The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a compact SUV that’s capable and affordable. Price is its main virtue, and selling point, because it competes against more stylish cars with better powertrains, cabins, handling, and fuel mileage. Among them: Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V, Chevy Trax, Hyundai Tucson.
It got a full makeover for 2016, so the 2017 Outlander Sport is unchanged for except new fabric upholstery in the lowest-priced model.
Outlander Sport comes with a choice of 2.0-liter or 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, with front- or all-wheel drive. The smaller engine is slow and doesn’t get much better fuel mileage than the 2.4 liter. It makes 148 horsepower mated to either a 5-speed manual transmission or continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The 2.4-liter engine makes 168 horsepower, same as the least powerful Ford Escape, and comes only with the CVT. With all-wheel drive, it gets an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon City, 27 Highway, and 24 Combined. With front-wheel drive, it gets one more mpg. The front-wheel-drive model with the 2.0 engine gets 24/30/27 mpg.
One piece of good news is that Mitsubishi is just about the most experienced carmaker in the world when it comes to all-wheel drive. The Outlander Sport system is called AWC, for all-wheel control, and is proven and sophisticated. Also, the five-year, 60,000-mile comprehensive warranty is very good.
In crashworthiness safety, the NHTSA gives it four stars overall, with four stars for frontal and rollover crash testing. The IIHS gives it mostly Good scores except for the difficult small-overlap front crash test, where it’s Acceptable.
Outlander Sport ES ($19,795) comes with the 2.0, manual transmission, front-wheel drive, fabric upholstery, automatic climate controls, Bluetooth, 18-inch wheels. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Outlander Sport SE, SEL, and GT all use the 2.4-liter engine with CVT. Front-wheel drive is standard on SE and SEL. Outlander Sport GT is available with all-wheel drive, called AWC (all-wheel control).
Outlander Sport SE adds fog lights, heated front seats, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, upgraded stereo system, rearview camera, and keyless ignition. SEL adds automatic headlights, power adjustable driver’s seat, leather seats, rain-sensing wipers, chrome exterior accents, and paddle shifters for its CVT.
Outlander Sport GT AWC ($27,695) adds a sunroof, nine-speaker sound system, and navigation.
Unlike most of its competitors, the Outlander Sport doesn’t offer advanced safety features such as forward collision alert, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, or blind-spot monitors.
Outlander Sport’s tall-wagon profile is relatively interesting. It tries to avoid slab sides with a rising character line that reaches from the front wheel arch to the back of the rear doors. From some angles, it looks sporty; from others, a little bulbous. The standard 18-inch wheels add presence.
The front end, new for 2016 and called Dynamic Shield, widens the grille and lower air intake with body-colored panels on the bumper that spread from the center, dividing dark inlets. There’s some chrome thrown in the mix at the fascia, a faux skidplate at the bottom, and round foglamps. LED running laps live in the headlamp units that sweep back from the corners of the fenders. So there’s a lot to look at.
If the sheetmetal holds its own, the interior drops the ball. It’s flat, black, and uninteresting. It makes it clear why the Outlander Sport costs less. The materials aren’t of the same quality as competitors. The dash lacks styling and the buttons have a budget feel.
The seats are also beneath the standards of rivals, fairly flat.
It’s better with cargo than passengers, having a low loading floor and more than 20 cubic feet behind the rear seat. With the 60/40 rear seats folded, it holds 50 cubic feet; that’s impressive considering it’s actually a bit smaller on the outside than some rivals. And a pass-through in the rear seat can fit skis or two-by-fours, while still allowing two passengers.
Rearward visibility is generally good despite thick rear roof pillars.
Performance is underwhelming. The 2.0-liter engine, with 148 horsepower and 145 pound-feet of torque, with the 5-speed manual or CVT, is too loud and too slow. It can’t keep up with traffic, around town or on the freeway, and especially on long mountain grades.
The 2.4 liter that makes 168 hp and 168 lb-ft isn’t quick either.
However, the Outlander Sport handles well for a crossover its size. The body is well controlled, and the electric power steering is dialed in.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is primarily a price decision. It trails the class in acceleration performance, and its interior is drab. It is a decent-sized SUV with a reliable engine and a good warranty.
Sam Moses contributed to this report.