Over the past few years Mitsubishi’s presence in the North American marketplace has been shrinking, due mostly to outdated models that no longer appeal to consumers in a rapidly changing marketplace. That being said, we feel the need to introduce this latest model from the Japanese automaker. In case you’re not familiar with it, it’s the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, a vehicle that’s designed to help the company regain marketshare by launching into the hot compact crossover segment dominated by vehicles like the RAV4, CR-V, Escape and Equinox.
1. The Outlander Sport comes exclusively with a 2.4L 4-cyl with 148-hp and 145 ft-lbs of torque and either a 5-speed manual or CVT automatic.
2. Fuel economy is rated at 25/31-mpg for 2WD models and 24/29-mpg for 4WD models.
3. Cargo room is 21.7 cu.-ft. (without the subwoofer) and a total of 49.5 cu.-ft. with the rear seats folded flat.
4. Models start at $18,495 with 4WD versions priced from $22,995.
5. Mitsubishi continues to offer the Outlander, which is larger, offers 3 rows of seating, a V6 engine option and starts at $22,775.
Maybe you’ve heard of the Outlander Sport before? North of the border it’s called the RVR, while down under (Australia) it’s called the ASX. Why so many different names for the same vehicle, making for some difficult branding, not to mention product confusion among consumers with Mitsubishi already selling a model called the Outlander? We haven’t got a clue. But after spending a week with one, we can tell you what it’s like to live with and if it’s any good to drive.
EVO-STYLED SPORT-CROSS OFFERS COMPELLING GOOD LOOKS
One thing becomes clear as soon as you approach this vehicle; this new Outlander Sport is a good looking little utility vehicle. It has the familiar Mitsubishi face combined with some unique styling features of its own, and the end result is attractive. We were surprised how many people gave us compliments about this vehicle. It is nice to be admired.
If you like the exterior, chances are you’ll like its interior also. The cockpit is nicely styled while not being over dramatic and you get plenty of features too, including a panoramic roof. It’s not a sunroof, since it doesn’t open, but it is a giant window (4-feet in length, 3.2-feet across) for star gazing. If it’s a rather dull night with not many stars in the sky, fret not because the Outlander Sport can bring its own along. For what must be an industry first, it has LED accent lighting that runs the length of the roof. It is quite a sight to see at nighttime and will certainly wow your passengers.
The roof has another plus point as well. While many vehicles nowadays are offering some sort of panoramic roof, most have manual covers to block the sunlight or they have flimsy, fabric curtains that don’t cover you against a blazing sun very effectively. The Outlander Sport, however, has a power, hard cover, which neatly gets tucked away in the rear roof section of the vehicle at the touch of a button. So you can go from having a proper hard roof to a sun lounge in a matter of seconds. We’re glad Mitsubishi had their thinking cap on when they designed this feature, because most companies don’t.
Mitsubishi also got the equipment list right. So if you want, you can get a built-in navigation system, a reversing camera, a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate sound system featuring nine speakers, hands-free phone, a Fast Key system (which means the key can stay in your pocket and you can not only enter the vehicle, but start and stop it without fiddling with keys), and heated seats that can really toast your backside.
But enough about backsides, how about the back seat? There you will find decent room for three passengers, and while shoulder room is not the greatest, there is more legroom than you might expect. Trunk space is adequate if not very generous (fold down its rear seats for extra space if needed) and you do have to lift items quite high to get them in there, so those of shorter stature will complain. Regardless of ones size, we’re sure everyone will appreciate safety features like seven standard airbags.
SPORTY HANDLING WITHOUT THE STIFF RIDE
The Outlander Sport’s ride quality is also to be appreciated. Most small crossover feel over-damped, which gives them a poor, bouncy ride quality, in an effort to deliver a car-like drive with minimal body roll. The Outlander Sport, however, manages to do just that while retaining a smoothness to it. It handles like a car too, thanks in some part to its 18-inch alloy wheels wearing 225/55 tires, a communicative electric power steering system and a chassis taken from its Lancer sibling, which as you may know is also the basis for the wonderful EVO X sports sedan.
4-CYLINDER THE ONLY ENGINE OPTION
Its mechanical bits are fine, but could have been better. The only engine on offer at the moment is a 2.0-liter, inline-four cylinder, which features variable-valve timing that the automaker refers to as MIVEC. It produces 148-hp and a 145 ft-lbs of torque, which is a little on the weak side when compared to its competition.
When pared with the CVT automatic transmission, it sounds quite noisy under acceleration, but does smooth things out when cruising. If you want to have a bit of fun on a twisty road, you can slot the gear lever into manual mode and can then play with its steering wheel mounted pedal shifters. Being a CVT gearbox, those ‘gear’ changes are quick and smooth. Keener drivers can even choose to have a five-speed manual gearbox, which comes as standard equipment on the base model.
Like its competitors you get to choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models. Our tester came with all-wheel drive, and we quite liked the fact you can switch between two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive on the fly by just twisting a knob on the center console. It even comes with a differential lock, so this little sport-cross can actually do some off-roading.
So it seems that this new Outlander Sport is a pretty nice little SUV. With prices starting at $18,495 it’s quite affordable too. It’s also inexpensive to run – the up-side to lower-than-average performance figures. How those numbers work out depends on if it’s a 2WD or 4WD model with front-driver’s rated at 25/31-mpg (city/highway), while 4WD models come in at 24/29-mpg.
Over the years, Mitsubishi has had some less than impressive vehicles in their line-up – particularly as of late. Looking to compete in the North American marketplace and grow into a more prominent and mainstream automaker, the company is in need of competitive, mainstream products that offer a compelling alternative to traditional offerings. The Outlander Sport is just such vehicle.