Sometime ago I reviewed the Mitsubishi Mirage. I didn’t like it. In fact I called it a turkey. Needless to say, the people at Mitsubishi were not happy about that. A phone call was made and words were said. They could have told me stay away from their vehicles and stick to writing about Ladas.
But they didn’t. In fact, they decided to lend me the 2017 Outlander Sport and told me to give it a look.
I respect that. I respect it because they don’t pick and choose who reviews their cars. They don’t hedge against those who write honestly and the shills who will abandon their integrity in hopes of receiving a box of chocolates for Christmas.
The Outlander Sport has been around for a few years now. Sales have been pretty good, sitting around 25,000 annual units, and now there’s a slight update for 2017. Is this enough to make the Outlander Sport a strong contender in the crowded CUV market?
The powertrain is carried over from the prior model year. This is Mitsubishi’s own 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine, which makes 168 horsepower and 167 of the torques. It is connected to a continuously variable transmission, which sends the power to the front wheels. Interestingly, there’s optional AWD engaged with the press of a button on the dash. Also, it can become part-time or full-time. This is something that feels rather old-school in a world that has gone all automatic all of the time.
The Outlander Sport drives just fine as long as you’re driving it in a manner consistent with that of a typical buyer of such a vehicle; somewhat slowly and carefully through curves. Push it and it will return driving dynamics far below that of what we’d consider “sporty”. It does, however, do a good job of pothole absorption.
Put simply, it’s not fast. None of the cars in this class are though really, and no one cares at the end of the day. Still, the throttle is surprisingly responsive. That’s because it’s got an engine with more displacement than a large soda bottle, it doesn’t have an 11-speed transmission, auto start-stop, nor a third-rate hair dryer attached to the exhaust manifold. Nope, none of that.
Inside, new upgrades consist of a infotainment unit fitted with Apple CarPlay and a screen size a tick over six inches. The small soft keys make the unit tricky to use at times but the upgraded Rockford Fosgate speakers sound better than any base stereo system you’ll run across. Above your head is a new Range Rover-like fixed glass roof with lights along the cover tracks. That supposed to give the Sport a hint of luxury but it seems slightly tacky, akin to the Ford mood lighting.
Mitsubishi opted for three interior trims: wood, aluminum, and piano black. Automakers like Audi and BMW also have such trims. Where they differ is that the Germans don’t install all three throughout one car at the same time. It’s not appealing to my interior taste level on this one.
Other premium features on the SE model include self-folding mirrors, keyless entry, heated seats and steering wheel, and leather covered seats. That leather could be softer and the seats could use more support, especially in the lumbar area.
One would need to closely examine the exteriors to see the differences from the previous model years. One thing that really bothered me was the stick-on Pep-Boys-like side went on the front fender. I couldn’t understand why it was there. It’s so random and pointless. Then I parked next to a slightly older Outlander Sport and I noticed it. The older model had a side-marker light in that place. That side-marker became part of the mirror this year. Instead of modifying the tooling for the fender to remove the hole, Mitsubishi choose to slap that fake vent on there. Not a great design move.
It’s really unlikely that Outlander Sport buyer will care about the engine and suspension details. They’re also likely to overlook the interior trims, and instead focus on the bottomline. That would be the price to buy one and the fuel economy it will return. The very base, smaller engine, manual transmission, front wheel drive Outlander Sport starts at $$19,795. This loaded SEL model was $26,635 with $940 destination charge. A quick glance at TrueCar tells of much lower actual selling prices to be found. EPA rates the fuel economy at 23MPG in the city and 28 on the highway.
With a market full of CUVs, it would be easy to point out the inferiorities of the Outlander Sport. While it’s not perfect, it’s not really bad in any one way, at least not when looking at it from the perspective of a budget buyer searching for a brand new vehicle with a 5-year, 60k-mile basic warranty and 10-year, 100k-mile powertrain warranty. The Outlander Sport actually surpassed my rather low expectations that I had for it. It isn’t a turkey and it becomes a contender when actual sales prices are considered.
[Disclaimer: Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review.]
All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Hooniverse 2017