I have one of those love-hate relationships with the Mitsubishi Outlander. The first-generation, from 2001 through 2008, wasn’t all that impressive and there was never anything about it that caught my interest. Then, in 2011 I reviewed the newly redesigned, second-gen Outlander and really loved the direction they were going. The vehicle still had its issues – including interior quality – but they were making a vehicle that was engaging to look at and fun to drive. Then came the 3rd- gen, with a move away from the fun and toward being more efficient. Don’t get me wrong, I like my vehicles to be as efficient as possible, but the one thing that made Mitsu’s earlier crossover stand out from the crowd was just lost.
Well, Mitsubishi has been making incremental improvements since launching the third-generation back in 2012, and after driving the 2016 GT model I could see that Mitsubishi was trying to be more engaging with both design and driving once again. Now it’s 2017 and we’re driving the new (but not really new – Ed.) Outlander Sport, so let’s see if this vehicle is worth falling in love with once again.
Taking a look at the exterior design you can tell that Mitsubishi is trying. You have a stylized front grille with chrome accents along the sides. The blacked out front bumper cover gives the illusion that you have one continuous and large grille up front, and it looks pretty good. The profile of this SUV is almost small hatchback-like. It looks squat and sporty, with some pretty good wheel design options. Overall, I think they’ve managed to make a good looking vehicle, although I still think it could be made even more sporty, giving a renewed edge to Mitsubishi in a segment with some great looking vehicles.
One of the areas that Mitsubishi has been growing in leaps and bounds is in their interiors. While the interior was one of the worst things about the 2011 model, it’s one of the party pieces of the 2017. Again, this isn’t an interior that’s going to blow you away when comparing it to the competition, but it shows great improvement on the part of Mitsubishi to deliver a quality impression. The leather seats in our tester were nice and comfortable. The driving position and everything you touched while driving felt ‘quality’. The infotainment system was very basic, but worked…once I was able to connect via BlueTooth I had no other issues. One of my favorite features in every Mitsubishi I’ve driven in the past seven or so years are the paddle shifters. These things are large and made of metal, so they feel great in the hands and beg you to use them. You often won’t use them in this vehicle, though.
Under the hood, we had a 2.4-liter engine matched up with a CVT pushing 168-horsepower. You can also get a lower trim level vehicle with a 2.0-liter engine with a CVT or 5-speed manual. This 2.0 pushes 148-hp and 145-lbs-ft of torque; the manual only comes with the 2.0 engine.
Despite the lack of power and having one of my most despised substitutions for an automatic (the CVT), this Outlander Sport was pretty decent to drive. You could tell they took some time to tune everything, so you get a bunch of power at the low end to give you that feeling of taking off quickly. But if you leave the hammer down, like when merging onto a freeway, the CVT whines and the engine roars, but it doesn’t…really…go… anywhere very quickly. ‘Sport’ becomes such a misnomer.
For around-town driving or even on the highway at highway speeds, this Mitsu was just fine, and was much better than versions I’ve driven in the past few years. If looking for a really good and affordable small crossover, is the Mitsubishi the way to go? Well, that’s the question I guess I should be answering for you.
With a starting MSRP of $19,795 (again, that’s a 2.0-liter engine and 5-speed manual) and a decked-out price of just under $29k I would say shop around. I really enjoyed my week with the Outlander Sport, and it’s improved a lot in the past few years. But if it came down to me buying a compact crossover I’d be looking at crossovers like the Hyundai Tucson or the Ford Escape long before jumping in a Mitsubishi. I still haven’t fallen in love…and ‘like’ isn’t the foundation for a long-term relationship.
If you liked our video at the top, head over to YouTube and show us some love there! – Adam Moore