Entry Price: $20,395
Price as Tested: $29,110
This week, we’re driving the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, delivered in top level SEL trim with all-wheel-control (AWC). The Outlander Sport is a near identical twin to Mitsubishi’s larger format Outlander, as both versions ride on the exact same wheelbase and utilize identical four cylinder engines/transmissions.
All Outlanders are available in either front or AWC, the big difference being Outlander Sport’s five-passenger body is 14.6 inches shorter and 400 pounds lighter than big brother Outlander, the latter which offers three-row, seven-passenger seating (in a pinch mind you if you are not a dog). Both deliver good fuel mileage, nice looks and roomy interiors.
In the marketplace, it’s been a tough ride for Mitsubishi Motors the last five years. The company went from a dominant name in manufacturing ala fine cars like the ultra-fast twin-turbo Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4 sports car to the performance-bred Lancer Evolution (EVO), which featured one of the first manual-like six-speed “Twin Clutch Sportronic Shift” automatic transmissions.
Mitsubishi also collared the youth market when the “in crowd” choice quickly became the great looking (and equally sporty) Mitsubishi Eclipse/Spyder, with Chrysler Diamond Star co-op versions available at the local Dodge dealer under the name Eagle Talon.
So, combined with outstanding consumer electronics offerings, things were very good.
Sadly, as Mitsubishi went from one of the most dominant niche market car manufacturers from 1989 through 2011, a serious recession found everything that worked so well starting to fall apart. A profitable Chrysler Corporation cooperative also went away while corporate new product decisions stifled new car development.
Not surprisingly, the Mitsubishi showrooms began a major slump while watching their one-time lineup of “many models to choose from” end up with today’s shortlist offerings, which include the little Mirage three-cylinder sub-compact sedan and the Outlander family of SUV offerings. (The compact Lancer was discontinued this year).
However, things are starting to show signs of Mitsubishi emerging from its black hole. Specifically, the highly regarded consumer publication Consumer Reports (CR) just released its “Best & Worst” auto issue (on racks now) where 255 vehicles are rated and reviewed.
The 2018 Outlander big brother not only ended up with an overall positive CR rating for compact SUVs (color green rating), it was one of only seven compact SUVs that had a better than predicted reliability ratings and ended up higher in overall score than Hyundai Tucson SE and Value, GMC Terrain, Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Compass. Its Outlander score was nearly identical to Chevy Equinox, VW Tiguan and Cherokee Limited and only had one less than average checkmark in routine handling. Combined with Mitsubishi’s best-in-class 100,000 mile, 10-year powertrain warranty, this info deserves note as Outlander and Outlander Sport share identical mechanicals.
For 2018, Outlander Sport is available in ES, LE, SE and top line SEL trims. The GT line is dropped for 2018, replaced with a new “Eclipse” compact SUV that is basically an Outlander that’s all dolled up. The entry ES with a 2.0-liter engine and five-speed manual starts at just $20,395 up to the AWC ELS, our tester this week, which starts at $25,895. The new Eclipse model begins at $23,205 and features an eight-speed CVT automatic transmission and a 1.5-liter turbo four cylinder engine (but only 152-horsepower).
Introduced in 2011 and now in its third generation, all Outlander Sports offer low cost alternatives to higher priced competitors. The 2018 Sport receives nice front and rear style tweaks and our tester comes powered by the aforementioned 2.4-liter four-cylinder that generates 168 horsepower. This engine is more responsive than the smaller 148-horse 2.0-liter four as once you load the Outlander with some passengers and cargo, you’ll need the extra ponies. Expect zero to 60 mph in about 8.5 seconds.
The engine mates to a CVT six speed Sportronic automatic with steering wheel paddle shifters, the latter for those seeking more control over the engine RPM and transmission management. All this works in tandem to deliver decent 23 city and 28 highway MPG estimates for the 4x4 Outlanders. If you choose the ES Outlander with the smaller four, front-drive and the manual transmission, expect 23 city and 30 highway. The 4x4 features electronically controlled active front differential with a push-button activation that engages all the wheels. The ride is average to good, overall, but not outstanding.
Outlander SEL standard features include high-density headlamps, rear LED taillights, 18-inch tires on nice two-tone alloys, leather seating, push button start, air, power heated mirrors, cruise, all the powers, heated seats with power front driver seat, aluminum pedals, high contrast instrumentation and a six-speaker 7-inch display high-definition stereo Sirius/XM/USB/HD radio with Bluetooth, Apple/Android compatibility, and two 12-volt outlets. There are numerous additional standard features your Mitsubishi dealer is waiting to explain.
Our tester arrived with a highly recommended $2,500 Touring Package that adds high-tech safety items like forward collision braking, lane departure warning and automatic high beams. You also receive a 710-watt Rockford Fosgate Premium Audio system with nine speakers and a beautiful panoramic glass roof. This option is worth every penny if safety, upward illumination and a superior entertainment system is a top priority. A cargo tonneau cover and $940 delivery brought the final tally to $29,111 retail.
On the safety side is crash worthiness, with four and five star government safety ratings most notable. Standard features include seven airbags, stability control, traction control, hill start assist, ABS disc brakes, electronic brakeforce, enhanced rear safety camera and more.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 105.1-inches, 3,142 lb. curb weight, 8.5-inch ground clearance, from 21.7 to 49.5-cu. ft. of cargo space, and a 16.6-gallon fuel tank.
In summary, the 2018 Mitsubishi Sport may not be the best in class, but it’s better than ever. Considering outstanding dealer discounts and/or financing incentives, you owe it to yourself to check out one of the best compact SUV values out there.
Likes: Interior, fuel mileage, lots of standard features, enhanced safety.
Dislikes: Could use more horsepower, full throttle engine noise, Apple/Android not available on entry ES.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.