Mitsubishi recently announced that it’s refocusing its limited resources on its SUV lineup, but although we now know how Mitsubishi plans to stay alive in the competitive industry, we will have to wait a few years to see these new models. For now Mitsubishi offers the Outlander Sport and Outlander models. While the larger Outlander just received a through redo with a long list of updates, the smaller Outlander has remain largely unchanged the last few years (note a refreshed Outlander Sport is coming for 2016). While I haven’t had a chance to drive the updated Outlander Sport, Mitsubishi did give me a week with the 2015 model. How did it do? Let’s just say that I walked away feeling a bit sad about Mitsubishi’s small SUV.
I last reviewed the Outlander Sport three years ago and at the time it wasn’t a bad SUV, I liked its size and it felt nimble and somewhat zippy on the streets of NYC. Unfortunately not much has changed since then and to make things worse the Outlander Sport is now competing in a segment that is now one of the hottest ever with new introductions, like the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade. Thanks to those new entries, the Outlander Sport now feels old and in need of a complete revamp. Its Lancer like styling fared well when it was introduced, but now it looks dated and unadventurous. The 2016 Outlander Sport does get a small facelift compared to my 2015 example, but the updates basically center around its new “Dynamic Shield” face and the jury is still out of it’s an improvement.
The Outlander Sport is offered with two engines, a 2.0L four-cylinder with 148-hp and 145 lb-ft. of torque or a 2.4L four-cylinder with 168-hp and 167 lb-ft. The 2.0L can be mated to either a 5-speed manual or CVT, while the 2.4L is only available with the CVT. All-wheel-drive is also available with either engine, but it can only be equipped with the CVT. If you’re wondering how fuel efficient the Outlander Sport is, the base engine with FWD is rated at 32 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in the city with the CVT, if you choose the manual, the specs drop a bit to 30 mpg and 24 mpg, respectively. The more powerful 2.4L with FWD is rated at 23/28 mpg and with AWD it’s rated at 23/26. Those numbers aren’t that great if you consider the fact that the Honda HR-V gets up to 35 mpg on the highway with the FWD model and that number only dips to 32 mpg if you choose AWD.
How does it drive? I could easily forgive the dated styling if the Outlander Sport drove well, but sadly that’s not the case. My tester was the SE with the base 2.0L engine, the CVT and AWD. 148 horsepower may seem adequate in a small SUV, but it barely works here. Acceleration is definitely not part of the equation, well at least with the base engine. Accelerating onto a freeway is downright scary for two reasons: 1. The engine’s lack of power means that it takes forever to even get up to speed. 2. The combination of the loud engine and CVT at full throttle is so loud that it easily drowns out the radio. Also throw in the lack of steering feel and the floaty suspension and you have a small SUV that is not really fun to drive at all.
Maybe it’s interior will make up for it? Not quite, my SE model’s interior was drab and covered in cheap feeling black plastic. The navigation system feels like it’s from 2008 and even the 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate audio system left me with a bad taste. There was only one thing that I liked about the interior, its panoramic glass roof, it felt very Range Rover Evoque-esque. The interior is also spacious for the Outlander Sport’s size.
With a base price just under $20k, the Outlander Sport does represent a good value if you’re looking for a small SUV. Well that’s if you don’t mind its lack of refinement and drab feeling interior. With a refreshed 2016 Outlander Sport on the way, let’s hope that some of the small SUV’s issues have been addressed.