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. As such, powertrains are strictly economy class, with on the road performance limited by a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that can be sluggish and boomy when pressed.
With nice weighting and actually some feedback from the road, the Outlander's steering is one of the keys to that responsiveness. 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.
What's missing from the package is solid, confident powertrain performance to match that. The 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), will undoubtedly be the most common combination, but it's not a good one, as while the CVT is quite docile during ordinary driving it brings out too much engine noise and there's a potentially annoying rubber-band-like delay when you need a burst of power. Mitsubishi claims to have finessed the CVT calibration for 2013, although we haven't yet sampled this improvement. The five-speed manual transmission may be harder to find, but it's a better choice.