In a market awash in new SUVs from virtually every manufacturer, Mitsubishi's compact Outlander Sport has one of the lowest profiles. That is unfortunate, for both Mitsubishi and consumers, too, because this cute and smart little SUV hardly gets noticed.
The Outlander Sport packs a perfect balance of value and function into its stylish body, and deserves serious consideration for anyone shopping in this segment. It's certainly one of the most sensible choices available and, while the list price is merely competitive, the out-the-door deals, after Mitsubishi's generous incentive packages are factored in, are often thousands less than a comparable Honda, Toyota, Mazda or Subaru and even the Korean challengers from Hyundai and Kia.
In the looks department the Mitsubishi needs no excuses, it is a sharp looking vehicle with clean, modern lines and a distinct lack of the extra creases, curves or do-dads that most of the competition offers up. Riding on a 105" wheelbase - one of the longest in class, but taping in at a trim 169" overall, the Outlander Sport provides a generous amount of interior space in a very trim package and is a joy to park. The long wheelbase allows for plenty of front and rear seat room, and a fair sized cargo hold despite an overall length up to a foot shorter than some competitors, such as Subaru's Forester. With up to 50 cu.ft. of cargo space available with the rear seats folded, The Outlander Sport is remarkably space efficient within it's compact concept.
Only one engine is offered, a 148 hp, 2-liter MiVEC 4 cylinder unit with a choice of a 5-speed manual or CVT automatic with paddle shifters. This is a bit less power than most of its competitors, but fuel economy is excellent with EPA ratings of 30 Hwy/24 City in the most efficient powertrain option. On the road with the CVT most buyers specify, the Mitsubishi feels peppy enough and returns about 28 average MPG. The paddle shift automatic is responsive and very efficient, but does make the engine work hard at times and can be noisier than a conventional automatic.
Mitsubishi's optional AWD system is one of the industry's most advanced and provides the option of switching to 2WD with the push of a button for increased economy, a neat feature absent in most other systems. The ride is fairly soft and comfortable for this class of vehicle and handing is crisp and easy in everyday driving, if not particular sporting when pressed.
Interior fit and finish is modern and attractive, but not luxurious. The standard feature set is comprehensive and the Outlander Sport offers more for less than virtually all competitors in this area. Pricing starts just under $20K and a loaded up AWD model goes for around $25K - solid values in either case. Mitsubishi's warranty package is one of the industry's best with 5 yrs/60K Miles bumper to bumper and 10 yrs/100k miles on the powertrain. Consumer Reports just named the Outlander Sport a best value under $25K and Kelly Blue Book named the companion Outlander model a winner of their "5 Year Cost to Own Award".
Overall, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a neat, little SUV and a great buy. Perhaps not the best car in it's class in some regards, it does offer great looks, solid functionality and a strong value for the money and is well worth a look in my book.
• dean seven