2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
April 9, 2011

The 2011 Outlander Sport is a pleasant, nimble, and versatile runabout for the city, but road noise and a sluggish powertrain make it a less-than-ideal pick if you do a lot of highway driving.

The Outlander Sport is a lighter, shorter version of the Outlander crossover vehicle—about a foot shorter but the same in wheelbase, with nearly the same overall width and height. But it looks and drives quite differently—and with its parallel-parking-friendly packaging, it aims at those in the city rather than the suburbs.

Mitsubishi has shed most of the sport-utility cues in the 2011 Outlander Sport, making it look from most angles more like a tall hatch. The blunt, sharklike front end looks just as good here as it does in the Outlander and Lancer family—and it could be mistaken for a serious performance vehicle by those not in the know. From the side, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport gets all-new sheetmetal, with a rising beltline crease that helps keep from looking too slab-sided, but this vehicle is disappointingly bland and ordinary-looking from the rear.

A lot of the heft is gone from the experience, replaced by better responsiveness, and it feels a lot more like the Lancer sedan, which also shares some underpinnings. This is the first Mitsubishi to get electric power steering, but they've managed to tune it to feel almost exactly the same as their excellent hydraulic units. Outlander Sport's 3,100-pound weight and that excellent steering contribute to the light-and-nimble feel, no doubt, and drives a class smaller than most compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, or even the Kia Sportage—but it also doesn't feel as anesthetized as the Scion xD or xB in their standard tune.

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That's the good. The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport comes with either a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) or a five-speed manual gearbox, with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine for all versions. And while the stick might be a good choice, the CVT that most come with is a little sluggish and disappointing when you want to tap into all the power. In the city, it's at ease, but on the highway the powertrain feels boomy and overwhelmed (fuel economy isn't impressive on the highway either). Adding to that impression is a whole lot of road noise from inside the cabin. Interior plastics and trim, while they're better than those in the Lancer, are still less than inspiring.

Otherwise there's lots positive to point out in the Outlander Sport's excellent interior packaging. From the inside, it doesn't feel much smaller than smaller compact crossovers, like the Sportage. Front seats feel fairly snug but supportive, and in back there's real space for two adults or three kids. The back seats are split 60/40; there's a nice, low cargo floor, and the larger seatback includes a separate, slightly higher-up trunk pass-through that would be good for multiple sets of skis. Built into the same enclosure is a fold-down, padded armrest with two cupholders built in.

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. Even loaded SE models with AWD total less than $26k, including premium audio, automatic climate control, heated seats and mirrors, and a panoramic sunroof. In all, if you can overlook the road noise and sluggish powertrain, the Sport is quite a great deal.

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2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Styling

The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport doesn't forge any new ground in its styling or design, but it has the same good-looking front end as the Lancer and Outlander.

The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is essentially a shorter take on the Outlander crossover utility vehicle, while keeping height and width about the same. That might sound like a recipe for disaster—a la Pontiac Aztek—but the formula works.

Thanks to some toning-down of the Outlander's rugged cues, the Outlander Sport looks more like a tall hatch than a slightly softer, lower-profile utility vehicle; but it depends on the angle. The blunt, sharklike front end looks just as good here as it does in the Outlander and Lancer family, and from pretty much any angle in front, it looks very nicely proportioned. The sheetmetal has a bit more excitement than that of Mitsubishi's other vehicles, with a gradually rising beltline crease that serves to interrupt the otherwise slab-sided look.

From the back, the Outlander Sport could be taken quite differently; it looks a little more bulbous and chunky, and we wished the designers would have given it a less anonymous tail to match the bold front.

Inside, the look is familiar; the layout of the dash is basically the same as that of the Lancer, though lifted slightly, and dash and door trims tend to look dark and sporty—if a bit drab.

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2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Performance

The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has excellent steering and handles better than you'd expect for such a tall vehicle, but its powertrain performance is just adequate.

The tall stance of the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander doesn't promise a lot of athleticism or grace in tight corners, but that's where this vehicle is surprisingly deft; it handles with the poise of a lower vehicle, and has particularly good steering compared to other vehicles in its class, with nice weighting and actually some feedback from the road. Brakes are excellent, too.

The Outlander Sport comes with either a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) or a five-speed manual gearbox, with a 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine for all versions. Based on our recent driving experience with the Lancer GTS, as well as other Mitsubishis with a manual transmission, the stick will probably provide more driving satisfaction, but expect acceleration that's responsive enough but not quick.

The majority of buyers will probably go for the CVT, which does the job just fine most of the time, but like many CVT boxes in four-cylinder applications, the setup can get a little sluggish and boomy sometimes, especially when in rapid stop-and-go driving, passing, when accelerating into high-speed traffic, or anything that brings revs around 4,000 rpm or beyond. The steering-wheel paddle-shifters beside the steering wheel let you select simulated gears, but the CVT maintains a loosey-goosey slushbox feel even then.

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2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has an excellent layout, with comfortable seating and good versatility, but road noise and drab trim are serious blemishes.

The Outlander Sport is more than a foot shorter than the Outlander—and just 169 inches long alogether (shorter than most compact cars)—but you wouldn't know it from the inside. The design includes comfortable seating for four (five in a pinch) plus a rather low, flat cargo floor and straightforward, flat-folding back seats.

Front seats are on the narrow side, and they'll be fairly snug for taller occupants, but they have impressive mid-back support, which is unusual in inexpensive vehicles, and the coarse cloth upholstery feels grippy and durable. In back, the seating position is quite firm and upright—and it's only passable for two adults across—but it's a perfectly good package for two adults to ride in back for going across town for an event or away for a few hours.

The back seats are split 60/40, and they fold easily with one arm down to that low cargo floor includes; there's a nice, low cargo floor, and the larger seatback includes a separate, slightly higher-up trunk pass-through that would be good for multiple sets of skis. Built into the same enclosure is a fold-down, padded armrest with two cupholders built in.

We really like the way the Outlander Sport is lit inside, too. Although it's red lighting, there's a lot of attention to detail, and the very large moonroof is even lit around the rim—a subtle touch that you might notice when parked but not when driving.

Unfortunately, Mitsubishi misses some other important, more broad-ranging details: The interior is a bit too drab and plasticky for most tastes, and more importantly for those who plan to do a lot of highway driving, there's a lot of road noise; in a test vehicle, tire and road rumble was present in the vehicle as long as it was rolling, and it became obtrusive on the highway.

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.

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2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Safety

There aren't many crash-test ratings out yet for the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander, but its feature list is complete and early signs point to it being a reasonably safe choice.

There's not yet a lot of occupant-protection information available regarding the Outlander Sport, but it is based heavily on the larger Outlander, which has received some pretty good ratings for safety. Yet, at a foot shorter and with different seating, sheetmetal, and even a significantly different structure, it merits its own crash-testing. So far, it's done just as well as the larger Outlander, with top 'Good' results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but it hasn't at all been tested by the federal government's NCAP program.

Standard safety kit for the Outlander includes the expected stability control, anti-lock brakes, and side and side-curtain bags, and the Outlander Sport also comes with front knee bags.

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2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Features

There aren't many standout features here, but considering the low price tag—even fully loaded—the 2011 Outlander Sport offers lots of value for the dollar.

For a basic vehicle with no apparent luxury aspirations, the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has an impressive list of standard equipment. Air conditioning, steering-wheel audio controls, remote keyless entry, and a 140-watt sound system are all standard, and the SE upgrades to automatic climate control, heated front seats and mirrors, and the FUSE Bluetooth hands-free system.

If you can look past the Outlander Sport's boomy interior and just-adequate powertrain performance, it stands out as quite a deal—especially for the base front-wheel-drive model, at $19,275 including destination.

But even with the $1,800 Premium Package, the Outlander Sport SE prices in the mid-twenties and includes a panoramic sunroof, Rockford Fosgate premium audio with subwoofer, Sirius satellite radio, a 6-CD changer, and black roof rails.

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2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a pretty green vehicle for around town, but for road-tripping there are many more efficient options.

The 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has a mix of small-car roots but a utility-vehicle profile, which combine to create a vehicle that essentially gets small-car fuel economy around town but can't do much better than a large sedan on the highway.

The CVT keeps consumption in check, too. EPA fuel economy ratings for the Outlander Sport with all-wheel drive are 24 mpg city, 29 highway, and over about 120 miles we managed to hit 24 mpg in a mix of driving, with most of it urban and suburban short trips.

That said, in a few short highway-cruising stints, even with the cruise control on, we had trouble even hitting 30 mpg in the Outlander Sport. On the positive side, its top gear ratio is nice and tall, keeping revs under 2,500 rpm at 75 mph.

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August 1, 2015
2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2WD 4-Door CVT ES

Good transport with some deficiences.

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Seat backing poorly covered, road noise, and back seats do not fold flat - other than that like warranty and style of this model.
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May 3, 2015
2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport AWD 4-Door CVT SE

I Love everything about my outlander sport!!!

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I'm extremely happy with my outlander. My family loves it and unlike other cars there's never an uncomfortable drive. Even long trips are exciting. I can't wait to jump behind the wheel today and drive.
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March 20, 2015
For 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

somewhat disappointing

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Acceleration stutters when entering traffic. After having my vehicle 2 months I find it somewhat disappointing the mileage on the road is not 27 to 32 as told at the dealership runs 20 to 25 sometimes 26 MPG... + More »
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