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2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Review

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Review
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is old, crude, slow, and far from fuel-efficient, though it is cheap; buyers can likely do better.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport compact SUV is now in its eighth year on the market, and it shows. While the price starts at roughly $21,000, it’s not only smaller than more recent compact crossovers but also slower, less attractive, and fitted with far fewer safety features. It is offered in three trim levels: base ES, mid-level SE, and top-end SEL.

Overall, the 2018 Outlander Sport is rated at 4.5 out of 10 points  That’s lower than not only newer compact SUVs but also subcompact models from Chevrolet, Honda, and Jeep that start at prices closer to the littlest Mitsubishi. These days, even its fuel economy falls short of the best competitors.

The Outlander Sport’s main selling point is value for money; a fully loaded version with features like leather seats, navigation, and a moonroof may not even hit $30,000, which will only get you a lower-line model of many other small crossovers. The tradeoff for that value, however, is an aging and noisy vehicle with an economy-car interior and only average fuel efficiency.

Styling
The most visually appealing part of the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is probably the bottom line on the window sticker.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is now an old shape, first launched for the 2011 model year. It received a new grille and front-end design last year, along with a handful of tweaks to the rest of the car, but it’s still behind the curve. Deducting a point for an awkward exterior and another for a grim economy-car interior brings its score down to 3 points out of a possible 10. 

The little Outlander’s shape seems undecided; it has elements of a tall wagon, hatchback, and utility vehicle, and they don’t necessarily mesh well. A rising character line stretches from the front wheel arch to the back of the rear door, but it doesn’t tie the car together. From some angles it’s bulbous and awkward, from others it’s close to sporty. We noted that the standard 18-inch wheels reduce those effects somewhat, though.

The new front end makes the grille and lower air intake visually wider, using body-colored panels on the bumper to divide those two areas. A new grille has been added to top trim levels, but it’s hardly noticeable. The headlights, which sweep back from the tops of the fenders, include LED running lights. The front also includes round fog lights, a mock skid-plate treatment, and a variety of chrome outlines of different widths. That’s a lot, and it comes across as busy, if more modern than the 2011 original.

The interior relegates the Outlander Sport to the bottom of the list. It’s grim, black, uninteresting, and reminiscent of cars from 15 years ago. The dash has few elements to break up long expanses of flat black plastic, despite bits of brightwork here and there, and the knobs and switches feel distinctly budget in operation. Mitsubishi points out that it redesigned the floor console this year. We still haven’t driven a base ES model with the upgraded cloth seats provided last year.

Performance
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is slower than competitors and noisy to boot, though handling is decent.

With fuel-economy requirements continuing to rise, vehicles aren’t getting any faster—and have even sacrificed some performance on the altar of efficiency. While performance takes a back seat to capacity in crossovers, the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander is neither fast nor fuel-efficient. We rate it at just 3 out of 10 points for performance, deducting a point apiece for very slow acceleration and a below-average automatic transmission.
Two engines, two transmissions, and two drive systems are available in various combinations in the Outlander Sport. The standard engine is a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter inline-4 producing 145 pound-feet of torque. The base model comes with a 5-speed manual gearbox, while all other versions have a continuously variable transmission (CVT) the company calls Sportronic—though it’s hardly sporty and far from rewarding to drive. All-wheel drive is available only with the CVT.

We simply can’t recommend the base engine; it’s agonizingly slow both accelerating from a stop and in passing maneuvers at highway speed. That’s not to mention the remarkable noise it generates while doing any of those things.

The optional 2.4-liter inline-4 comes only with the CVT, with front-wheel drive again standard and all-wheel drive optional. Its power is higher, at 168 hp, as is its torque, at 168 lb-ft. This brings the Outlander Sport up to more or less acceptable performance, and the fuel-economy penalty isn’t huge because the little SUV’s range of combined ratings spans only 24 to 27 mpg. More modern subcompact crossovers like the Honda HR-V earn ratings of 30 mpg combined or better.

If there’s a bright spot behind the wheel in the Outlander Sport, it’s the handling and roadholding. The body is well controlled, there’s relatively little body roll, and the electric power steering offers the driver good feel.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport has decent room inside, but cheap materials and a noisy cabin let it down.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a mixed bag in the comfort and quality sweepstakes: it’s space-efficient, comfortable, and practical for hauling cargo. We rate it at 5 out of 10 points, exactly average, as the various pros and cons roughly cancel each other out.

The Outlander Sport’s interior appears larger than it is, and the car sits between today’s subcompact and compact crossovers in size. That’s a function of its age; because it’s now 8 years old, it hasn’t been updated with the same bracket creep that has boosted the footprint and interior volume of vehicles in every segment. That means while the Outlander Sport may appear the same size as a Ford Escape or Toyota RAV4, in reality it’s half a size smaller, closer to the Subaru Crosstrek or perhaps the Kia Sportage.

The front and rear seats aren’t particularly comfortable, with flat cushions and a budget-sedan feel. Head room and leg room is adequate if not abundant, and the seats are at exactly the right height to open the door and swing right in, neither too low nor too high. A low load floor in the cargo bay makes loading easy, too, along with a passthrough in the rear seat back to allow skis or some building supplies to be carried without folding down the seat entirely.
It’s the budget materials that let down the Outlander Sport. Only the dash pad and a sparse handful of other areas have soft-touch surfaces; everything else is hard black, textured plastic. Mitsubishi said last year it had improved some of these, including nicer fabric on the base ES seats, but we still haven’t gotten our hands on an updated model to confirm the company’s claims.

The other drawback is noise: both powertrains are too noisy, and the smaller engine in particular produces much sound and fury, signifying nothing much in terms of actual acceleration. With every small vehicle having made substantial strides in suppressing noise, vibration, and harshness in recent years, the littler Outlander is now woefully behind the time.

Safety
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport’s safety ratings aren’t particularly good, and it has only minimal active-safety features as options.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport gets mostly “Good” ratings from the IIHS, but only an “Acceptable” on the small-overlap front-crash test. Its headlights are rated “Poor” in the institute’s new effectiveness tests. The NHTSA rates it at four stars overall, with four-star ratings on all tests except for side impact, where it earns five.

We rate the Outlander Sport at a mere 4 out of 10, deducting a point for the four-star overall rating.

At least a rearview camera is standard for 2018, and forward-collision alert with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and automatic high beams are offered on top trims in a pricey optional package. The more advanced active-safety features that are now rapidly appearing in dozens of smaller vehicles, including adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors, are not offered at all.

But the NHTSA ratings are below virtually every other small crossover now, in a market in which safety is a hugely important selling point. If there’s a bright spot, it’s the small Outlander’s outward visibility, despite rear roof pillars that are relatively thick. But that’s not enough to redeem one of the lower-scoring small SUVs on our safety scale.

Features
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport offers substantial value for money, one of the few areas where it excels.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a clear value-for-money entry in the small-crossover segment, starting at just over $21,000 including delivery. And features are the one area in which it gets a better-than-average score of 7 out of 10 points. We added extra points for general value for money and a longer-than-average comprehensive warranty.

Trim levels are the base ES, mid-level SE, and top-end SEL. The base ES version is the only one with the anemic 2.0-liter engine; all others get the more powerful 2.4-liter powerplant.

All models come with 18-inch wheels, automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and a four-speaker audio system. The warranty on all models is comprehensive, lasting five years or 60,000 miles, higher than those of many competitors.

Step up to the SE model with the 2.4-liter engine and standard CVT, and you’ll add a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, upgraded audio system, heated front seats, keyless ignition, and fog lights. The top SEL model adds leather seats with power adjustment for the driver’s seat, automatic headlights, paddle shifters for its CVT, rain-sensing wipers, and various chrome accents on the bodywork. A newly available Touring Package for SEL models adds advanced safety features, panoramic sunroof, and an upgraded stereo.

Interestingly, interior lighting and navigation are offered as options across every trim level, an unusual practice among carmakers who generally limit high-end options to high-end models.

While the features are relatively generous, other SUVs offer much of the same content, just at higher prices. Still, a fully loaded Outlander Sport approaches $30,000, a level at which much better small SUVs abound—although in their lower-end trims. Overall, you’ll get more features for less money in the Outlander Sport. The price you pay is a lack of refinement and an economy-car interior.

Fuel Economy
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is rated at 24 to 27 mpg combined, on par with some competitors, but lower than others.

The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport offers five different powertrain and drive configurations, whose combined EPA ratings range from 24 mpg to 27 mpg. That gives it a score of 6 out of 10 on our scale. 

The most efficient version is the smaller 2.0-liter inline-4 with a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, rated at 24 mpg city, 30 highway, 27 combined.

Adding all-wheel drive to that combination knocks 1 mpg off the combined number at 23/29/26 mpg. The entry-level base model comes next, with the 2.0-liter 4-cylinder but a 5-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, at 23/29/25 mpg.

The larger and more powerful 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine comes only with a 6-speed automatic. It’s rated at 23/28/25 mpg with only the front wheels driven, and 22/27/24 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Those ratings are in line with competitors like the Jeep Compass and Kia Sportage, but the Honda HR-V can deliver more than 30 mpg combined, significantly higher. In an age of cheap gasoline, of course, that may not matter much

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