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Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, 2012: Compact SUV keenly appointed, needs power

Now in its third generation and more than 20 years old, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport is the compact version of the larger and older Outlander. Specifically, it’s 14 inches shorter, 2 inches lower about 700 pounds lighter than its sibling.

The current generation debuted in 2010 and for 2012 there are only minor changes — the available of a rearview camera for the base SE trim, additional sound insulation for models with a continuously variable transmission and a recalibration of the transmission to improve response and acceleration.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Available in two trims, I test drove the SE all-wheel drive model, but the Outlander Sport is also available in two-wheel drive. Both models have automatic transmissions.

Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, Mitsubishi’s Fuse voice-activated electronics interface and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an a USB/iPod interface.

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, 2012: Compact SUV keenly appointed, needs power 1

Upgrades for the SE include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, a sliding armrest between the front seats, a second-row armrest with center pass-through, upgraded upholstery and a six-speaker stereo.

The navigation package ($2,000) includes a navigation system, a rearview camera and an RCA-style audio/video jack. The Premium package ($2,050) includes a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, rearview camera (with display integrated into the rearview mirror) and a nine-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio.

During my week with the Outlander Sport, I drove mixed city and highway miles. In town, for its size, the Mitsubishi was nimble, had an efficient turning radius and offered solid braking.

Despite its smaller size, the junior Outlander had good interior space and comfortable seating for front and rear seat occupants. The Outlander Sport’s exterior design has leanings toward Mitsubishi’s sporting lineup and its handsome appears is not to dissimilar from the appearance of BMW’s utility vehicles.

Yet, the positives of the car can’t completely overcome its one drawback. With its sharp appearance, strong interior and welcome options, the Outlander Sport still  needs a power makeover. On several extended slight inclines, my tester could only chug along. Likewise, during lane changes or entering higher speed freeway situations, the Mitsubishi wasn’t particularly an outlander or a sport.

Likes:

Extended glass roof a keen feature that makes interior appear more spacious.

Crisp, easy to use navigation system.

Handsomely styled exterior.

Refreshing exterior paint color, Diamond white pearl.

Good interior space, front and back.

Dislikes:

Needs more horsepower and better acceleration.

Option packages expensive.

Facts & Figures: 2012 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 8.6 seconds.
Airbags (7): Dual front, side and side curtain and driver’s knee.
Fuel economy: 25 mpg (city), 31 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: (NHTSA), frontal crash (not rated); side crash (not rated); Rollover (four out of five stars).
Horsepower: 148.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $21,995.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.mitsubhishicars.com
Price As tested: $26,855.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 5 years/60,000 miles; Powertrain, 10 years/100,000 miles; Corrosion, 7 years/100,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/unlimited mileage.

What Others Say:

“The Outlander Sport is a comfortable, livable vehicle with a versatile interior. It counters merely OK interior appointments and a sub par drive train with sporty handling and versatility that belies its tidy exterior size.” — Consumer Guide.

“For the price and the segment, it packs all the baubles you’d expect, plus something that sets Mitsubishi apart – its all-wheel drive system.” — Autoblog.

“Overall, this is a nice effort by Mitsubishi. It looks great, drives decently, and is generally well done. But I would prefer a better power train.” —  AutoWeek.

What The Wife Says:

“It just seems like it’s struggling to often.”

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“Despite keen features like the extended glass roof and great gas mileage for the SUV segment, the Outlander needs more acceleration to infiltrate the stronghold of its top-rated competitors.”

Text and all images © James Raia

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