Mitsubishi Outlander Sport feels sluggish, not sporty

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport feels sluggish, not sporty

Mitsubishi Outlander featured

In previous drives, I’ve liked Mitsubishi’s Outlander, a moderate-sized sport-utility that goes for an affordable price.

Now comes the 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, tested in SE two-wheel-drive trim, that is a full 14.6 inches shorter than the Outlander, while riding on the same chassis and sharing its 105.1-inch wheelbase. I thought I’d like it, too.

[![Mitsubishi Outlander Sport snapshot]( "Mitsubishi Outlander Sport snapshot")]( to enlarge.
But instead of the Outlander’s 168-horsepower 2.4-liter I4 engine, the Sport uses a weak 2.0-liter with 148 horsepower. Couple that with a lackluster CVT (continuously variable transmission) and it feels slow and clumsy.

Trying to accelerate away from a stoplight or onto the freeway is frustrating. The Sport is lethargic. I felt like I was getting in other vehicles’ way – and a few drivers let me know I was correct.

I tried to comfort myself in the thought that at least I was saving fuel. The Outlander Sport is rated at 25 mpg city and 31 highway. While about 60% of my driving was in city traffic, I managed just 23.2 mpg, while the trip computer was a pessimistic 21.5 mpg. I got 26 mpg in a 170-horsepower Hyundai Tucson.

The Sport’s engine and transmission become “buzzy” when you accelerate hard, which you tend to do as other cars scoot past you while you edge up to cruising speed. That might be forgiven if you felt the Outlander was living up to the Sport in its name with quick steering. But it does not. Steering is vague, although light feeling, so at least your arms and shoulders won’t be tired after a long drive.

The ride feels fine on the highway but gets jittery in town. You feel all the pavement seams and bumps, which is surprising with a wheelbase this long.

Braking comes from four-wheel discs, including vented discs up front. Plus, the Sport comes with both traction and stability control.

The blasé on-road performance spoils what is an attractively styled small SUV with sporty lines and a large Audi-like nose and grille that could fool a few folks into thinking you’ve moved upscale with your new small SUV.

The Sport’s interior is nice, for the price, which is a moderate $21,695 on this SE model. A base ES starts at $18,495, an attractive entry-level price. Moving up to all-wheel drive pushes the SE to a $22,995 starting price. The tested model added no options, so remained at an affordable $22,475.

Seats are comfortable in the Sport. The test model featured textured cloth with good contouring to keep a person comfortable on a longer trip. They were firm, but not hard. The seats adjust manually and include a handle on the side to pump up its height for a better driving position. However, spacing between the door and seat adjustments is tight, so best to reposition things before you start driving.

Getting in and out of the Outlander Sport is easy. The SUV has a good entry height and reminds me of a Subaru Forester, basically a tall wagon.

The black textured dash features an attractive layout of gauges, buttons and knobs. There are white numbers on the gauges and a digital computer and gas gauge between the speedometer and tach. Mitsubishi’s radio has six channel pre-set buttons and a CD player. Climate controls are three simple large dials.

[![Mitsubishi Outlander interior]( "Mitsubishi Outlander interior")]( includes a tilt/telescope steering wheel with a leather wrap, plus cruise and radio buttons on the hub.
Power door, window and lock buttons are on the driver’s door, and there’s a small roller button on the dash to adjust your headlight angle up and down. That’s a rare feature that could be more helpful in rural areas to increase your night sight lines.

Mitsubishi includes a tilt/telescope steering wheel with a leather wrap, plus cruise and radio buttons on the hub. Other features include push-button start and a trip computer accessed via a dash button, rain-sensing wipers and fog lights.

The split rear seats fold nearly flat and the rear hatch includes a wiper.

Space is less generous than in many other small SUVs, at 21.7 cubic feet with the rear seat up. Compare that to 26.1 cubic feet in the Kia Sportage and 25.7 in the Tucson. There’s also less space (49.5 cubic feet) with the rear seats down than in either the Sportage or Tucson.

If you feel you need more space inside, plus more power, Mitsubishi still offers the longer Outlander, which is a better choice with its 168-horsepower engine. You’ll have to pay more, but not a fortune. An Outlander ES with two-wheel drive starts at $21,995 and an SE with all-wheel drive lists at $24,495. Those needing even more power can step up to the two-wheel-drive XLS or GTS with all-wheel drive for $25,706 or $27,795, respectively.

Folks shopping for a small SUV have a lot of options. This one offers low cost, but several others offer more power and space for just a little more cost.

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