The Bottom Line
Mitsubishi predicts huge growth in the compact SUV segment, and they're jumping into the fray with the 2011 Outlander Sport -- not to be confused with the Outlander and Outlander GT, which are different (and much larger) vehicles. (Mitsubishi tried the same thing with a decade ago with the Montero and the Montero Sport, and it confused customers back then, too.) Outlander Sport catches the eye with aggressive good looks and backs them up with excellent value and a long warranty (5 years/60,000 miles basic, 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain -- but is this a CUV you'd really want to live with? Let's drive.
- Handsome looks
- Useful, practical interior
- Good value-for-money
- Long warranty
- Cheap interior materials
- Steering feels a bit vague on center
- Price range approximately $19,000 to $26,000
- Engine: 2.0 L inline four-cylinder
- Horsepower: 148 @ 6000 rpm
- Torque: 145 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
- Fuel economy: Not announced; predicted 31 MPG highway for FWD models
- Wheelbase: 105.1" Vehicle length: 169.1" Width: 69.7" Height: 64.2"
- Warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles basic; 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain
- Cargo: Not announced
- Transmission: 5-speed manual or continuously-variable automatic (CVT) with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive
Guide Review - 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
Mitsubishi's all-new Outlander Sport is about the same size as a Hyundai Tucson, but with its big trapezoidal grille (adapted from the Lancer Evolution) and athletic stance, it has the appeal of hip micro-SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul.
The Outlander Sport feels bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside, with a tall driving position and plenty of front-seat headroom. The back seat's legs-straight-down seating position offers good legroom but feels a bit claustrophobic. Mitsubishi hasn't announced the cargo bay's volume, but looks pretty decent -- I'd guess 20 to 25 cubic feet.
Unfortunately, the cabin décor is typical Mitsubishi. Materials were chosen for durability, not style, and the Outlander Sport's cabin has all the visual appeal of a pair of galoshes. The controls are simple and user-friendly and the dashboard is made of soft-touch plastic, but everything has a cheesy Wal-Mart sheen.
That said, the Outlander Sport ain't exactly spendy. Mitsubishi says the base-model Outlander Sport ES will start at "well under $19k" with front-wheel-drive, A/C, 7 airbags (including a driver's knee airbag), electronic stability control, and a 5-speed stick. (A continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional). For about $3,000 more, the SE model adds the CVT, 18" alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, push-button ignition, heated front seats with nicer cloth, and automatic climate control. With options like all-wheel-drive, navigation, 9-speaker Rockford Fosgate stereo and a huge panoramic glass sunroof, Mitsi says the Outlander Sport will top out around $26k. Not bad, though I wish the options list included leather seats.
I took a quick spin in a stick-shift ES and an automatic SE. With its modest 148 hp 2-liter engine, I expected the Outlander Sport to be a slug. But Mitsubishi went to great lengths to pare the weight down to around 3000 lbs, so the Outlander Sport is quite zippy, though it gets noisy with the automatic, which likes to let the engine rev. Ride and handling are pleasantly firm and responsive, but the steering needs work. This is the first Mitsubishi to use electric power steering; while it feels great in the curves, it's a bit vague on center, so the Outlander Sport tends to wander in its lane.
Overall, there's a lot I like about the Outlander Sport: The looks, the utility, the value, and the impressive warranty. But as I neared the end of my test drive, a Honda CR-V came up in my rear view mirror, and that put the Outlander Sport in perspective. Compared to the Honda, the Outlander Sport feels like something you bought because it was on sale, although considering the Outlander Sport undercuts the CR-V by $2,500, I suppose it is on sale.
Would I buy one? As appealing as the Outlander Sport is, I don't know if I could stand looking at that cheap dashboard day after day. If Mitsi can find a way to jazz up the cabin a bit, I think the Outlander Sport could be a serious contender in the compact CUV field. -- Aaron Gold