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Wonder where the Outlander Sport has been? Not far away, apparently

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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

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According to a rather well-done TV commercial, there’s a new beauty in town, and it’s the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

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Actually, the Outlander Sport has been around since it was introduced as a 2011 model loosely based on the larger, older Outlander midsize SUV.

But it has changed since then. Guess that makes it a “new” beauty.

After giving the Outlander Sport some exterior upgrades for 2013, designers turned their attention to the compact crossover’s interior, adding audio controls to the steering wheel and improved sound insulation materials across the line for 2014.

The top-of-the-line SE trim also gets auto on/off HID headlamps and fog lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, chrome-tipped exhaust outlet, dual vanity mirrors with illumination, automatic climate control and heated front seats as standard.

The SE also comes with some optional packages adding features like navigation, upgraded sound system, and a panoramic glass roof that are not available on the base ES.

The result?

Mitsubishi recently reported that it sold more Outlander Sports than any of its other models in July with the total of 2,610 sold representing a jump of nearly 26 percent over July 2013. Year-to-date sales were up over 23 percent to a company-best 17,932 units.

Yes, the total numbers pale when compared to those of larger companies, which makes for more impressive the percentage increases, but still Mitsubishi is doing something right here. Those buyers can’t all have been wooed by singer Bobby Caldwell’s melodious tones.

Unlike its big brother, the Outlander, the Outlander Sport comes only with one engine choice, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that is rated at 148 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 145 pound-feet of torque at 4200.

A CVT (continuously variable transmission) is standard on four-wheel-drive ES and both 2WD and 4WD SE models and optional on the 2WD ES, which gets a five-speed manual as standard.

The combination of the four-banger and the CVT makes for a fuel efficient drive (24 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway) for its class, and it is adequate for everyday chores and commutes. Once up to speed, the Outlander Sport cruises well on the highway, though leaving just a bit of extra room for passing on two-lane roads is a good idea.

That said, the Outlander Sport falls short of what you might expect for a vehicle dubbed “sport.” Taking advantage of the paddle shifters (mounted on the steering column, not the steering wheel) does enliven the driving experience, but if you’re looking for quickness, agility and acceleration, traits usually associated with “sport” models, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It is more “sport” in looks than performance.

Inside, the Outlander Sport offers pretty good room for five adult passengers. Cargo space is OK but fills up fast if you can’t fold the second-row seats because they’re needed for passengers.

The fabric seats are comfortable, and leather surfaces are available as a dealer-installed option. They adjust manually, except for a six-way power adjustable driver’s seat that is included in the Premium Package available on SE models.

Gauges and controls are simple enough.

The air conditioner/heater works off knobs at the bottom of the center stack, and some audio and navigation functions can be operated via voice command, or you can use the touchscreen.

One quirky feature: The knob to adjust radio volume is on the right side of the display screen, where you ordinarily would find a knob to tune a station manually or adjust settings for bass, etc. There is no knob for the latter. You have to go through the touchscreen for that, which makes surfing the dial frustrating at times.

One big plus for the Outlander Sport is pricing. The SUV segment is making a comback, and the Outlander Sport checks in at the lower end of the segment when it comes to pricing.

The 2WD SE with the manual transmission carries an MSRP of $20,295 including the $825 destination and delivery charge. Starting MSRP for the top-of-the-line AWD SE model is $24,820.

For a look at the Outlander Sport and some specs, check the accompanying slide show.

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