The Car Connection Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Overview
The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is not only Mitsubishi's smallest crossover offering, but also by far the most popular offering in the automaker's small U.S. lineup. But despite a name similar to the larger Outlander crossover, it more resembles a tall five-door hatchback than a truck-like utility vehicle. Its trim levels start with the base ES, move up to the SE and SEL versions, and top out in the high-spec GT model.
The Outlander Sport is a rival for a wide range of vehicles including the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, and Toyota RAV4. A group of newer small crossover models now arriving on the scene—include the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, and Chevy Trax—is likely to also give the smaller Outlander stiff competition.
MORE: Read our 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport review
For 2016, the Outlander Sport gets a restyled nose that makes it more resemble the bigger Outlander. The "Dynamic Shield" grille is the maker's latest styling idiom, though it's busier and more cluttered on the smaller model. A handful of trim and equipment upgrades in 2016 add to the optional 2.4-liter engine introduced for 2015 to give the car a wide range of models and trim levels ranging from $20,000 to $30,000.
The Sport is derived from the current Lancer sedan platform, with a four-cylinder engine driving the front or all four wheels. Base models include a 5-speed manual transmission but can be optioned with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is standard on all other trims.
Mitsubishi's smallest crossover was first offered in the U.S. for the 2011 model year. Since then, it has benefited from a series of minor updates. Known as the ASX or RVR in other markets, the Outlander Sport is the struggling Japanese automaker's entry into the crowded small-crossover segment. Its short length could almost qualify it as a subcompact, while clever packaging means it retains more interior space within its smaller footprint than some longer rivals.
The Sport's front end bears a resemblance to the larger Outlander. It's profile is more sporty hatchback than crossover or SUV, and the dimensions are tidy. The same carlike feel extends to the interior, with a practical layout and a high roof. Seats are supportive, three kids or two adults will fit comfortably in the back seat, and there's a low cargo floor for easy loading. The Outlander Sport's fault, like other Mitsubishis, is material feel that's below that of competitors, making the vehicle seem very much like it was built to a price.
Originally, all Outlander Sport models came with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Buyers could choose a CVT or opt to shift for themselves with a 5-speed manual gearbox with this engine. The manual is our choice, without hesitation, because the CVT tends to make the engine feel sluggish and sound boomy, especially on the highway. Fuel economy was unremarkable, at 25 mpg city, 32 highway in the most efficient configuration.
For 2015, Mitsubishi has added an available 2.4-liter four-cylinder, which is available on two upper trim levels—ES and the newly added GT. The 2.4 puts out 168 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque. The engine is available with either front- or all-wheel drive and comes paired exclusively with a version of the brand's continuously variable transmission. Front-drive models return fuel economy ratings of 23 mpg city, 28 highway, with all-wheel drive lowering those numbers slightly.
The Outlander Sport stands out as a strong value for the money, especially considering that the base model starts at less than $20,000. Even at the base level, front knee airbags are a standard safety feature you won't find in many other models, and keyless entry, A/C, and a 140-watt sound system are all included. Top-of-the-line SE models include automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, premium audio, and heated seats.
Road noise has been an issue since the Outlander Sport was launched—although Mitsubishi reported a few improvements for 2012, including much needed additional sound insulation. Then for 2013, the model also received a modestly redesigned (and smoother) version of the shark-like front end, plus a new bumper design and revised lower-body trim. Mitsubishi further updated the feature list for 2013 as well, adding standard alloy wheels on all trim levels, with new seat fabrics—and even more noise insulation, possibly soothing some of the harsh, low-rent impression. For 2014, the Outlander Sport got a new touch-screen audio system on SE models, as well as a new seven-inch touch-panel navigation system with real-time traffic. It's bundled with black leather seating as part of an SE Touring Package.
In addition to the 2.4-liter engine and new GT trim level, the 2015 model year also brought another round of refinement improvements, adding a new version of the CVT with better off-the-line performance and slightly better highway fuel economy (a 1-mpg improvement), plus yet more noise insulation.