2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 13, 2014

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander looks sporty, maneuvers easily, and is very space-efficient. All that's missing is the refined interior that the exterior suggests.

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.

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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.

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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Styling

If the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport builds expectations with a sleek silhouette and edgy details; then the drab interior doesn't quite meet them.

The 2014 Outlander Sport is 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. But thankfully, it doesn't look too much like either of those two models, and it has its own design that looks good from nearly all angles.

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 the look was made just a little neater in back with a new bumper design and blacked-out lower-body trim.

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 offers a blacked-out lower-body aero trim to help it look just a little sportier, perhaps.

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 seat materials have been updated. This year there's a new black-leather seating option in the SE Touring Package.

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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Performance

The CVT in the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport can make acceleration sluggish and boomy, but nimble handling and great maneuverability make it a decent urban performer.

The Outlander Sport takes a sportier tack—looking (and feeling) more like a tall hatch—but it doesn't always feel as sprightly as you might expect from the driver's seat.

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.

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. 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.

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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Comfort & Quality

The low-rent cabin trims are a letdown, but the Outlander Sport hits the mark for size, space, and versatility.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport definitely doesn't transcend its affordable price with respect to cabin appointments or overall refinement, but it offers a nice, comfortable, space-efficient interior.

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.

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. 

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.

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 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.

Review continues below
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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Safety

The 2014 Outlander Sport is one crossover for which affordability and frugality don't get in the way of safety.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is 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 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 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. While it's achieved Top Safety Pick+status overall 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.

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.

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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Features

Especially on the base Outlander Sport, you get a lot of features for the money; and for 2014 upgraded touch-screen navigation arrives for those willing to pay more.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a model that puts its best wheel forward with respect to pricing and value. For around $20k for the base model, or in the upper twenties for a fully loaded one, it simply costs thousands less than some other compact crossovers.

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.

Step up to 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 adds 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.

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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Fuel Economy

The 2014 Outlander Sport is reasonably frugal in town but thirsty on the highway.

The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has a subcompact footprint but a tall profile--and like most vehicles with this shape, it achieves pretty good city gas mileage but is somewhat disappointing on the highway, where aerodynamics aren't so ideal.

With either the manual gearbox or the CVT, the Outlander Sport gets EPA city ratings in the mid-20s and highway ratings around 30 mpg.

The Outlander Sport may be an economical urban daily-driver but it's not an efficient long-distance road-tripper. In a mix of driving, including some short trips, we saw 24 mpg on average with a CVT-equipped Outlander Sport; yet even with the cruise control set to modest speeds we were unable to average 30 mpg on the highway.

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Styling 8
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