SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: I have to admit, I can go for long stretches where I never once think ofMitsubishi Motors, and when I do, it may take me a second to not confuse it with Suzuki, which doesn’t even exist anymore (at least as a maker of vehicles that find their way Stateside). Were an occasion to arise where someone dropped the word “Mitsubishi” into casual conversation, I might even picture a television set before I think of something with four wheels, which is doubly odd given 1.) I’m not sure Mitsu even MAKES televisions anymore; and 2.) I’ve been writing about cars for nigh on 19 years now, so EVERYTHING reminds me of something on four wheels.
That said, this little 2014 Outlander Sport SE surprised me, and not in a bad way. Just looking over the brief specs, you wouldn’t be faulted for guessing this little ute tends towards the, ahem, not-so-fast side of the automotive spectrum, given its whopping 148 hp and CVT. It definitely is not in a hurry to get anywhere very quickly. Still, it’s a comfortable vehicle, and I found the simplicity of the interior design and layout so refreshing. Some of the materials could be of better quality, but practically speaking, I couldn’t fault it for much. Installing my rear-facing car seat in the back was a cinch; the flat seat bottoms were a great help to that end. It rides and handles decently enough, but where all of this came together to form an acceptable proposition to me was the sticker. I feel like the Outlander Sport SE offers a rare value at under $25,000 (under $20K for base models). Throw in a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, a top safety rating and styling that doesn’t scream “I settled!” and it might be worth a look for those shopping the compact ute segment.
The "new car smell" inside the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE is a little overwhelming.PHOTO BY MITSUBISHI
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: You could own one of these for years and completely forget about it every time you parked it and walked away.
“Say Fred, what kind of crossover is that down in your parking space?”
“Why Dave it’s uh, it’s a, uh, golly, I have no idea. A Lancer, maybe?”
The Outlander Sport is utilitarian, competent and entirely unexciting. It is a little over 1 foot shorter and a little under one word longer than the Outlander. It has only two rows of seating while the bigger Outlander offers three rows. And that continuously variable transmission, even though it’s new in the 2014 model and has pretend little “gears,” not to mention laughable paddle shifters like it was some kind of Formula Uno performer, that CVT saps whatever hope this rig had of ever making memories. The 148-hp 2.0-liter I4 does the job, but you never realize it’s doing it. Zero-to-60 mph takes a little less than 10 seconds with our CVT, which is the crossover utility equivalent of same-day service.
This is not to say I was disappointed with my time in the Outlander Sport. Apart from the CVT, of which I hate all, the Outlander Sport never failed to go where I wanted it to go. The rear cargo area held cargo. The seats held people. At least that’s what I seem to recall. Like I said, the whole thing was a pretty forgettable experience.
If I was going to get one of these, I’d save some money and increase the fun by ordering the base ES with the five-speed manual. And while I wouldn’t mind owning one at all, if I was really looking in this category, I’d probably buy a Mazda CX-5,Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. Heck, I’d probably even buy a Nissan Juke and wear a bag over my head.
But sales are on the rise! Mitsubishi sold 15,322 last year, an increase of 23 percent over 2012. It says a lot about Mitsubishi that the Outlander Sport is its No. 1 seller. With the Evolution going away and the Endeavor, Galant and Eclipse all long gone, the Outlander and Outlander Sport (and oh yeah, the iMiEV) are the only things Mitsubishi has to tide it over until a promised product renaissance comes to fruition. That renaissance will include new Galant and Lancer-sized sedans sourced from Renault and a replacement for the iMiEV sourced from Nissan. There’s even supposed to be a U.S. version of the Delica van. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids will populate the range, with the PHEV Outlander Sport coming first next year. So while the vehicle in question might not be a particularly inspiring entry in its largely uninspiring segment, don’t write off Mitsubishi just yet.
Let’s wait and see what the next couple years bring forth.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE receives an EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined fuel economy.PHOTO BY MITSUBISHI
ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: We usually get used to the “new car smell” and after a while with a new car it all fades from our senses. But I couldn’t ignore the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, a car that smells much like the shoe department of a Sports Authority: an overwhelming whiff of gymnasium rubber that never disappears into the background, but always lingers right at the tip of the nose. Who knows how many miles it’ll take to dissipate. But potential new car buyers will notice, and comment on it, and they’ll pretend that they’re not in a modest compact crossover of basic functionality, but actually in a middle-school locker room after the cloud of Axe body spray evaporates.
Get over the smell, and the Outlander Sport is a fine vehicle for around town. The turning radius, for one, is incredible. Get lost in the city and you can whip around confusedly like my father navigating the two-lanes of Utah, during a notable road trip of youth, the day he got two speeding tickets in a row. Acceleration is, in a word, slow. Cram four people in it and take to the highway, as I did, and you’ll spend an eternity pushing the throttle down and hearing the CVT drone like a hair dryer pressed against an Italian leather sofa. Once you get up to speed, eventually, it’s pretty adept at distance cruising: it’s relatively quiet and rides well, with good headroom all around -- but, again, strangeness abounds: the hatch area hardly looks bigger than the Mirage’s.
The Outlander Sport came with a Rockford Fosgate audio system that on factory settings pumps up so much bass you can hear your grandmother complaining from three states away. Fortunately, the radio offers so many settings, equalizers, and modes that you can tune it into something vaguely resembling surround-sound, which I did. The result sounded pretty good -- probably because I had to turn the bass all the way down.
And yet…the USB input couldn’t read a modern Apple iPhone.
The Outlander Sport has been with us for four years, and it -- like the rest of Mitsubishi’s lineup -- already feels dated. But despite the lack of pizzazz, there’s one very, very compelling reason for getting one: it starts at $19,470. What’s more: a friend of mine, who shoots competitively, needed something large to carry his rifles and shotguns. Turns out, he can lease an Outlander Sport for the fire sale price of $117 a month. The money you save can be better spent towards air fresheners.
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