Mitsubishi's Outlander Sport crossover would be an A-OK vehicle to have in your possession for a few days. It's got plenty of room for five passengers and luggage, it's easy to drive, its styling is nice and it has an awesome panoramic roof window. But for all its plusses, there are a greater number of drawbacks that would make the Outlander Sport, overall, a bummer to own.
It pains me to say that, because I want Mitsubishi to do well in North America (even though it's a huge corporation that doesn't need to sell cars to thrive). Since the '80s, it has brought us awesome sports cars like the Starion, the Lancer Evo and the Eclipse, and sturdy SUVs like the Montero. Before that, more Americans may have associated the company with the very capable war planes it built during World War II.
But after attending Mitsubishi's press conference for the new full-size Outlander at the New York Auto Show last month, it seemed that the company's days here were numbered. The words of the guy on stage sounded hollow and full of inflated confidence. The SUV parked behind him was just fine, but it was also just like a lot of other similar vehicles, only with a Mitsubishi nose on it.
The Outlander Sport, the Outlander's younger sibling, is no different. The Mitsubishi nose is a nice one, to be sure, but driving the crossover was disappointing.
First off, I didn't think it had enough power. For me to say that, it must be inadequate, because I'm not one who goes for NHRA-prepped daily drivers. I'm not sure if it was the CVT or the "Eco" mode that sapped the engine's scant power, but my right foot was perpetually buried to keep the thing up to speed on the highway. When I looked at the engine specs, I saw that its 148 horsepower doesn't come until 6000 rpm. I'm pretty sure that, even with the pedal pressed to the floorboard, the engine never spun that fast while I was driving it.
In my search for more horsepower, I tried turning off the Eco mode, but couldn't figure out how. So I consulted the owner's manual. Nothing. I had my wife leaf through it, because she's better at finding things. Even she came up short, even after searching a number of online forums for the answer. The forum commenters didn't know either, which led me to believe that Mitsubishi may have included that light as either decoration or as some kind of joke. It certainly didn't help fuel economy, as the best I got after hours of highway travel was about 25 miles per gallon.
The panoramic window was awesome. But–and there's the but again–when the sun was shining, it got hot inside the car and I had to close the shade. You see, this window doesn't open, not even moonroof-style to vent heat from the sun's trapped rays. At night, it was great, though. Mitsubishi added a row of LED lights along each of the window's long edges that gave the car's interior a Vegas cocktail lounge/dance club feel, with the shade open or closed.
The sound system was also a boon to the Outlander Sport's mostly subpar performance. It didn't matter what kind of music was playing: rock, hip hop, classical – it all sounded fantastic. A subwoofer in the back made me realize why Mitsubishi included the swanky roof lights; thumping bass on some salsa tunes had my mother-in-law dancing in the back seat like she was in a club. But she complained that there were no cupholders back there. And I was only able to play the music after fiddling with the infotainment settings for a while, giving up, then finding a Latin station on the radio. The Bluetooth didn't work, even after a lot of research to find out why. When I connected my iPhone via USB, the car's stereo took command of it half the time, putting my music player into an infuriating hiccup loop that made it impossible to stop or change the repeating two-second song blip without unplugging the phone and starting from scratch. Great sound system or no, it's no good if you can't use it.
The seating position in the Outlander Sport was good, but for some reason, I couldn't get comfortable. There were plenty of electric adjustments, but the seats just weren't quite right themselves. I thought maybe it was me, but I drove a Mazda6 before and a Nissan Juke after, and both of those cars were nearly perfect in terms of driver comfort.
The Outlander Sport's ride was comfortable both in the city and on the highway, and the extra ground clearance afforded by its crossover stature was perfect for New York City's offroadish "roads." But the car wiggled a lot when it hit bumps at highway speeds, a characteristic that might be unsettling, and perhaps dangerous, to one of America's many unskilled drivers. At the very least, the car gets a good safety rating and comes with a spare tire. That's two gold stars–one large and one very tiny–on its otherwise unremarkable report card.
In a market flooded with small crossovers, this one doesn't make a strong case to be anyone's top choice. And although I can't recommend it to anyone in the market to buy a new car for their own household fleet (if you want a staid, capable crossover, a Honda CR-V is a better bet), the Outlander Sport is definitely a lot better than most of the crossovers parked in the rental lot at the airport.
By the numbers: 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
MSRP: $29,945 (as tested, includes $850 destination charge)
Power and drive wheels: 2.0-liter, 148-hp 4-cylinder engine, front-wheel drive with selectable all-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission or continuously variable automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy: 24/30 city/highway mpg
Safety: IIHS Top Safety Pick
In showrooms: Now