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2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE 2WD Review By Carey Russ

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2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport


2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE 2WD

The highest-profile product of Mitsubishi Motors may be the high-performance Lancer Evo rally replica, but the sales crown belongs to the Outlander Sport compact crossover. No surprise, as the Outlander Sport fits the needs of many people on size, price, and efficiency.

Introduced for 2010, the Outlander Sport -- not to be confused with the larger Outlander -- gets a freshening for 2013. Nothing unusual there, most manufacturers make minor styling changes and updates to take advantage of new entertainment or safety technology a few years into the product life cycle. Mitsubishi has done both. But more unusually, the 2013 Outlander Sport gets a new home - since July, 2012, all, even for foreign markets, have been made at Mitsubishi's American assembly plant in Normal, IL.

Offered in ES and SE trim levels in front- or all-wheel drive form with power from a 2.0-liter, 148-horsepower four-cylinder engine. A front-wheel drive ES can be had with a five-speed manual transmission. It can also be outfitted with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT), which is the only choice for all other versions.

Equipment levels are high, with micron filtration air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, mirrors, and door locks, LED taillights, leather wrap on the steering wheel rim and shift knob, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with the FUSE Handsfree Link System for voice control of an iPodĀ® and cell phone among the comfort and convenience amenities standard in the ES. A full suite of safety-oriented construction and technology is also found even in the "base" model.

Upgrading to the SE adds features more commonly found in far more expensive vehicles, including HID headlights, pushbutton start/stop with proximity-sensing keyless entry, automatic climate control, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, and an upgraded audio system.

And of course there are option packages; to showcase just how well-equipped an Outlander Sport can be, last week's SE front-wheel drive example was outfitted with the $2,050 Premium Package, with a panoramic glass roof and 710-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system being highlights, and the $2,000 Navigation With Rearview Camera package, self-explanatory, with a 40GB hard disk for nav and music files, plus real-time traffic information. Over $4,000 of options in a vehicle that lists at $22,295 (plus $895 destination charge) is quite a hit, and likely more than most buyers will take. But it does show that Mitsubishi can provide far more than the basic necessities.

Not that there's and real need to add to the basic Outlander Sport. Its convenient size and short overhangs give it great maneuverability and parkability. Interior space is good, especially considering the modest external dimensions, and all of the versatility expected in a small crossover is there. Power is modest but sufficient, with the CVT making for smooth operation with the usual initially-different CVT driving characteristics. Unless you go overboard with the options and accessories, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport provides a good value in the compact crossover class.

And if you like the idea but want even fancier, the Limited Edition (pictured) is slated to arrive in March, celebrating 30 years of Mitsubishi presence in the US.

APPEARANCE: It's not flashy, but the Outlander Sport is a handsome iteration of the basic compact crossover bauplan, neither overly bland nor absurdly aggressive. Which fits the car's character well. The oversize grille is the distinguishing feature. There are minor differences to the shape and trim of the grille and lower front bumper fascia this year. The plastic cladding beneath the front part of the car is less off-road skid plate than aerodynamic underbody air management. It matches the black cladding that surrounds the Outlander Sport's lower perimeter. At the rear, the taillight shape reprises that of the headlights and a single exhaust pipe exits at the lower right. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are standard for all models.

COMFORT: "Cozy but comfortable" works as an interior description. Head- and leg-room are good, width is less so -- but balance that against less exterior width for maneuverability and ease of parking. And the Outlander Sport is a compact, not midsize, crossover. At SE level, it's a bit more than plain but still honest, with a variety of synthetic materials for everything but the steering wheel rim and shift knob, which are leather. The front seats are better than expected for the modest base price, manually-adjustable and with moderate bolstering and heatable cushions. Instruments are brightly-backlit for easy visibility in all light, with a useful information display between the tach and speedometer. The tilt- and telescope-adjustable steering wheel has cruise, auxiliary audio, and (Bluetooth) phone controls, with shift paddles behind the horizontal spokes. With the navigation system come further information systems including calendar and altimeter, accessed through a hard button and touchscreen interface that is simple to use. Climate control (automatic in the SE) is by simple rotary knobs below the touchscreen, not some sub-submenu. Audio choices include AM, FM, and XM radio, CDs in the usual formats, and a USB port. Interior storage is limited to moderate glove and console boxes and front-door pockets with bottle holders. Rear head and leg room are good considering the Outlander Sport's size; width and a moderate central tunnel make it better for two than three people -- as is true of pretty much every car or crossover of this size. Rear passengers do get full benefit of the view out the oversize fixed glass roof if that is fitted -- and the second benefit there is LED dome lighting. A space-saver spare is found under the rear cargo area.

SAFETY: IIHS Mitsubishi is justifiably proud that the Outlander Sport earned a "Top Safety Pick" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Mitsubishi's Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) unibody design and construction, dual front and front side and driver's knee airbags, strong four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), Active Stability Control (ASC), all-speed traction control, Hill-Start Assist (HSA), and a brake over-ride system that will slow the car if both brake and accelerator pedals are pressed at the same time contributed to that.

RIDE AND HANDLING: There really isn't anything "sport"-oriented to the Outlander Sport's chassis tuning, and I suspect that will suit the majority of buyers. The fully-independent MacPherson strut/multilink is tuned for comfort, moderately firm but well-damped. Some body roll is apparent when getting enthusiastic -- this is no Lancer Evo, and at the end of a long day everyone inside will be happy of that. Steering is electrically assisted for benefits to efficiency, and is moderately light with some road feel. Brakes are strong and stop well.

PERFORMANCE: A weight of just over 3100 pounds means that the Outlander Sport's 2.0-liter engine, with maximum 148 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 145 lb-ft of torque (at 4200 rpm) is a good choice for the car's intended purpose. The dual overhead cam engine, with Mitsubishi's MIVEC valve timing and lift control system for a broadened range of power and improved efficiency, is matched to a CVT that has been enhanced a bit for improved acceleration and smoother shifting in manual mode. Manual mode in a transmission with no discrete gear ratios? Most do that, for times when the quickest possible acceleration is desired or needed. Otherwise engine speed stays where it's most efficient, and acceleration may increase with no change in throttle pedal position. The nature of the beastā€¦ EPA fuel economy estimates are 24mpg city, 31 highway. I saw low to mid-20s around town and on country roads, with 25-plus at highway speeds usually much higher than the simulated 50mph of EPA tests.

CONCLUSIONS: The newly-refreshed Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is a worthy competitor in the compact crossover class.

2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE 2WD