Mitsubishi Outlander Sport — Stylish and fun to drive

By Al Vinikour

Over the past few years a number of car companies have gone out of business and/or stopped marketing in North America. One of the favorite “sports” auto people engage in is to guess who is going to bail next. One name that comes up often is Mitsubishi. I can tell you first-hand that those expecting to find the car company left for dead are whistling “Dixie” in the wrong key. I recently tested the 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and was shown the “will to live” is alive and well.

The Outlander Sport is entering its third year of production and is now manufactured at the company’s facility in Normal, Ill. It’s the best-selling Mitsubishi model in its North American lineup. The updated American-made vehicle not only supplies company dealers within the U.S., but is also exported to foreign markets.

The sporty compact crossover is stylish, offers a comfortable ride, roomy seating and terrific handling. Saying its fun-to-drive doesn’t do it justice. Furthermore, last year the Outlander Sport was named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

For 2013 the vehicle has a redesigned front fascia that includes a new grille and fog lamp design, new rear bumper design, new chrome door trim accent garnish and side sills that are black in color to match the lower section of the redesigned bumpers. Its front view is rather intimidating and I can imagine what it must look like in the rearview mirror of the vehicle it’s following. The side profile is really handsome.

You can look at it all you want but driving the Outlander Sport is where the “hoot” comes in. All Outlander Sports are powered by a 2.0L MIVEC inline four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve engine. It puts out 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque. (Doesn’t sound like much? Try it out and see if your impression is the same.) It can be ordered with a five-speed manual transmission (ES trim level, 2WD only) or an INVECS-III CVT Sportronic with standard, magnesium paddle-shifters, available in either the ES model or the upgraded SE trim level. The vehicle is available in both trim levels with 2WD or 4WD. EPA fuel mileage is rated at 31 miles per gallon, highway.

The 2013 Outlander Sport has a LOT of built-in safety, like Active Stability Control with Hill Start Assist, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, Traction Control Logic and Mitsubishi’s advanced Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution patented safety body construction system. It sits on 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels. Minimum ground clearance is 8.5 inches.

And to add frosting to the cake, it was announced on My 16 that the Outlander was one of only two small crossovers to earn top honors in the Institute for Highway Safety's new "small overlap" crash test.

The vehicle may sell itself as a “little guy” but just like my little grandson Marc, don’t let its size fool you. There’s plenty of interior room; a total of 97.5 cubic feet of passenger volume. Cargo volume isn’t lacking, either. Behind the front seat you’ll realize 49.5 cubic feet and 21.7 cubic feet behind the rear seat. Front-seat legroom is 41.6” and rear-seat leg room is 36.3 inches. Cabin noise is at a minimum because of the use of higher-grade insulation material.

The interior is loaded with content; even in the base ES model. All the power options one could really ask for are standard. The SE adds those that one would really LIKE to have if it were available…and it is. Furthermore, there are tons of options and packages, like Navigation w/Rearview Camera, Premium Package, Exterior and Interior Packages, LED Package, Protection Package, leather seating and more offerings than I have room to describe.

I know what you’re thinking; “which arm and leg do I have to sacrifice to buy this vehicle?” The answer is short and sweet, “Keep them.” MSRP for the base ES w/2WD and manual transmission starts at $19,170. MSRP for the SE w/AWD and CVT starts at $23,695.

Further confidence is enhanced by Mitsubishi’s warranties: 5 years/60,000 miles Basic;  10 years/100,000 miles Powertrain; and 7 years/100,000 miles Anti-corrosion. I can’t remember who made the comment that “news of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” I’d say it was Rodney Dangerfield but it’s too articulate. Whatever, the same sentiment can be applied to Mitsubishi. Everyone roots for the underdog; great products like the Outlander Sport will keep them around for a long time.