The downsides are essentially the same as what haunt the entire Lancer and Outlander family: an interior that's a bit too drab and plasticky and, yes, way too much road noise inside. Just a little more noise insulation (or perhaps softer-sidewall tires) would go a long way; you hear a lot of road noise pretty much as long as the vehicle is rolling.
Road noise is an issue...but the price is right
That said, we're really impressed with the Outlander Sport's combination of responsiveness and ride quality. The suspension does a great job of absorbing minor road shocks; so it's surprising that when you load up the suspension a bit more in cornering that it feels as good as it does. Unfortunately, the Outlander Sport doesn't get the more sophisticated Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) all-wheel-drive system that's in the Lancer Evolution family and the top-of-the-line Outlander GT, but you'd only miss that in rally-car-style driving or in conditions like slushy winter roads.
Interior controls are much like those of the Lancer family, which is to say they're very straightforward and feel good...in a non-luxurious sense. Sound system controls are mounted high, while climate controls—including a full auto mode—are mounted below. There's a little more soft touch here—mainly in the form of a layer of padded material that's been added to the dash—but it's still not even remotely an upscale look or feel.
The bottom-line sticker of our test Outlander Sport SE AWD was just $25,575, and that included the $1,800 Premium Package that brings the panoramic sunroof, Rockford Fosgate premium audio with subwoofer, Sirius satellite radio, a 6-CD changer, and black roof rails. Standard equipment is already impressive, with the SE including automatic climate control, heated front seats and mirrors, the FUSE Bluetooth hands-free system, and a good set of steering-wheel control for audio functions. Safety kit includes the expected stability control, anti-lock brakes, and side and side-curtain bags, and the Outlander Sport also comes with front knee bags.
If you can look past the Outlander Sport's boomy interior and just-adequate powertrain performance, the Outlander Sport stands out as quite a deal—especially for the base front-wheel-drive model, at $19,275 including destination.
The virtual test drive might have been a gimmick, but Mitsubishi had nothing to cover up here; take one out for a drive and you'll find this to be one of the best takes on 'tall small' yet.