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The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport takes after its namesake, the larger Outlander, in some ways; yet it's an entirely different vehicle—aiming at city-dwellers with a tight budget and limited space.
While the Sport isn't actually closely related to the Outlander, it's fair to think of it as a lighter, shorter (about a foot) counterpoint to it, for those families who don't need even the tiny third-row seat that's offered in the Outlander—or its somewhat more rugged capability. So-called compact crossovers such as the Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester have been creeping up in size; and that's made room for this kind of vehicle, that's a step larger than subcompact hatches yet a step taller than compact hatchbacks like the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra.Compared to the Outlander, the RAV4, and that entire set of 'generous' compact crossovers, the Outlander Sport looks and drives quite differently than those other models, too, shying away from sport-utility cues and instead taking a sportier tack—looking (and feeling) more like a tall hatch. Last year, Mitsubishi smoothed over some of the bluntness of the shark-like front-end design, while the look was made just a little neater in back with a new bumper design and blacked-out lower-body trim. The look is clean and upright inside, but your intrigue at first glance might disperse to disappointment upon closer look, as the cabin packs in plenty of drab materials that aren't all that much more impressive than those in the Lancer compact sedan. But Mitsubishi is clearly making an effort to spruce up the look and feel somewhat; last year it introduced a new cloth upholstery, and this year there's a new black-leather seating option in the SE Touring Package.
There really are two different assessments of how the Outlander Sport drives—and it depends on how importantly you value acceleration and straight-ahead responsiveness. Although the manual is a better choice to make the most of the 148-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, this is not a particularly quick vehicle, and the on-road performance provided with the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is quite disappointing. But it's a completely different story if you're talking about cornering; the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport drives with a light, responsive feel—more like a compact sedan than a larger crossover—and this is a good pick for those who want compactness and maneuverability, not all-out ruggedness.
The economy-class feel continues to the interior appointments, which have been a disappointment in past model years. There are a few more soft-touch surfaces here than in some other rival vehicles, but it's mostly in the form of a padded dash cover; otherwise it's budget-sedan material. Packaging is where the Outlander Sport redeems itself, though; this is a vehicle that tends to feel roomier inside than you might expect, considering its very compact exterior. Front seats feel fairly snug but supportive, and in back there's real space for two adults or three kids. And with seat height just right for what many aging shoppers (or busy moms) seek—a little higher than a sedan, yet lower than a larger SUV—you get get in by merely sitting and turning, or load children in without straining your back.
The Outlander Sport has, in previous model years, been one of the noisiest vehicles in this class; but for 2014 Mitsubishi has added more noise insulation as well as a new engine balancer shaft. We hope to revisit this model soon and report back on the level of improvement, but based on previous experiences there's been way too much noise and harshness—especially during passing or long mountain grades.
For safety, the Outlander Sport has been one of the better performers in this class—and among other vehicles its size and weight it has one of the top ratings in the tough new small overlap frontal test. Safety ratings for the Outlander Sport have otherwise been good, and it has all the features you'd expect in a vehicle that works for small families; a backup camera system is still sorely lacking on the base ES, but front knee airbags are included as an addition to the expected safety set for this kind of vehicle.
With a base price of around $20k and a fully loaded one barely reaching into the upper twenties, pricing and value are some of the Outlander Sport's main selling points. If you can overlook its economy-class accommodations and lack of refinement, you'll find that features are generous--with steering-wheel audio controls, remote keyless entry, alloy wheels, and a 140-watt sound system all standard.
For 2014, the Outlander Sport gets a new touch-screen audio system on SE models, as well as a new seven-inch touch-panel navigation system with real-time traffic. With new black leather seating, it's part of an SE Touring Package.
- Nimble, responsive feel
- Spacious, versatile layout
- Clean, simple dash layout
- Ride comfort
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- CVT is sluggish on the highway
- Drab interior
- Noisy inside (although improved)