450 Premium Package, featuring a power glass sunroof, nine speaker 710-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system with Dolby/DTS features w/10-inch subwoofer, leather enhancements, high contrast gauges and soft touch front door trim. The Fosgate Premium stereo sounds great and steering wheel audio buttons are in place to control the sound and the standard cruise control.

All Lancers come with seven airbags and safety items like four wheel disc ABS with electronic brake force, active stability control, traction control and more. Your Mitsubishi dealer will explain everything, including incentives that will lower overall costs.

The ES base model starts at just $17,195 well equipped in front drive mode with a five speed manual. This is a great choice for those on a budget who seek some "niceties" for their money.

Overall, Mitsubishi's SE AWC is a tremendous buy, and comes with enough amenities and standard features to give it a best buy nod from this corner. Its interior is comfortable, roomy and functional making SE AWC a "best of all worlds" choice at a great price.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 103.7 inches, 3,032 lb. curb weight, 5.8 inch ground clearance, 11.8 cu. ft. of cargo space (12.3 without subwoofer) and a 15.5 gallon fuel tank.

If you're considering an AWD compact car, Lancer SE AWC is a must to drive as few competitors other than Subaru can match its price.

Likes: Low price, build quality, safety features, AWD, 10 yr./100,000 mi. warranty.

Dislikes: Exterior design dated, engine noisy, not much else.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)