2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 24, 2015

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport isn't as refined inside as it looks from its exterior, but it maneuvers well and offers a surprising amount of functional space.

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has little in common with its namesake, the Outlander. The Outlander Sport is no sportier, but instead focuses on cost-conscious urbanites with a smaller, more affordable package.

It's a better vehicle for those who don't necessarily need a third row of seats or a vehicle large enough to create the occasional parking challenge, though the Sport lacks some of the Outlander's more rugged capabilities. With traditional compact crossovers like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V creeping into mid-size territory, there's room now for the Outlander Sport, which offers similar space to compact hatchbacks like the Hyundai Elantra GT and Ford Focus.

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. Later in the model year, Mitsubishi is subbing 168-horsepower, 2.4-liter models (2.4 ES and 2.4 GT) models into the lineup, and we're anticipating that they'll be much better for drivability albeit at a fuel economy penalty. The CVT, by the way, is 'all-new' for 2015, so the story might be better than what we're essentially carrying over from previous model years. In any case 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.

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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.

The economy-class feel continues to the interior appointments, which have been a disappointment in past model years (Mitsubishi claims to have again redone some of the interior trims, so we hope to revisit this model soon). 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.

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.

The Outlander Sport has, in previous model years, been one of the noisiest vehicles in this class; but last year Mitsubishi has added more noise insulation as well as a new engine balance 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.

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. LED running lamps have been added for 2015.

7

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Styling

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport promises much with its smooth silhouette and pleasant details, but its drab interior fails to deliver.

For 2015, the Outlander Sport gets new carbon-look trim to the vehicle's interior, as well as LED daytime running lights to the exterior.

Simultaneously a lighter, somewhat smaller alternative to the Outlander, and a tall wagon that has about the same overall width and height as the Lancer compact sedan, the Outlander Sport straddles segments. But thankfully, it doesn't look too much like either of those two models, and it has its own design that looks good from almost all angles.

Overall, the Outlander Sport ends up looking more like a tall hatch—sporty from some angles, a bit bulbous from others—and the different sheetmetal than the Outlander, and a rising beltline crease that helps keep from looking too slab-sided. A new rear bumper design introduced last year brings a blacked-out lower-body aero trim to help it look just a little sportier, perhaps.

The basic look of the Outlander Sport is practical and no-nonsense, but it's been spruced up just the past several model years. Last year, Mitsubishi smoothed over some of the bluntness of the shark-like front-end design, while a new bumper design and blacked-out lower-body trim helped make it just a little neater in back. It's becoming increasingly difficult to say that this design looks contemporary and fresh, however.

The dash 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. Mitsubishi has added a little more bright trim, which helped somewhat, and there are new seat materials.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Performance

Acceleration can be sluggish and boomy with the CVT automatic, although nimble low-speed handling and great maneuverability make it suited to the city.

The Outlander Sport certainly looks sportier than many of the vehicles on the road today, but it's not always the most willing vehicle from the driver's seat.

However, there's no disappointment 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. Mitsubishi got the tuning of the electric power steering right, and with good body control, the Outlander Sport handles better than other tall subcompacts like the Nissan Cube or the Scion xD or xB. Excellent brakes also add confidence.

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. With the CVT, it feels strictly economy class, with on the road performance feeling sluggish and boomy when pressed.

This could all change later in the model year, when a new 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder engine in 2.4 ES and 2.4 GT models bumps output to 168 horsepower; that’s 20 more than in standard Outlander Sport models with the 2.0-liter engine.

Although Mitsubishi hasn’t yet released full specs—including fuel economy figures or acceleration times—for the 2.4-liter model, the engine makes 167 pound-feet of torque at 4,100 rpm in the Lancer Ralliart hatchback, with which the Outlander Sport shares its platform, and it makes that model significantly quicker.

For 2015, the CVT has been updated with the newest generation of technology from Mitsubishi. We haven't at all driven this vehicle for 2015, but we'll update this review when we do.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Comfort & Quality

The Outlander Sport hits the mark in most practical respects; it's just not all that refined or detail-oriented.

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport feels on par inside with its economical price point. However, there's much to be said for comfort and its very space-efficient interior.

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. The red gauge illumination you get in the Outlander Sport will be polarizing, although we do tend to like the somewhat sporty look—including a number of subtle accent-lighting touches, such as how the large moonroof is lit around the rim.

A nice, low cargo floor and easy-folding rear seatbacks (split 60/40) combine to provide cargo space and versatility that's very impressive considering the compact exterior. There's also a slightly higher-up trunk pass-through that could accommodate multiple sets of skis.

From the inside, you might get to thinking that the Outlander Sport is nearly the same size as more mainstream compact crossovers, like the Ford Escape, even though it's really a half-size down. Front seats feel fairly snug but supportive, and in back there's real space for two adults or three kids. Aging drivers or busy moms will find that seat height is just right—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. With a nicely contoured back seat, and a fold-down padded armrest and dual cupholders in back, there's plenty of useful space there as well.

Unfortunately noise and refinement are details that Mitsubishi hasn't addressed properly, at least in previous model years. The Outlander Sport has been one of the noisiest vehicles in this class; but for 2015 Mitsubishi has added more noise insulation as well as a new engine balance 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.

8

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Safety

Affordability and frugality don't get in the way of safety; the 2015 Outlander Sport is a safe pick.

Don't let its affordable price point fool you; the 2015 Mitsubishi is one of the safest vehicles in its class.

With stability control, anti-lock brakes, and side and side-curtain bags all standard, as well as front knee bags, the Outlander Sport has all the now-requisite items, along with a little more. And we've noticed that, considering the rather thick rear pillar, the elevated seating position in the Outlander Sport offers pretty good outward visibility, although some moms might want to note the omission of a backup camera system from the base ES model; that's now included in the upmarket Outlander Sport SE though.

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. While it's achieved a great set of ratings from the IIHS, its federal scores aren't quite as good, with a four-star overall rating and four-star results for frontal and side impact.

8

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Features

You get a lot of features for the money in the base-model Outlander Sport, and that's where the value is.

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport makes a good showing for price and value. Loaded in the upper twenties and with a base price of around $20k, this Mitsubishi costs thousands less than many of its competitors.

Choose the SE model and you get the FUSE Bluetooth hands-free system, plus automatic climate control and heated front seats and mirrors, as well as SiriusXM satellite radio. With the Premium Package comes a panoramic sunroof, black roof rails, and a new touch-screen audio system with rearview camera system.

An SE Touring Package gives black leather seating, as well as a new seven-inch touch-panel navigation system with real-time traffic. And separately the Limited Edition package, with its blackout side mirrors, roof rails, two-tone interior, and unique alloy wheels, now also adds wheel-arch lip trim.

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.

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Outlander Sport is surprisingly thirsty on the highway but smart and frugal in town.

The 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has incorporated a number of minor improvements in recent model years; yet fuel economy numbers haven't nudged all that far (if at all) upward. 

Whether with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (4WD), the Outlander Sport achieves an EPA-rated 24 mpg city, 30 highway. When we've driven previous model year versions of the Outlander Sport we've managed numbers in the low to mid 20s in combined city and highway driving.

At last update of this review, Mitsubishi hadn't yet provided full fuel economy figures with the new engine, although it did provide a sampling of 23 mpg city, 28 highway with the five-speed manual and front-wheel drive, or 23/26 with the manual and all-wheel drive.

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July 22, 2016
2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2WD 4-Door CVT SE

Truly Great Vehicle

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I have had this vehicle for approximately 2 months now and I can honestly say I am 100% satisfied I absolutely love this vehicle and I am 6 foot 3 inches tall and no it's not a race car but it has plenty of... + More »
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August 26, 2015
For 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Great compact SUV for a reasonable price

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I absolutely Iove my car. Easy to drive, Bluetooth, tight turn ratio, heated seats, shifting paddles, back up camera, and comfortable back seat, touchscreen radio, reasonable MPG. I have 24k miles on it in... + More »
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August 8, 2015
For 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Nice ride with manual transmission.

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The vehicle does not have strong launch for sure, this comes from someone driving a Civic SI before but it is surprisingly capable once up to 30-40MPH and going forward. Proper shifting puts some power to the... + More »
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