The five-passenger Mitsubishi Outlander Sport makes a play with its economical price and sportier-than-average styling. Not to be confused with the regular Outlander, the Outlander Sport is shorter, lighter, and easier to maneuver and park. The junior crossover in the lineup, it’s more of a lifestyle vehicle than a family hauler, likely to appeal to active singles and young couples.
The Outlander Sport has been around since 2011. The 2016 Outlander Sport receives a new grille and wheels to keep things looking fresh. The inside gets some updates for 2016 as well, including a redesigned steering wheel and larger infotainment display screen. There’s also a new 2016 Outlander Sport SEL with leather upholstery standard.
The standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 148 horsepower and comes with your choice of a 5-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
However, most models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which puts out 168 horsepower and comes only with the CVT. All-wheel drive is available with both engines, but requires the CVT.
When equipped with the 2-liter and CVT, the Outlander Sport is EPA rated at 24/32 mpg City/Highway and 27 mpg Combined, the best showing in the lineup. With the more powerful 2.4-liter under the hood, you’re looking at 23/28 mpg City/Highway and 25 mpg Combined. Adding all-wheel drive to either engine drops these ratings by about 1 mpg.
Outlander Sport ES ($19,595) comes standard with the 2-liter engine, plus features like heated mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, and a four-speaker sound system. ES models are available with the 2.4-liter ($21,295).
Outlander Sport SE ($22,495) gets the 2.4-liter engine as standard, plus heated front seats, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, a rearview camera, and an upgraded sound system.
Outlander Sport SEL ($23,995) adds more in the way of comfort and convenience, including leather upholstery, power-folding mirrors, automatic wipers and headlamps, and shift paddles for the CVT. Outlander Sport GT ($25,995) receives a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlamps, ambient LED lighting, and a Rockford Fosgate sound system. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Outlander Sport looks a little more refined and sedate for 2016 thanks to the revised front end, which was cribbed from the larger Outlander. The previous bluntness has been cured, albeit at the loss of some sportiness. The addition of LED running lights and thick chrome trim goes a long way to disguise the Sport’s bargain mission.
The Outlander takes up no more space than a compact passenger car. In fact, its width and height are about the same as that of a Mitsubishi Lancer sedan. The overall shape is similar to a tall wagon or hatchback, but the standard 18-inch wheels and chunky lower-body moldings keep it looking like a proper crossover. Although the styling is familiar, it remains rather attractive, even charming depending on your perspective.
Clever interior packaging yields more passenger room than expected in a vehicle of such tidy dimensions. Two adults or three children can fit comfortably in the back, and there’s a nifty center pass-through that lets you carry long items and two people at the same time. All seats are positioned relatively high for fine visibility and topped with nicely contoured headrests.
The car-like ride height makes it easy to get in and out, and takes the strain off your back when loading groceries and toddlers. With the rear seat folded, the Outlander Sport offer 49.5 cubic feet of flat cargo space. That’s not bad for the smallest class of crossover, but well shy of standard compacts like Ford Escape or Honda CR-V.
The upright dashboard features faux carbon trim, red-lit gauges, and a few bright accents. The layout is clean and uncluttered, though not particularly beautiful. You’ll still find plenty of hard plastic surfaces, even though most competitors have gone soft-touch. The quality of materials is closer to what we expect in an economy car rather than a family vehicle. This is one area where the Outlander Sport’s easy price becomes apparent.
Perhaps the Outlander Sport’s strongest suit is how it handles the road. Steering is light and very responsive. You’ll find none of the unwanted body motions that sometimes haunt taller vehicles. When it comes to overall agility, especially in urban settings, the Sport surpasses the average crossover by a significant margin.
The same can’t be said of engine performance. The 2-liter feels just adequate with the manual transmission and sluggish when paired with the CVT. It’s also quite chatty most of the time and downright noisy under full throttle. The 2.4-liter engine makes the Outlander Sport significantly quicker, though it’s not much quieter. Mitsubishi added more sound insulation last year, but the Sport is still a loudmouth compared to small crossovers from the big brands. We suspect this issue will linger until it’s blessed with newer, more refined engines.
In better news, braking performance was impressive for this class. The Outlander Sport stops with confidence, and the pedal feels just firm enough to be reassuring. Add in its nimble handling, and the Sport feels decidedly spunky in city driving.
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport accomplishes what it sets out to do: provide genuine crossover style and versatility for the price of a hatchback. As tempting as that sounds, buyers should know that a high level of refinement isn’t part of the equation.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with driving impressions by The Car Connection.