2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Review

Consumer Reviews
3 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
April 26, 2016

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has ample room in a practical interior, but it's let down by economy-car materials and noise.

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is on the small end of the popular compact crossover utility segment, though it has useful interior room and practicality for its size. It's only incidentally sporty, despite the name—but it will suit value-minded shoppers who prize its size. It's let down by its crude interior and noisy, unrefined operation at speed, but at a starting price around $20,000, it's clearly the price-leading play in the segment.

Trim levels for the Outlander Sport start with the base ES, move up to the SE and SEL versions, and top out in the high-spec GT model.

With traditional compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 creeping toward mid-size territory, the Outlander Sport offers interior space that's closer to compact hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra GT, or the hatchback-based (and very popular) Subaru Crosstrek. It has little in common with its sibling the Outlander, a larger and more rugged mid-size utility vehicle.

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The basic vehicle is now in its sixth model year, and for 2016, it gets a new nose design to bring it into the latest Mitsubishi styling idiom—it's called a "Dynamic Shield" front end—and closer to its Outlander big brother. The result is busier and less harmonious than on the bigger SUV, and it's debatable whether it's an improvement over the blunter, more aggressive front end it replaces. The rest of the vehicle remains as it was, looking and feeling more like a tall five-door hatchback than a truck-like utility vehicle. The lines are starting to feel a little dated, though, which is more acceptable in a car offering value over freshness.

Inside, the look is clean and straightforward, but despite some modest upgrades to plastics, upholstery, trim materials, and features, the cabin remains on the drab side, closer to economy sedan than to modern utility vehicle. Soft-touch materials are mostly limited to the dash padding, though for 2016 there's a new light-gray interior option, which may lighten the cabin over the previous all-black offering.

But it wins on packaging, with the Outlander Sport turning out to be roomier inside than you might expect, considering its very compact size. The front seats are snug but supportive, and in back there's enough space for two adults or three kids. The seat height is just right for what aging shoppers or busy parents—a touch higher than a sedan, but lower than larger SUVs that require a deliberate step up to enter the cabin. You can enter the small Outlander merely by sitting down and turning, and you can load children and car seats without straining your back.

Two engines are offered in the Outlander Sport, along with optional all-wheel drive for either. A five-speed manual gearbox is available only on the base 2.0 ES model with front-wheel drive; every other version uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 148-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4 is far from quick with the manual, and the lack of acceleration and responsiveness provided by the CVT is downright disappointing. The optional 168-hp, 2.4-liter engine gives better performance at the price of sub-par fuel economy, surprisingly even with the CVT.

On the road, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport drives and corners with a light, responsive feel—more like a compact sedan than a larger, taller crossover. If you value compactness and maneuverability, rather than all-out ruggedness, it represents a good alternative for urban dwellers and those who use their cars primarily for local, lower-speed errands where acceleration is less important than agility. But at higher speeds, it remains noisy and harsh, despite last year's addition of new sound insulation material. (The competition hasn't sat still on that front either.)

The Outlander Sport gets good, if not perfect, safety ratings, and for 2015 it was deemed an IIHS Top Safety Pick. It received an "Acceptable" rating (one notch below a perfect score) in the IIHS's new and tough small-overlap frontal impact test, impressive for a design that predates that test altogether. These days, however, buyers may notice that the Outlander Sport lacks any of the active-safety systems that are increasingly available on others in the segment, from adaptive cruise control to lane-departure warning systems, as well as blind-spot alerts and collision warning with automatic braking. A rearview camera is standard on all but the base SE trim level.

At a base price around $20,000, it's hard to push an Outlander Sport to $30,000 fully equipped. That means pricing and value are one of its main selling points. If you can overlook its lack of refinement and economy-class accommodations, you'll find that features are generous—with Bluetooth, heated mirrors, steering-wheel audio controls, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a 140-watt sound system all standard. Added for 2016 are an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a redesigned steering wheel.

The SE version adds fog lights, heated front driver and passenger seats, automatic climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, satellite and HD radio, two more speakers, a rearview camera, and remote keyless entry. Moving up to the SEL version, you will add automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, black leather upholstery, aluminum pedals, and silver and glossy-black interior trim. Finally, the top-of-the-line GT model layers on high-intensity discharge headlamps, a panoramic glass roof, a nine-speaker 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system, and an optional factory navigation system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen display and real-time traffic data.

Fuel economy ratings for the smaller Outlander range from 24 to 28 mpg combined, with the larger engine and all-wheel drive producing lower ratings.

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2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Styling

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport gets a fresh face this year, but we're not sure it's an improvement, and the interior is dated.

In its sixth year on the market, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport gets a major appearance change, with a new front-end treatment and grille giving it the brand's latest "Dynamic Shield" frontal appearance, to match its larger Outlander SUV sibling.

The makeover visually widens the grille and the lower air intake, with body-color panels on the bumper reaching from each toward the center to divide the two darker inlet areas. LED running lights are found in headlamp units that sweep back from the upper corners of the fenders. It also rides on new 18-inch alloy wheels.

There are also chrome edge trims of varying thicknesses dividing the two areas, a mock skid-plate treatment at the bottom, and round fog lights as well, meaning there are a lot of visual elements to look at. Whether it's an improvement over the previous and more aggressive opening is debatable, but at least it updates the aging design. From the front fenders back, however, the Outlander Sport remains the same, resembling a tall wagon with about the same overall width and height as the Lancer compact sedan.

It's a lighter, smaller alternative to the mid-size Outlander SUV, and from certain angles, it could be as much a tall hatchback—sporty from some angles, a bit bulbous from others—with a rising beltline crease that helps keep from looking too slab-sided. The basic look of the Outlander Sport is practical and no-nonsense, but it's been revised over the past several model years. Blacked-out lower-body aero trim at the rear contributes to the sporty appearance. It's increasing difficult to call it either fresh or contemporary, however, despite the new front end.

Inside, the upright dash is clean and straightforward. Last year, the interior got a new carbon-look trim. But after the first glance, you may find yourself disappointed, as the cabin includes too many drab materials that aren't much more impressive than those in the Lancer compact sedan. Mitsubishi has added a little more bright trim, which helps somewhat, and for 2016, new upholstery materials and an added light-grey interior option dress up the basic design.

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2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Performance

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport wins on maneuverabilty, making it a good urban warrior, but acceleration can be slow—and noisy.

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has a sportier look than some of the frumpier compact crossovers in the segment, but from the driver's seat, it doesn't always deliver on the sporty promise.

The Outlander Sport definitely corners well, with a light, responsive feel—more like a compact sedan than a crossover—and buyers seeking compactness and maneuverability over all-out ruggedness may find it a good choice. The body is well controlled, and Mitsubishi really got the tuning of the electric power steering right. Against the range of tall subcompact wagons, it shines, and good brakes boost confidence as well.

But it's not a particularly quick vehicle with the smaller of the two four-cylinder engines available. The 148-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4 is better with the 5-speed manual gearbox that's the base offering, but real-world performance provided with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is quite disappointing. Acceleration and straight-ahead responsiveness are lacking, and not only is it sluggish, it's boomy, too. There's not even a trade-off for top-rated fuel economy, with the best version topping out at 29 mpg combined.

The larger engine, a 168-hp 2.4-liter four found in the 2.4 ES and 2.4 GT models, makes the Outlander Sport significantly quicker, at the cost of sub-par fuel efficiency. It's available only with the CVT, and as with the 2.0-liter, all-wheel drive is optional. We haven't yet driven the Outlander Sport with this engine and the latest update to the CVT; we'll update this review when we do so.

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2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Comfort & Quality

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport offers practical accommodations, but lacks the finesse of many competitors.

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport sits clearly on the "value" end of the wide array of compact crossover utility vehicles that are selling like hotcakes in this year of cheap gasoline. The interior quality is on a par with its price, which starts right around $20,000. The interior is space-efficient and comfortable, but budget materials hurt the overall perception of quality—despite new upholstery fabrics swapped in this year.

While soft-touch surfaces are relatively standard equipment even in smaller and less-expensive vehicles these days, they're limited on the Outlander Sport to the padded dash cover and a few other areas. Otherwise, the materials are more budget-sedan than family SUV. As for the sporty red gauge illumination, you'll either love it or hate it—though we like a number of the subtle accent-lighting touches, such as the lit rim around the large optional moonroof.

Inside the car, the Outlander Sport appears larger than it is. It feels almost the same size as more mainstream compact crossover SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, but it's really half a size smaller. It scores high for practicality, though, with a nice, low cargo floor and easy-folding rear seat backs (split 60/40) that combine to provide impressive cargo space and versatility considering the size. A pass-through in the rear seat can accommodate multiple sets of skis (or a few shorter 2-by-4s).

The front seats are snug but supportive, and two adults—or three kids—can fit into the rear seat, which has a nicely contoured back rest, dual cupholders, and a fold-down padded armrest. Shorter moms or aging drivers will find the seat height just perfect; it's higher than a sedan, but lower than larger SUVs that require a deliberate step up from the ground. Getting in is as simple as sitting down, and parents can load children easily as well.

But the Outlander Sport is let down by its noisy and unrefined powertrains. While Mitsubishi added more noise insulation last year, other makers aren't sitting still either, and the smaller Outlander remains one of the noisier vehicles in its class. We hope to revisit this model soon and report back on the level of improvement, but our previous experiences showed far too much noise and harshness—especially while passing or on long mountain grades.

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2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Safety

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport gets good, if not perfect, marks for safety.

While it's one of the more affordable small utility vehicles, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport still offers good safety ratings and equipment.

The IIHS gave the Outlander Sport the highest "Good" rating on all tests except for the tough small-overlap front crash test, where it earned an "Acceptable" rating, one notch lower than the top rating. For a car launched as a 2011 model, that's a good score, considering that some newer models were caught short and rated poorly on that test until they were structurally redesigned.

The NHTSA isn't quite as complimentary about the Outlander Sport, giving it a four-star overall rating and four-star results for frontal impact and rollover, along with five stars for side impact. But the small SUV has all the features you'd expect in a vehicle that works for small families; a front knee airbag is included as well as the standard front, side, and side-curtain bags found on virtually every vehicle these days.

Considering its relatively thick rear roof pillar, the high seating position in the Outlander Sport offers pretty good outward visibility. A backup camera is included in the mid-level SE trim and above, although not on the base ES. Hill-start assist is standard as well, but active-safety systems like lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control are not offered—even as they begin to filter into the latest competitors in the segment.

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2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Features

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport offers a lot of value for the money, measured in features and options.

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has a relatively simple set of trim levels: the base ES, the mid-level SE, the upper-end SEL, and the sporty GT. Both the 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter engines are available in ES trim, with all-wheel drive as an option on CVT-equipped models. The 5-speed manual gearbox is only offered with the smaller engine and front-wheel drive; that's the entry-level version.

All versions of the Outlander Sport come with Bluetooth, heated mirrors, steering-wheel audio controls, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a 140-watt sound system. New this year are an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a redesigned steering wheel, as well as the addition of a grey interior option.

The SE version adds fog lights, heated front driver and passenger seats, automatic climate control, illuminated vanity mirrors in both visors, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display to replace the standard audio head unit, six speakers rather than four, satellite and HD radio, a rearview camera, and keyless entry.

On top of that, the Outlander Sport SEL adds automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, an eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, black leather upholstery, aluminum pedals, and silver and glossy-black interior trim.

Finally, the GT includes high-intensity discharge headlamps, a panoramic glass roof, a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate premium sound system with nine speakers, and an optional factory-installed navigation system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen and real-time traffic data. (The same navigation option for all other models is installed at the port.)

Option packages at various trim levels include LED running lights, protective side moldings, parking-assist sensors, all-weather (floormats and remote engine starting), LED interior lighting, and a variety of individual trim items.

The Outlander Sport is one of the value entries in the burgeoning compact crossover segment, with a base price right around $20,000 and a fully loaded version available in the upper-$20,000 range. If you can overlook its economy-class accommodations and lack of refinement, you'll find that features are generous and cost many thousand dollars less than the highest-end models of competing small SUVs. For safety-minded buyers, however, it's worth noting that competitors now offer an increasing array of active-safety systems not found on the Outlander Sport, among other features.

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2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport can be fuel-efficient in town, but on the highway, it's thirstier than most.

With some compact crossovers now approaching combined ratings of 30 mpg, the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is falling behind in its fuel efficiency. Its highest-rated model, with front-wheel drive, the 2.0-liter engine, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT), comes in at 24 mpg city, 31 highway, 27 combined.

The range encompasses two engine sizes (2.0 and 2.4 liters), two transmissions (the CVT and a 5-speed manual), and two drive systems (front- and all-wheel drive). Combined EPA ratings for the range run from 24 to 28 mpg, but the Outlander Sport is noticeably low on highway ratings, with all but one model at or below 30 mpg highway.

Ratings for all-wheel-drive models, which come only with the CVT, are 23/29/26 with the smaller engine, and a subpar 22/27/24 mpg with the 2.4-liter four.

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January 28, 2017
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport AWC 4-Door CVT 2.4 SE

Love it No complants 12,00 miles on it

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Great 4-wheel drive just push the button when u need it
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September 6, 2016
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2WD 4-Door CVT 2.4 ES

Amazing vehicle!

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Almost missed out on this deal due to the EXPERT reviews. Awesome styling leading in its class !Great interior room. Nimble ,peppy,strong gas sipper .
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August 29, 2016
2016 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 2WD 4-Door Manual 2.0 ES

Great Car, Could Not Be Happier

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I have had my 2016 Outlander sport ES going on two months now and I love it. It is not the fancy model but I do not need the fancier on. I am 70 yrs old and I am the only person who rides it in... I just took... + More »
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