The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport’s compact dimensions, short overhangs, and sloped liftgate all make it look fun and sporty. It also has a pretty decent ride-and-handling mix, which is comfortable over rough pavement and still reasonably responsive in turns.
Unfortunately, the car is let down by a subpar powertrain. The continuously variable transmission seems determined to keep the 2.0-liter engine out of its power band, making the Outlander Sport feel lethargic at all times. The engine sounds labored and never pulls strongly unless you’re at full throttle; the feeling is akin to driving a manual-transmission car in too high a gear.
Our tester had strips of yellow LEDs to illuminate the panoramic sunroof, which is a silly idea because you’re rarely looking directly at your car’s roof. I would rather Mitsubishi have used those LEDs to provide some ambient lighting, as the dour black-plastic interior is incredibly dark at night.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
To my mind, the only vehicle worth checking out at a Mitsubishi dealership is the Lancer Evolution. All Mitsubishi cars are loud, relatively unrefined, and suffer with interiors that are clearly built to a certain price point. None of those problems matter one bit when you’re talking about a 300-hp car with an awesome all-wheel-drive system and great support in the aftermarket.
Mitsubishi does offer a few nice items in this $28,155 Outlander Sport, namely the HID headlights, the Rockford Fosgate sound system, and the massive sunroof. I would highly recommend that those in the market for a Mitsubishi skip the navigation system as the touchscreen interface leaves a lot to be desired in terms of stereo operation and overall usability. I didn’t particularly care for the LED lighting along the glass roof because it was distracting at night, but that’s a personal preference.
The few nice features I mentioned don’t make up for the overall feeling of cheapness in the Outlander Sport. The doors feel and sound tinny, the interior isn’t nearly as welcoming as what you’ll find in a Kia Sportage, and the combination of a 2.0-liter I-4 and CVT means you get loud, yet sluggish acceleration at all times. That might be forgivable if the car was inexpensive but it’s not. Unfortunately for Mitsubishi, $28,155 isn’t cheap for a small crossover and there are lots of more substantial products available for less money in this class.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
There’s a point on my commute home where the freeway opens up and a third lane appears and the speed of traffic jumps by 10 mph as if the city is releasing a magnetic grip on all the cars. I normally bomb down the center lane as traffic splits for the interchanges to the right and left, but on this particular day, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport sidelined me in the right lane as its hopeless engine struggled to build speed up the decent grade. Our long-term Kia Sportage is similarly wanting in 50-80-mph acceleration, but the Outlander Sport feels gutless everywhere in the rev range.
The truth is that Mitsubishi’s compact crossover sits at the bottom of the segment. The Kia Sportage offers more style inside and out. The Mazda CX-5 delivers better ride quality and superior handling. The Chevrolet Equinox offers a much larger interior with similar fuel economy. The Mini Countryman packs delightful steering with lively engines. The takeaway is that if you’ve fallen in love with one particular feature on an Outlander Sport, consider looking elsewhere because another automaker probably does it just as well without the sluggish engine and cheap interior.
Eric Tingwall, Senior Editor
The somber cabin has little to distinguish itself, save for the magnesium shift paddles that look good and feel good to your fingertips. Not that you’ll want to play around with the powertrain much, because exercising this engine produces a lot of unpleasant mooing and groaning. As my colleagues have stated, there are few compelling reasons to buy this over so many newer, more worthwhile competitors like the Mazda CX-5, the Kia Sportage, and the Honda CR-V.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
I was going to start here with a few arguments in favor for the little Outlander Sport – notably its steering and body control – but these absolutely pale once you take into account the $28,000-and-change figure affixed to the window sticker. I just spent a couple days in a 2012 Honda CR-V EX-L that, if you avoid the navigation system, rings in at a similar price, yet offers far more passenger and cargo volume, a more refined interior, far better acceleration, and – of all things – better fuel economy. There are even more sophisticated competitors lurking around the bend; I fear just how more outclassed the little Outlander Sport will seem once they arrive on the market.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE AWC
MSRP (with destination): $24,105
PRICE AS TESTED: $28,155
2.0-liter DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 148 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 145 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
18-inch aluminum wheels
225/55HR-18 Goodyear Eagle LS tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo (rear seats up/down): 20.1/48.8 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 41.6/36.3 in
Headroom (front/rear): 38.9/36.8 in
Automatic HID headlights
Automatic climate control
Heated front seats and side mirrors
Rear seat armrest w/pass-through
Power windows and locks
60/40 split folding rear seat
Telescopic steering column
Hill start assist
Drive mode-selector (2WD/4WD/Lock)
Fuse hands-free system w/USB port
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Premium package- $2050
Panoramic glass roof w/LED illumination
Black roof rails
Rockford Fosgate premium audio system w/subwoofer
SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month subscription
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Navigation w/rearview camera- $2000
40GB HDD navigation w/music server and real-time traffic
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Exterior Sport package- $995
Protection package- $405
Interior package- $285
For 2012, production of the Outlander Sport has moved from Japan to Mitsubishi’s U.S. plant in Normal, Illinois.