Mitsubishi Outlander Sport — Really cool when dressed-up

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Mitsubishi has created some interesting television ads that depict its Outlander Sport tackling the dangerous Yungas “Death Road” in the mountains of Bolivia and setting “world records” on a frozen Canadian lake.
Mitsubishi’s ad agency has come up with these attention-getting TV spots, but a reality check is in order — the Outlander Sport is no Jeep Wrangler when it comes to conquering gravel roads with 1,000-foot drop-offs and it is probably no more adept at driving backwards on snow or doing figure eights on ice than most of its competitors.
We found the Outlander Sport more of a small conservative crossover than anything to do with the “sport.”
The Sport offers typical crossover handling, has a comfy and quiet interior, and can haul five people (four adults) and a fair amount of cargo. We’re sure that its all-wheel drive system can tackle winter driving chores as well as, say, the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V or the Ford Escape.
But while the Sport is at least average in acceleration, derives decent gas mileage and carries a healthy 10-year/100,000 mile drivetrain warranty, it will disappoint those who made the purchase based on the “sport” of road carving on the weekends. 
The Sport does deliver a bit extra in handling and performance over the standard Outlander, and you will be rewarded with a smaller, lighter vehicle that is more nimble on its feet that has a firm but compliant ride. But if you need the space, go with the Outlander, which is 14 inches longer and comes with a child-friendly third-row seat. Don’t sacrifice by downsizing to the Sport. You will, indeed, gain a small measure of sportiness, but at the larger expense of extra utility.
If you are set on the Outlander family and want the most in performance, opt for the top line Outlander GT, which comes with a 3.0-liter V-6 making 230 horsepower. It also comes with a big price tag starting at about 27 grand.
The Outlander Sport’s biggest asset when compared to the vast crop of segment competitors is its rather appealing styling, styling with the big-mouth grilled of the very sporty Lancer Evolution, throwing a bit of sporting flare into the small crossover equation.  
Its small size — 169 inches long — gives it appealing proportions. Its roof slopes gracefully back and a distinct character line moves smoothly from the front fender up to the wrap-around taillights where it is integrated neatly into the tailgate.
Perhaps the Sport’s greatest detriment is its rather small 2.0-liter 148-horsepower 4-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. It is made livelier with the standard five-speed manual transmission, but we figure most people will go with the continuously variable transmission (CVT), which cuts into performance.
For comparison purposes, the manual transmission Sport can complete a 0-to-60 run in just under nine seconds; with the CVT, just over nine seconds.
In the real world we had no complaints driving mostly interstate and four-lane roadways. The Sport merged in adequate fashion and hummed along nicely at 70 mph. But we never had more than two people on board. With several passengers and cargo, we might have gotten a different perception.
We’re not quite sure why — perhaps because of gas mileage concerns — Mitsubishi did not outfit the Sport with the same 2.4-liter 168-horsepower 4-cylinder found in the Outlander. Weighing in at just over 3,000 pounds, the Sport is about 350 pounds lighter than the Outlander, and the bigger engine would have, indeed, given the Sport more sporting potential.
On the positive side, the Sport in front-wheel drive format is rated at 25 mpg city and 31mpg highway (combined 27 mpg). With all-wheel it’s 24/29 and 26 combined. That's significantly better than the Outlander at 23/28, combined 25 mpg, for front-wheel drive, and 22/27, combined 24 for AWD.
Price is also a consideration when shopping on a budget. In addition to being a really hot-looking small crossover with respectable gas mileage, the Sport ES starts at $19,275 including destination charge. The bigger Outlander ES begins at $22,775. For comparison, the Nissan Rouge starts at around 22 grand, the Kia Sportage at $19,500 and the Hyundai Tucson at $20,000.
The Sport comes in two trim levels, the base ES and the upscale Sport SE that begins at $22,475. The price difference between the trim levels isn’t as great when you figure adding $1,000 to get the CVT in the ES. It comes standard on the SE.
We found the cabin acceptably quiet for a vehicle in this price range, the ride smooth and the seating position behind the tilt and telescoping steering wheel suitable. The front seats are well shaped and comfortable and the view out is panoramic. 
Considering the small size of the Sport, an average-sized adult should find no problem gaining a comfortable position in the rear seats with decent leg and foot room. Where the Sport suffers because of its size is in maximum cargo capacity, which measures just 49.5 cubic feet. There’s 21.7 cubic feet of storage behind the seats. Again, comparing it to other segment nameplates, the Rouge has 58 cubic feet and the Sportage 55 cubic feet.
The dashboard is conservatively designed with a pleasing look despite a large amount of hard plastic. On the plus side the controls are easy to use and generally well placed. A 40-gig hard drive Navigation system with rearview camera is available for $2,000 and was included in our AWD test vehicle. Our vehicle also included the CVT, a panoramic glass roof package with the 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate premium sound system and a Sirius satellite radio ($1,800). Our SE also included an exterior sport package ($995). The bottom line including destination came to $28,570.
We give Mitsubishi credit for including a large amount of standard equipment including on the SE trim 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, automatic wipers, remote keyless ignition and entry, automatic climate control, six-speaker stereo, four-wheel antilock brakes, hill start assist, traction and stability control and a full complement of airbags.
Although the Sport does not stand out in any one area, it should reward the buyer with a well-equipped and relatively inexpensive and comfortable small crossover with good all-weather capability with AWD. And dressed-up as our test vehicle, well, it was pretty cool.
And if the Mitsubishi TV ads pop up again, view them simply as good entertainment.
Base price: $19,275; as driven, $28,570
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 148 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 145 pound-feet @ 4,200 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: continuously variable
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 105.1 inches
Length: 169.1 inches
Curb weight: 3,046 pounds
Turning circle: 34.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 21.7 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 49.5 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.6 (regular)
EPA rating: 31mpg highway, 25 mpg city
0-60: 8.8 seconds (manual transmission, Edmunds)
Also consider: Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson
The Good:
• Very stylish
• Smooth ride
• Long list of standard features
• Excellent gas mileage
• Fun, entertaining options
The Bad:
• Small cargo capacity
The Ugly:
• Below average performance